A walk around the vineyards of Cabrières.

Cabrières is a small but very distinctive vineyard based on just one village.  At the moment the appellation is Languedoc-Cabrières but hopefully it is in line to become Cabrières tout court, for both red and rosé.  The white wine of the area is Clairette du Languedoc, which was recognised as long ago as 1948.   The soil is schist, similar to Faugères and St. Chinian and the vineyard area of the village is delimited by a line of craters, of which the most important is the Pic de Vissou.  This is the peak I see from my bedroom window every morning when I open the shutters, and when it is shrouded in cloud, I know we have a serious weather issue….. 

On this particular morning the sun was shining brightly, but there was quite a strong cooling wind, which wreaked havoc with our sun hats.   We congregated outside the village cooperative which accounts for about 95% of the production of the village and set off through the village, guided by Robert, who introduced himself as President of the coop and also president of the cru.  Every now and then he gave us a commentary on what we were looking, including some splendid examples of schist soil.  There was an old vineyard of Clairette which had been grafted by another producer, so he did not know with which grape variety.  He pointed out the different behaviour of Syrah, which has weak branches which need supporting, and Grenache which grows much straighter.  There were some wonderful old Cinsaut vines and the scenery was pretty breathtaking.  A hill with the remains of a chateau that you could barely make out, dominated our walk.  The track took us through some shady woods, as well as past well tended vineyards.

Our first tasting pause was within sight of Gerard Bertrand’s smart new cellar at Clos du Temple.   This is one of the old independent estates of Cabrières, which was bought by Gérard Bertrand with the express intention of making a serious age worthy and also expensive rosé, recalling Cabrières’s historic reputation for rosé.    There were two rosés from the coop.  First there was 2023 Fulcrand Cabanon, named after the priest who is credited with presenting Cabrières to the court of Louis XIV.  It was a pale orange pink, with a firm note and some dry sappy fruit, and a rounded finish.  The blend is mainly Cinsault, Syrah and Grenache.  Next came Le Grand Pan 2022, the organic cuvée.   We were told that about 30% of the cooperative vineyards are now farmed organically.  The wine had some more weight and depth with a dry vinous finish.   And the third wine was 2022 Clos de Temple.  The blend is aged in oak and includes a little Viognier.  The oak is still very marked especially on the nose, and there is more weight than the other wines, with a hint of peachiness from the Viognier.   It is very well made and I appreciated the richness and weight, but I was not sure that I enjoyed it so much more than the other two wines.  It would be interesting to see how it tastes in a couple of years if the oak has been absorbed into the palate.   

Happily our route was now mainly downhill, to the second tasting spot, on the side of the road by a vineyard and in the welcome shade of the trees. There were three wines to taste here, all from the 2022 vintage and all from the cooperative.  Fulcrand Cabanon had some ripe fruit and soft spice;  I found it just a little too jammy, and a touch stalky.   Grand Pan, with a higher percentage of Mourvèdre was more structured with firmer fruit, and best of all was a new cuvée for me, Cantate des Garrigues, from older vines, which they began making in 2000.  They talked about an experiment to see if the vineyards planted in the garrigues in fact absorbed flavours from the garrigues.  I am not sure they came to any definite conclusion, but they continued to make this wine which is based on Grenache.  It was rounded and spicy with some supple tannins, with a touch of tannin and more depth of flavour than the other two wines.   

And  then it was a fairly short walk along a level track back to the cooperative.   We passed  vineyards with an abundance of yellow broom - and a curbside host of pyramid orchids, as well as wild peas and drifts of purple  thistles.  Back at the cooperative people were settling down to lunch while we headed back over the hills to a picnic in the garden. 


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