The landscape along the road heading north from Pézenas to Roujan and Gabian, then on towards Bédarieux, is almost completely dominated by vineyards. It is a landscape we know well, having been coming to this region of Languedoc on and off for the last 20 years or so. Indeed, Les Vignerons de La Carignano, the quaintly-named grower co-operative in Gabian, which lies 10 kilometres or so north of Pézenas, was one of the first wine-related visits I ever made, back in the days when I was a mere wine “amateur” (or even novice!). At the time, La Carignano was blazing a bit of a trail for Languedoc wines, garnering much praise from the likes of Oz Clarke. And they were indeed very good wines.
La Carignano has long since ceased to exist - as have many other co-operatives in the region - having struggled to adapt to the changing market, dwindling demand (from both home and foreign markets) and competition from the ever-increasing number of independent growers. The upside was that some quality vineyards came up for sale. And so it was that younger vignerons like Emmanuel Pageot and Karen Turner were able to seize the opportunity to move in and inject new life - and to realise the potential of those established vineyards and some great (and very varied) terroir. I first met Emmanuel at The Outsiders tasting in London in November 2012 and really loved the wines that he was making. So it was great to meet up again with Emmanuel in 2013, this time in his cellar in Gabian.
The Turner Pageot vineyards are mostly in small parcels, dotted around the hillsides surrounding the village. There are several different parcels of Grenache and Syrah, plus Mourvedre, Sauvignon Blanc, Roussanne, plus a small amount of Marsanne. Altitudes range between 200 and 300 metres above sea level, and the aspects and soil types are many and varied, including schiste, clay-limestone, volcanic basalt/limestone and bauxite.
The cellar is situated in the middle of the village, with the house next door. Unlike many growers (especially in the south) Manu likes to encourage warm fermentations for his grapes (anything up to 30C) and, aside from the very occasional stuck fermentation, prefers not to add yeast, relying on the naturally-occurring yeasts to do their job. And apart from occasional spraying of sulphur and copper in the vineyards, he uses no sulphites until the point of bottling, and even then, no more than 4 to 6 milligrams per litre. The aim is to have less than 20 mg/l of free sulphites in the finished wine. The reds are unfiltered.
Although Karen Turner has now moved on to pastures new, Emmanuel Pageot intends to keep making wines in Gabian for at least the next couple of years, before taking on a new project in Italy. Which is good news for us, as his wines just get better and better, with each passing year!