Friday, June 1, 2012
The New Face of Languedoc wines - Virgile Joly
May 2012 during RAWFair
After a second day of lovely tasting, meeting with wine producers & conferences, we head with #winelover s and bloggers to a English pub, to wash up the mouth with a fresh beer. Then a Virgile Joly, Languedoc producer, internet & social media activist join us.
A really great meeting and talk, the day after at LIWF, I tasted few of his wines.
So little back on track and speech with Virgile Joly.
He embodies the new Languedoc winegrowers, that tries to bring back, wines from this part of France to a premium and proud quality.
In the south of France , in the Languedoc , at the foot of the Larzac plateau, facing the Mediterranean at Saint Saturnin de Lucian one finds Domaine Virgile Joly. It is a well known terroir where the climate, the soils, the vines and the people have produced great wines for many centuries.
This family team cultivate their vines organically, they respect biodynamic beliefs, respecting nature, using no weedkillers, nor any chemical or synthetic products. Great importance is given to the rhythm of nature and to the ecosystems and their diversity.
The old vines of the domaine are cultivated and picked by hand in order to produce grapes in limited quantities, with a concentration and finesse that permits the making of structured, sophisticated wines.
About the Vineyard
The vines are located in the AOP : Coteaux du Languedoc – Terrasses de Larzac, and benefit from the local designation: Saint Saturnin. The grape varieties are Grenache White & Red, Syrah, Carignan and Cinsault.
The vines are 25–50 years old and are cultivated organically; the yields are regulated in accordance with the wines. They are intentionally kept low, on average, less than 30 hl/ha.
Manual work is favoured as it allows, by using our own eyes and hands, to tend more closely to the individual needs of each vine and each parcel of vines.
After our years work the vines are all harvested by hand, the grapes are carefully sorted and selected directly from the vine and transported to the cellar in small crates holding 10-15 kilos.
The date of the harvest is carefully decided in accordance with the maturity of the grapes, the balance of sugar and acidity, and the maturity of the tannins. It is a key moment for the equilibrium and the finesse of the wines.
A bit of History
For the last 10 years, Virgile Joly has been extracting from the soil the red fruit flavours that subtly infuse his delicious wines. They are wines that combine his attachment to the land and his underlying knowledge with a total respect for nature.
Having spent his childhood in the Rhone Valley between Avignon and Vaison-la-Romaine, Virgile, whose grandfather was a wine-grower, remains deeply attached to the land. After working as an oenologist in France and Chilli, he created his own winery in March 2000 with 1 hectare of vines, for his 10th vinification.
A few months later he gained a further 4 hectares for rent, which allowed him to set himself up as a young farmer in 2001, the same year that he converted to certified organic farming methods.
In the same year, the English writer, Patrick Moon, spent two weeks a month with Virgile, leading to him publishing a book called “VIRGILE’S VINEYARD, A Year in the Languedoc Wine Country” (Ed John Murrays). The book recounts not only Virgile’s experience as a wine-grower, but also the history of wine in the Languedoc.
In 2003 an additional 3 hectares of vines augmented the estate. The following year, Magdalena Bogucka, Virgile’s companion joined him at the winery.
After the initial euphoria of creating a new winery came the time to restructure, in order to continually improve the vineyard, cultivation methods and work in the wine-cellar as well as the administrative running of the winery and commercializing the wines.
By 2006, the winery was employing 3 people and was cultivating 8.5 hectares producing around 2 500 cases of wine, or about 30 000 bottles.
Today, the Domaine Virgile Joly is a family affair. Magdalena works alongside Virgile to help him achieve his goal of making premium organic wines.
As well as running their own 15 hectares of vines (split between Jonquières, Saint Guiraud and Saint Saturnin), they also went into partnership with Christopher Johnson-Gilbert, a City lawyer, who acquired 10 hectares of vines in Montpeyroux. This meeting led to a fruitful collaboration, both technical and human, which allowed Virgile Joly to work in a new territory, the Montpeyroux appellation, on an additional 10 hectares (the first vintage being a rosé in 2009). It also allowed him to build a new state-of-the-art wine-making cellar in the commune of Arboras. Average production in 2010 was 45 000 bottles and is planned to reach 80 000 bottles by 2012.
End of second day of RAWFair
Getting a break time after long day, sitting in a pub and sharing a beer with Luiz (@thewinehub ), Gabriella ( @gabriellaopaz ), Ryan Opaz ( @ryanopaz ), and other #winelover s (sorry cannot remember all of us who where at this refeshing moment, if you wanna be named into the article just send me your twitter and I will enclose it too).
Having little talk with Virgile Joly, he confide himself he says that when he started he had a personal philosophy and understanding of things, but about how it applied to wine, he had no ideas first. At first he didn't care much about organic. Neither was it in fashion. Everything changed when he started to start his own business, produce his own wine.
The big question was: What to do? What kind of wine, what style… a lot of questions. The main idea was to create a premium quality wine, able to age, and not working for someone else, being free to do anything he wanted. He had different ideas about the use of barrels and oak, which grapes would have better flavors if handled differently; he knew, for example, that grapes picked by hand would make a much better wine. So from the beginning it was all about making the highest quality wine.
So why Saint Saturnin & organic?
To get high quality and most important a unique and original wine, you don't want to make the same as your neighbour, you want to make a wine that reflect your work, your ideas and your terroir!
You must respect your terroir, your vine, and what is around you, the ecosystem. So chemicals could not be a part of this. In 2000, he found that many producers were kind of organic farming, but not with the certification. So he thoughts we know that chemicals are very bad for the earth, and the grower is in intimate contact with the earth. So chemicals were eliminated from the plan, not only the sake of quality and for the benefit of the customer, but also for his family.
So after 10 years, from conventional to organic, people can see the difference, even if it took time and someone had to show kind of example, a bit more hard labour but the high quality is there.
Tasting at LIWF
Tasted 3 of his wine, 2 were especially for UK market, so I'm not gonna talk about it, and the other one, the premium range in finesse and strenght, a nice piece to age Saturne Rouge
Saturne Red 2009 - AOP Coteaux du Languedoc, Saint Saturnin, certified organic
Based on 3 grapes types Grenache, Syrah, Carignan about a third of each, in this vintage.
(He doesn't use any more Cinsault because he doesn't like it, laugh... :D )
The exact percentage may vary a bit every vintage, but trying to get 1/3 of each.
Hand harvest, use of indigenous yeasts, in vats, long maceration.
He is looking for the freshness in his wines and the fruit, the terroir expression & minerality.
He vinifies each type of grape separately and then process to a blending. Uses the blending to find the best balance in his wines, to try to keep a line of freshness.
Playing on the balance and the fruit of the Grenache ( well ripe ), and the freshness of the Carignan / Syrah.
For me this wine was spicy with pepper tones, liquorice, an alive wine that can stay open for few days without any problem.
The Grenache brings your on the florality and juicy side, Carignan a hint of sharpeness, and the Syrah the spicy character.
A traditional style with complexity.
with aging it will develop "garrigues" tons, spiciness, liquorice, laurel & biscotti.
Virgile actually recomment to decant his reds , or open the bottle before to let the wine get right temperature and open himself.
A top Languedoc wine, want to see in a few years the evolution !!
He loves what he does and you can really feel it in his wines. I was in Languedoc two months ago, and still so many vine growers give they production to cooperatives and doesn't care much.
For me the Languedoc wine region is developing itself, with careful winegrowers who give all they passion to their vine & wine. One the the best in this area I guess, I just wait to visit the vineyard
now !! A wonderful district in France !!
From Virgile Joly: A good bottle is a bottle that you open for 2, to share a good moment or a good dinner, if after this moment it still wine in the bottle, that means that the wine was no good !!
Cheers #winelover s !!