Domaine Bardi d’Alquier - first visit in a day in Faugères.

Thibaud Bardi had a brilliant idea.  Let’s start the visit with coffee in the vineyards.  He brought cake too.  How good was that!   It was late February and spring was definitely in the air.   You could see the village of Laurens and in the distance the Pyrenées. There is a capitelle nearby.   And Thibaut talked about how he became a wine grower.  He comes from Périgord and was working for the Crédit Agricole, with his last post in Montpellier.   They liked the south of France, and his wife, Sophie, said firmly that she did not want to move again.  And it was time for a change, so they looked for a vineyard, all over Provence and the Languedoc.    And serendipity brought them to Faugères in 2017.  Jean-Michel Alquier was looking to sell, as his children were not interested in taking over the family vineyards, but he hoped to maintain the continuity.  And for Thibaut, at the age of 50, it was now or never.  He wanted to take on something that was already established, so he and Jean-Michel worked together for two years in 2017 and 2018, and then in 2019 Thibaut went alone.    He said that it had been a very good transmission.  He had been worried that Jean-Michel would either lose contact quickly, or that he would be there too much, but that was not the case.  He is, as Thibaut put it, there without being there, spending his time fishing and travelling.  


The estate comprises ten hectares of vines, in 17 different plots.   The vineyards have been certified HVE since 2017 and since 2019 Thibaut has been farming organically.  Some new vineyards have been planted, of Carignan and Mourvèdre.  He still has the old Grenache, planted in 1974, which goes into Maison Jaune and old Syrah, which Gilbert Alquier, Jean-Michel’s father, planted in 1967, which forms the backbone of Les Bastides.  Gilbert was a pioneer, the first to plant Syrah, the first to age Faugères in barrel and one of the first to put his wine in bottle.  I remember meeting him back in 1987.


Then we went back to the village of Faugères, where Thibaut and Sophie have built a new cellar and renovated a house.   It is right in the heart of the village, on land that was once the old bergerie of the château, which no longer exists.  It is like a secret garden only bigger, a hectare of land.   You go through a high metal gate into a courtyard and beyond there is the cellar and a wild garden, with trees and rough land for grazing.  The shepherd once lived next door.


The cellar is modern, with stainless steel vats for white and rosé and Jean-Michel’s old concrete vats for the red wines.  Jean-Michel only used barriques for ageing his wine, whereas Thibaut has bought some 20 hls foudres, all of French oak.   He prefers them for Carignan and Grenache, whereas Syrah and Mourvèdre work well in barriques. Grenache in particular is quite fragile and can lose its fruit in a barrel.   And Thibaut has pulled up the Sauvignon, as it was diseased.


And then we adjourned to the house for some tasting:  


2022 Sauvignon, Pays de l’Hérault – 15.00€

The last vintage of this wine.   No malo.  On the lees for six months with some bâtonnage.  Quite golden in colour.   Some Sauvignon pithiness.  Focused and taut with good fruit, texture, and weight.  Quite mouth filling as you would expect from a southern Sauvignon, but with good varietal character.  A firm finish. 


2022 Les Vignes du Puits, Faugères Blanc – 19€

A blend of 40% each of Marsanne and Grenache Blanc with 20% Roussanne.  Only in stainless steel.  The Grenache Blanc and the Marsanne are blended after pressing and the Roussanne added later, as it ripens later.  Like the Sauvignon, there is bâtonnage, but no malo.  Quite a rich colour. White flowers on the nose, with lots of nuances. Thibaut finds Roussanne complicated; this is not its preferred terroir.   But the palate is textured and elegant, nicely rounded with a joli amer on the finish.  Very satisfying.


2023 Rosé, Cinq Pétales – 13.50€

This will not be bottled until the end of March, when it will have spent six months on the lees.  A blend of 60% Grenache with 20% each of Syrah and Mourvèdre.   Pressurage direct, so the colour is absorbed during pressing, so that it is light, but not to pale.  Delicate raspberry fruit on nose and palate.  Fresh with youthful acidity, with a certain tension.  Nicely vinous.     And five petals after a flower that appears in the Grenache plot in the spring.    This wine is new to the range as Jean-Michel did not make any rosé.


2021 Premières – 19.00€

A blend of 60% Syrah with 30% Grenache and 10% Mourvèdre.  From 25–30-year-old plots.  The Grenache goes into foudres for 12 months and the Syrah and Mourvèdre into barrel.  Thibaut observed that this was the year of frost in the Languedoc, but Faugères was not affected.  And it was also the last year of normal rain.  Between 2017 and 2021 they had 400-500 mm each year.  In 2022 and 2023 they had about 200 mm.  And so far in 2024, by late February, they have had 160 mm.


They hand pick and then destem, giving the grapes a four to five day prefermentation cool maceration and like Jean-Michel, Thibaut favours long cuvaisons of 1 ½ - 2 ½ months.  There is a little délestage, but essentially, he wants a gentle extraction with a gentle infusion of the skins and the juice, and then he presses.  There is no fining or filtering.


Medium colour.  Some elegant spice on the nose and palate, nicely balanced with a streak of tannin.  And an appealing freshness on the finish.  Youthful but already an enjoyable drink.


2021 Maison Jaune

50-60% old Grenache, with 20% Syrah and 10% each of Mourvèdre and Carignan.  Thibaut does not have much Carignan, and no Cinsaut at all.  The wine is aged for 15 months.  Medium colour. More pronounced weight and spice than Premières, as you would expect.   Lots of nuances, spicey leather, some fresh red fruit, and a firm dry finish. 


2021 Les Bastides d’Alquier

60% Syrah, a massal selection from Gérard Chave in Hermitage. With 30% Grenache and 10% Mourvèdre.  18 months in barrel.   Medium colour.  With quite a firm sturdy nose, with some black fruit.   Quite rounded, fleshy and mouth filling, balanced with a tannic streak.  Some lovely spice.  The oak is very well integrated.  Dry spice on the finish and plenty of ageing potential.


I asked Thibaut and Sophie about future projects.  As you might expect they are concentrating on consolidating everything, especially the move to organic viticulture.  Claude Gros advises them on the wine making.  And they observed that they feel they have settled in and really feel at home.  You certainly sense that they are delighted by the change of direction and career and there is no doubt that they are following in Jean-Michel’s footsteps very successfully. 


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