Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Holiday time again - and a visit to Domaine du Garinet

This week, TLD and I are on holiday in the Ariège, a sparsely populated region of pleasantly green rolling countryside, situated halfway between Toulouse and the Pyrenées. Our accommodation is a rather lovely and well-equipped house on the edge of a small village, with a large garden, swimming pool and even a tennis court - just the ticket for a week of quiet relaxation.

The house and pool

View from the verandah

Our own private tennis court!
 The Ariège is situated an hour or two west of Languedoc, so on this occasion, our route from the north took us down the autoroute from Orléans to Toulouse - perfect for a visit to Cahors.

Cahors market
After spending an enjoyable couple of hours strolling around the bustling, vibrant Saturday market in the centre of Cahors itself, we paid a visit to Mike and Sue Spring at Domaine du Garinet. Although we first imported their wines last year, this was the first time we had visited the estate, which lies up in the hills, around 15 kilometres west of Cahors. Mike and Sue turned their backs on the rat race many years ago and followed their passion for wine by enrolling in a winemaking course at Plumpton College. Although, like many winemakers, they employ the occasional services of an oenologist, the day-to-day running of the estate and the winemaking itself is all done by Mike and Sue. I discussed at length with Mike the farming and winemaking techniques they employ. The Domaine du Garinet website covers all of this in great detail and is a very interesting and informative read. Mike has a healthy disdain for so-called organic farming, which he argues is in many ways more harmful to the land than the "lutte raisonnée" (which means literally "the reasoned fight") farming methods employed at du Garinet. Pesticides or fungicides are used occasionally, but only when absolutely necessary, and in a reactive (rather than a proactive) way.

Malbec vines - actually north-facing, but the wines are ripe and structured
The estate is small by any standards, at just 2.5 hectares, and is planted to Malbec (for the Cahors reds and the Rosé), plus Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc for the Vin de Pays whites, in 3 separate plots surrounding the house and winery. The Malbec is machine harvested, but the white grapes are harvested by hand. The white wines are made for relatively early drinking, whilst the reds (especially the barrel-aged ones) are keepers. The winery itself is small, but perfectly formed and modern. The barrels are used for only 4 or 5 years before being replaced, and they buy up to 4 new barrels per year. Total production is around 16,000 bottles per year, and most is sold to personal visitors (indeed, Sue was busy conducting a tasting for a visiting group of holidaymakers at the time of our visit).

The small but perfectly-formed winery

The barrel room

Mike and Sue, serving some of their many visitors
The 2010 Sauvignon had all been sold and 2011 was only bottled the day before our visit, so we did not get to taste it. The 2009 Chardonnay Le Clos Vin de Pays du Lot though was delicious, with plenty of varietal character and an intriguing herbacious streak that lifted it above the ordinary. The Rosé Malbec Sec 2010 was fresh, vibrant and full of tangy strawberry and red cherry fruit. Of the Cahors reds, we import the 2001 Futs de Chène and the 2004 Classique, so we tasted instead the 2004 Réserve Malbec and the 2002 and 2003 Futs de Chène, all of which were excellent examples of their kind (though I preferred the lighter, more elegant 2002 Futs de Chène, as opposed to the richer, more tannic 2003). A bottle of 2004 Réserve Malbec paired beautifully with last night's meal of duck breast.

If you are ever on holiday in the area, I can highly recommend a visit to Domaine du Garinet, where you are sure to receive a warm welcome - and of course taste some excellent wines.

Incidentally, we arrived to glorious sunshine and temperatures in the mid-to-high 20's, but yesterday was cloudy and overcast, as is today. But this afternoon, we should get a glimpse of the Languedoc sunshine, as we will drive to Montpellier for the Bruce Springsteen gig. It is 31 years since I first saw him perform, and 24 years since the last time, but by all accounts his gigs are as epic as ever. I'll tell you more in my next post........


Jem said...

Just think, you drove right past Merchien :) Actually they know David and Sue very well. All three of us plus Mike and Sue judged the english/wine presentations at the local Cahors Agri college a couple of months ago.

Pop in on the way back? Email me if you want directions.

Seriously nice area though; rather short on wine shops we found a couple of years ago; although we are a bit further west than you but not by much

Leon Stolarski said...

I think Mike and Sue's wines are entirely different beasts to those of Merchien, Jem. I didn't really like the style of the Merchien wines when I tasted them and I just couldn't see the fruit outlasting the considerable tannins. It did cross my mind that we were pretty close when we passed by, but time was short - in the end, we arrived at our accommodation nearly an hour later than planned.

Our accommodation next week is in Faugeres, so our route back will be either on the Autoroute du Soleil via Rhone and Burgundy, or (more likely) the A75 via Millau and Clermont Ferrand. Perhaps another time. ;-)

Andrew bajorek said...

Leon, hope you are enjoying your hols... Will you be visiting any domaines in Faugeres?? If so, a small vote for la Borie Fouisseau... Great wines and I'm not sure about UK representation... Tried their cuvée la garance at a wine fair a while back and was really impressed at the qpr...lots of mourvedre in at least one of the cuvees i thInk... So many great producers to choose from though... Cheers Andrew

Leon Stolarski said...

Andrew - As you say, so many excellent producers, but thanks for the tip. I will of course be visiting Brigitte Chevalier at Domaine de Cebene. Her own estate wines aren't cheap (but the quality is very high) but the Domaine Saint Martin d'Agel Faugeres (which I also buy from Brigitte) is at the qpr end and very good.

Congrats on your marriage, by the way - hope you both have a long and happy life together.

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