31 August, 2009

Vendange Cévenol.

I spent my morning at Puechcamp today. Puechcamp roughly translates to 'mountain meadow' from Lengadoc. And a meadow it certainly is, some 5 nurtured hectares of vines at 300m altitude, a short distance from St. Hippolyte-du-Fort, tucked into what the seminal Guide Hachette des Vins describes as the piémont cévénol (and what we might call the cevenol foothills in English).
This year the vendange, or wine harvest, is early. In the case of the viognier, the first varietal to be picked at Puechcamp this year, the harvest is nearly three weeks early, due to the unusually dry, hot summer. Just look how parched the earth is by the vines. I have mentioned viognier before, as it is the only varietal permitted in the illustrious AOC Condrieu. But a Languedoc viognier is quite distinct from a Condrieu viognier; the local conditions--mineral and meterological--make all the difference. It remains an exciting wine, which helps explain its extraordinary, international return from the near-dead. Daniel Faure, the proprietor of Domaine de Puechcamp (pictured below), has developed an engagingly floral yet dry viognier, distinctive, yet with persistent echoes of a classic Condrieu. His other wines are also worth a sampling, and he welcomes visits to the domaine. The low-yield viognier is grown without any use of pesticides or chemical fertilizers at Puechcamp, all the more impressive given how notoriously sensitive to mildew this grape is. Having reached full ripeness, it is picked by hand and brought to the cave.For more on this increasingly popular varietal, check this Jancis Robinson essay out. Happy oenological exploring.

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