Domaine de Bon Augur


Some of the potentially most exciting vineyards of the Languedoc are up in the hills of the Haute Vallée de l’Orb above Lunas.   We had arranged to meet Cédric Guy who runs Domaine de Bon Augur in the little village of Joncels.  First, we tasted and then we visited the vineyards.


We talked first to Frère Marie Pâques, who is involved with the restoration of the tiny chapel of Nizes outside Lunas.  In essence, the project is three wines in three different colours, from three different wine growers, which are sold to raise funds for the chapel.  Frère Marie Pâques comes from a nearby village, and he was for a number of years on the Provençal island of Lérins and now he is master-minding the restoration of the chapel.  Cedric’s contribution is Joie, a Chardonnay fermented half in barrel and half in vat, without any sulphur at all, even at bottling.   The vineyards are organic and some of the highest in the Languedoc at 550 metres, rivalling only Limoux.


Cedric explained that 2002 was a very hot year, but even so the grapes were not picked until late September, so about a month later than the coastal vineyards.  The alcohol was a modest 12.5° .  Malo fait.  Satisfying weight and mouthfeel, balancing good acidity.  Restrained buttery fruit with good length.  11.00€


The red wine, a Pinot Noir, for this project, comes from Domaine Jouvet and the rosé from the cooperative at Hérépian.   


At Domaine de Bon Augur Cédric has nine hectares of white, mainly Chardonnay and also some Petit Manseng, from Jurançon, and one hectare of Pinot Noir. His first vintage was 2013.  


Terre Etrangère is a blend of Chardonnay with 20% Petit Manseng, blended at pressing and all fermented in new oak.  Petit Manseng provides structure; it has more intrinsic structure than Chardonnay.  And it is picked when it is not quite ripe, so that its flavour is not too powerful.   The wine was quite golden, with ripe buttery notes and hints of honey and peach.  It was more opulent than Joie.   The new barrels give some tannin.  And there is some salinity on the finish. For the moment the wine is Pays de l’Hérault but will become Haute Vallée de l’Orb.  Apparently on some markets, Haute Vallée de l’Orb has a tarnished reputation.  I would have thought the problem would be more a case of no reputation at all as an unknown wine area.   13 – 14.00€ 


DSLS meaning Dieu Seul le Sait or God only knows.   This name stems from the fact that one tonnelier uses oak from three different forests in each barrel.   One wood of one forest might perform better than another, depending on the character of the vintage, whether it is hotter or colder.   As they can’t say which forest, they simply say DSLS.


2020 DSLS  Petite Arvine 

Very intriguing.  Cedric has just 30 ares of Petite Arvine.  Two years in wood. 13°  The wine was lightly golden, with some herbal honey notes on the nose and palate.  The palate was more floral, elegant with a hint of tannin.  With a joli amer or bitterness on the finish.  Good length. Petite Arvine suits the mountainous terrain.  


2021 DSLS Chardonnay

So far Cedric has made three vintages of DSLS, two of Petite Arvine and one Chardonnay, with two more Petite Arvine in the pipeline.  This Chardonnay was firm and closed, with good acidity. Tight knit and youthful and not yet on the market.  It needs time.  


Petite Arvine is a later variety, whereas Chardonnay ripens relatively early.  Cédric lamented that he only has one hectare of Pinot Noir, and there is never enough.  Indeed, there was none for us to try.


But he does make an orange wine, Aux Innocents les mains pleins from a blend of Chardonnay, Petit Manseng and some gris varieties, Pinot Gris, Grenache Gris and Sauvignon Gris.  With white varieties the colour takes time to arrive, and you obtain tannin before you obtain colour, but if you macerate gris varieties, you immediately obtain colour, and the tannins are more restrained.  He runs off the juice when the tannin structure is right.    10-11.00€  


I liked it a lot, with lots of nuances, fruit, tannin and acidity. A tannic streak but rounded and accessible with some fruit and an elegant tannic finish.   Labelled Vin de France.  Vin blanc de maceration.  


And then we headed up into the hills to Joncelets where we took a track up the side of the valley.  It is a wonderful vineyard site.  There are two distinctive soils, stony kimmeridgian, as in Chablis, and white chalk, coming the glacier that created the valley of the Orb.  The source is at Joncelets, where three streams meet to become the Orb at Lunas.


There are some 40-year-old vines planted in the 1980s when the chamber of Agriculture of the Hérault had a project, which did not come to fruition, to find more quality orientated varieties than some the usual varieties of the Hérault.   Cedric recuperated the vines in 2011.  They had not been pruned for some time and it took him a couple of years to bring them to order and he made his first vintage of Bon Augur in 2013.   A project like this is contributing to the future of Orb valley.   And then we went to see the outside the tiny chapel of Nizes and bought some local honey.


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