Having fallen totally in love with the wines of Domaine de La Garance over a number of years (and a variety of vintages), we made our first actual visit to the estate during our 2013 summer holiday in Languedoc. Surrounded by beautiful vineyards in rolling countryside, a kilometre or two down a rough track to the south of the village of Caux, La Garance enjoys an idyllic setting, with lovely views of the distant hills and not another building in sight. It is so peaceful and tranquil that you almost feel like you are in the middle of nowhere.
And what a delightful man Pierre Quinonero is - we were treated to an extensive tasting of barrel samples and current vintages, not to mention a couple of rather wonderul old vintages, accompanied by delicious tapas, cheeses and Iberico ham. We were then invited to return that very same evening, to join in a large gathering of Pierre's friends, for lots more wine and his speciality paella. All-in-all, one of those magical summer days that live long in the memory.
Actually securing some wines directly from Pierre has proven to be trickier than we thought - they are made in relatively small quantities and are much in demand in the local area, not to mention in various countries throughout Europe. And on the occasions that we have managed to contact him (he is notoriously difficult to get hold of!) he hasn't had the stock we wanted. Finally, though, we have managed to get our hands on some, so now we have our foot in the door, the wines of Domaine de La Garance will become a mainstay of our list, in years to come. Here's what their former importer Richards Walford had to say about them;"For whatever reason, this amazing Domaine remains stubbornly undiscovered by the majority of our customers ........... these are some of the most wonderful wines to have ever graced our list – unique, complex, and deeply delicious. A combination of diverse soils, including Villafranchien (a stoney, gravelly soil mixed with red clay), basalt, marl, gneiss, limestone, and granite add real character to the wines. The top white (Les Claviers) is based on Ugni Blanc (aka Trebbiano) – that normally quite unexciting grape variety often distilled in Cognac or used to make flabby Italian whites – but here, becomes something else entirely. Older vintages were blended with Grenache Gris and Clairette, more recent vintages with Chardonnay, which achieves a greater minerality on granite soils.The top red (Les Armieres) is based on old vine Carignan and Syrah (generally 90% and 10%) and spends a full 30 months in barrel before bottling. It is bursting with energy and ages particularly well. Though not certified biodynamic, the Domaine practices biodynamic principles and the wines are about as hand-crafted and natural as they get – Pierre describes them as “l’antithèse de la technologie” - hand harvested with habitually low yields of 17hl/ha, only indigenous yeasts are used, the wines are not fined or filtered, and very little sulphur is used."In recent years, Pierre has introduced a couple of other wines - A Clara Blanc (100% Chardonnay, grown several hundred metres up in the hills above Bédarieux) and A Clara Rouge (a blend of Pinot Noir and Grenache, the Pinot also coming from Bédarieux) - and both are delicious, and very affordable. Indeed, all of Pierre's wines speak loudly of their Languedoc origins, and they are truly wonderful, quirky wines.