Domaine de l'Hortus - two new wines.
First an extract from my book, The wines of the Languedoc:
I have long had a soft spot for the wines of Domaine de l’Hortus, since my first visit to the estate back in the mid-1990s. The very first time I visited Pic St Loup in the late 1980s the sole producer of any significance was the cooperative in St Mathieu-de-Tréviers, which did much to encourage the aspiring wine growers of the area. Jean Orliac was among the first of that new wave of wine growers and these days the estate is run by his children, François, Yves and Martin, who share the responsibilities of 90 hectares of vineyards and also a négociant business. In addition, they have an estate in the Terrasses du Larzac, Clos du Prieur at St Jean-de-Buèges.
On my last visit, Martin took me to see their vineyards, explaining that the tipicity of Pic St Loup is fraicheur et matière, with fruit and tannins. You can discern three different terroirs in the Pic St Loup; the southern part of the appellation around St Martin-de-Tréviers has less rain, with a smaller diurnal contrast; the central area has more rain, with bigger temperature differences, and the northern part of the appellations is much cooler, with even more rain. Their vineyards are between the two mountains and benefit from losing the afternoon sun quite early. The Syrah vineyard faces north as it does not like too much sun, and the Mourvèdre looks to the south, which suits it. Martin talked about vine density observing that 4000 vines per hectare is too little and makes for vines that are too vigorous so they have gradually increased to 7100, 2 metres with 70 cms within the rows. Density is a key decision for grape quality. They have also invested heavily in the cellar in recent years, to good effect in their wines.
Bergerie de l’Hortus Blanc is a Pays du Val de Montferrand from a hotchpotch of grape varieties, Roussanne, Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc, Muscat à petits grains, Sauvignon Gris, Chardonnay and Petit Manseng. The mixture is the result of various experiments. They could also have included Chenin Blanc, but do not find it very aromatic and they are not very enthusiastic about Vermentino. The wine is intriguing, fresh and pithy, with notes of white blossom and more besides. Grand Cuvée Blanc, of which Chardonnay accounts for half the blend, with Viognier, Sauvignon Gris and Petit Manseng is fermented in oak, with some rich buttery nutty fruit. It is not unlike a Chardonnay, but with extra nuances. They make a small amount of rosé, but it is their red wine that excels. Bergerie Rouge is a blend of two parts Syrah to one part of Mourvèdre with just a little Grenache Noir, aged mainly in vat to make for some rounded spicy fruit with structure and length and a fresh finish. Grande Cuvée is a similar blend, given eighteen months ageing in tonneaux. The grapes are riper and from higher altitude vineyards, given a longer cuvaison to soften the tannins, making for dry spice and elegant tannins. They are not looking for power but want rounded tannins and complexity. Finally came Clos du Prieur, from 70% Syrah with some Grenache Noir and Cinsaut; the flavour register is different. The vineyards are higher and the climate more continental with hotter summers and colder winters, so that the wine is sunnier and riper. The harvest is always a little later than in the Pic St Loup. My visit finished with a very sympathique lunch en famille with a glass of a more mature vintage of Grande Cuvée.
And more recently Yves sent me a couple of bottles to try in London.
2022 Bergerie de l’Hortus, Val de Montferrand
Made from the seven grape varieties mentioned above. A slow fermentation lasting three to four weeks and then a four months élevage in vat. No oak. A light colour. Delicately herbal with white blossom on the nose and palate. Nicely textured with fresh youthful acidity on the finish. Refreshingly without a trace of oak.
2020 L’Ombrée, le Dit de l’Hortus, Pic St. Loup.
This comes from one small vineyard, one of the coolest and most humid parts of the valley and particularly well suited to Syrah. It faces north on a slope below the Pic St Loup at an altitude of 250 metres. Élevage in stainless vats for a year, and then a further twelve months in bottle, before sale, but with a suggested ageing potential of 15 years.
Deep young colour. Perfumed ripe fruit, black fruit and some elegant notes of olive tapenade. Supple and ripe. A rounded palate with quite silky tannins. Youthful, but drinking beautifully, with the fresh finish typical of the Pic St. Loup.