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Tuesday, September 06, 2011
Clos du Gravillas (notes on a vineyard) (they're organic too!)
When we booked our trip to France and decided to fly into Toulouse, a good two and a half hours from our bed and breakfast, we figured this would give us the chance to drive leisurely through the countryside and stop at as many vineyards as possible. We wanted to avoid the motorways and instead drive through small towns and on small roads and drink in as much of France as we could (literally and figuratively).
I reached out to many kind people to try and get appointments at vineyards that would a) find time to give us a tour and tasting during this insanely busy time for them (harvest season was about to kick off) and b) be able to give us said tour and tasting in English. It was no small feat but we were able to get two appointments that afternoon.
Regarding that dream drive...be careful what you wish for.
We wanted a slow, rustic drive through the French countryside? That we got indeed. Our two and a half hour journey quickly morphed into well over three (and probably closer to four) due to directions that took us on small farm roads (not kidding, there were times when we didn't drive on pavement for miles) and more hairpin turns than I care to remember - not to mention the incorrect time the GPS was picking up. All of which meant we were to arrive at our first appointment over an hour late. Luckily our host was gracious and understanding, and welcomed us when we finally arrived.
John Bojanowski, cofounder of Clos du Gravillas (along with this wife, Nicole), met us at the front gate to teach us all about their wines. Explaining that we were newbies to the region, he gave us some history on their vineyards as well as some more information about the area they were located in and the muscat that the region is famous for. Clos du Gravillas has been an organic vineyard now for two years and their mantra is to make the grapes the best they possibly can be, and then let the wine reflect that. Sounds pretty simple, right? It almost sounds too elementary - why wouldn't you let the grapes be the best that they can be? But so many vineyards nowadays chuck loads of chemicals into the soil and on the vines to ward off disease and pests, and pick every grape possible off the vine in order to produce the most amount of wine. Clos du Gravillas is different. They are a small producer and they consciously make the decision to be that way. They heavily prune their vines in order to get better, more concentrated grapes. Once the grapes are perfectly ripe they hand pick the grapes one by one - if it isn't good enough to put in your mouth, they don't put it in their basket. They even stomp their grapes with their own feet once harvested. If nothing else you know you're getting quality, pure wine.
Another unique thing about Clos du Gravillas is the terrain in which the vines grow - in gravel!
(Gravillas means gravel in French, hence the name of the vineyard)
It really was shocking to see flourishing grape vines, heavy with sugary ripe fruit, growing up from fields of white stone gravel. Whatever those little rocks do to the wine it sure is delicious! Currently they have 13 grape varieties growing on their land. These 13 varieties go into six or seven different blends each season - depending on what that seasons yield has been and what other new blends they are working on.
As I mentioned above it was the cusp of harvest season and they were in the middle of clearing out last years production - the wines had been aging for one year and were newly bottled. Labels were being applied, boxes being packed and room was being made for this years harvest. We must have tasted 7 different types of wine that afternoon, along with a muscat and other interesting dessert wines. Our favorites?
|au bout du terret|
A more unusual white variety from their other productions, but I think thats what we liked about it. It was light and crisp and tasted like the stones it grew in - but in a good way! I think wine pros call those mineral notes, I call it yummy. This was the wine we were supposed to take on our canoe trip with us, but I enjoyed it relaxing by the pool instead.
Rendez Vous du Soleil
We left John and his winery with a new knowledge of wine making in France, a lesson in producing organically and bellies full of delicious wine (not to mention arms full of a few bottles to savor over the weekend). A big THANK YOU to John for having us and sharing his vineyard with us!
Interested in buying some wine from Clos du Gravillas? Check the list here for where to buy - in the US, UK and France
Another big thank you to Christina Pickard, Richard de Fleury, Vanessa Woodfine and Louise Hurren for all of their help trying to get us set up with vineyard appointments - your kindness in helping us is so very much appreciated! Cheers!