Tag Archive: Jacques Calvel



Medieval-Disney-Times

OK. So, there’s not really much in the way of wine made immediately around Carcassonne. But, it is really cool and it’s a nice (if somewhat illogical) place to settle in for a tasting lunch with a winemaker from 140+ miles away.

This was specifically chosen as just a fun place to spend part of the day, and it was that. The site of many a fortress dating back to Roman settlements in the 6th century B.C., Carcassonne (the fortified city) as it stands today dates to the mid 13th century A.D. and was restored in the mid 18th century. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but is more-or-less a tourist trap now (albeit a very engaging one) filled with souvenir shops, restaurants, and a Best Western (seriously, many of the one-time homes and shops of the city have been converted to hotel rooms). We all had fun exploring the city and I was taken with imagining what the lifestyle of a commoner in a largely self-contained and self-sufficient city must have been like. It all seems pretty idyllic…with the exception of the numerous sieges of the city endured.

Within the fortified city. What must life have been like in the 13th century?

Once convened at Brasserie le Donjon within the city, we settled in (with Jacques Calvel) for lunch and to meet with Raphaël Troullier of caravinsérail. caravinsérail is the umbrella under which Troullier produces three lines of wines from the Southern Rhône and the Côtes de Ventoux: the value-driven Vin de Pays de Méditerranée, “elicio”; the entry-level AOC Ventoux, “in fine.”; and the elegant AOC Ventoux organic terroir expressions, “cascavel”.

The elicio (Vermintino, Grenache/Cinsault rose, Grenache/Merlot) and in fine (Clairette/Bourboulenc, Grenache/Cinsault/Syrah rose, Grenache/Syrah) wines clearly expressed their freshness and immediately satisfying profiles exhibiting fine value. But, it was the cascavel (“Le Cascavel”: Grenache/Carignan/Syrah, and “Léonor”: Grenache/Syrah), the wines that put Troullier on the map, that resonated best, showing a richness, complexity, structure, and (most importantly) sense of place that far exceeded their estimated prices.

Raphaël Troullier prepares to present his wines at Brasserie Donjon in Carcassonne.

Raphaël Troullier prepares to present his wines at Brasserie Donjon in Carcassonne.

So, this ended up being a visit with a winery in the Southern Rhône while in a restaurant in the Western Languedoc. No matter, as Carcassonne was a wonderful site to visit, Mr. Calvel offered a palate-refreshing magnum of crémant, Brasserie Donjon provided near-deadly cassoulet, and Mr. Troullier graciously traveled nearly 300km to present his wines (as well as presenting us each with a gift of a jar of prepared figs—a local Ventoux specialty). But, this would mark only the beginning of a very strange day…

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The next morning brought us a bit South-West to Limoux. Here, through the veil of plane trees, hillside vineyards dominate the landscape punctuated by the rows of huge stainless steel fermentation tanks and billboards of giant co-op producer, Sieur d’Arques. I regret that I have no photos of the region on the whole as it is a curious mix of idyllic vineyards, hilltop villages, castles, suburban sprawl, and industrial wine facilities.

Limoux is reputed to be the original home of sparkling wine. Historical records detail the specific production and distribution of blanquette (“little white”) sparkling wines by the monks of the abbey of Saint-Hilaire in 1531. Without getting into the specific details of the composition and production of Blanquette and Crémant de Limoux wines, suffice it to say that they are made primarily with the Mauzac grape and largely offer simple and affordable satisfaction.

Some of the vineyard plantings of Domaine J. Laurens

Some of the vineyard plantings of Domaine J. Laurens

The fairly small Domaine J. Laurens was our destination in Limoux. Here we were greeted by winemaker/owner Jacques Calvel, a genial gentleman who would provide a happy and informative tour and tasting.

Jacques Calvel

Jacques Calvel

We got a quick look at some of the vineyards adjacent to the winemaking facility. The vineyards are planted with Mauzac, Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir.

Some of the Mauzac vineyards of Dom. J. Laurens

Some of the Mauzac vineyards of Dom. J. Laurens

The winemaking facility looked so small and innocuous from the outside, but it was like Felix the Cat’s Bag of Tricks on the inside:

The large stainless steel fermentation tanks are efficiently packed into a temperature controlled space.

The large stainless steel fermentation tanks are efficiently packed into a temperature controlled space…

...which opens up to the bottling room where just a few bottles await riddling.

…which opens up to the bottling room where a handful of bottles await riddling.

In this space is also the bottling/crown-sealing line which was in operation during our visit:

I managed to find some bottles at the final stage of the riddling process. The yeasts have collected at the neck of the bottle. From here, the neck will be frozen so that when the crown seal is removed the solid matter will pop out like a cork (disgorgement). Then, in most cases, a small amount of sugars (dosage) will be introduced into the wine and then the bottle will be sealed with the classic cork and wire cage closure we all know.

Rosé awaiting disgorgement, dosage, and corking.

Rosé awaiting disgorgement, dosage, and corking.

The wines are stored in a room full of miraculously stacked bottles. This room can hold the entirety of the roughly 30K bottle production at Domaine J. Laurens.

The storage room.

The storage room.

Finally, we got to taste the wines. Ideal timing, too, as it was about 11:15 am and we were all ready for a little palate-invigoration. We tasted the “Cuvée Stéphi Ebullience” Crémant and Crémant Rosé (made specifically for Bourgeois Family Selections) as well as Domaine J. Laurens’ standard bottlings of Blanquette “Le Moulin” and Crémant “Clos de Demoiselles”. All of these were bright, fresh, fruitful and floral, and fine examples of Limoux sparkling wines.

The tasting line-up.

The tasting line-up.

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