Domaine de Montcalmès
Frédéric Pourtalié and his family farm around twenty-five hectares of vines in what has now become the newly created appellation of the Terrasses de Larzac. Based in Puechabon, some of the vines are in the neighbouring villages of Aniane and Saint Saturnin. In his father's day the grapes were sold to the co-operative, but having previously worked with Alain Graillot (Crozes Hermitage) and La Grange des Pères, Frédéric imediately decided to start vinifying and bottling himself. Such is his success that he now sells all he can make in bottle. New slopes were being prepared for planting when I visited in 2012. These wines have become very sought after, and are released by the domaine on allocation - when it's gone it's gone. There are three red varieties. Syrah, which makes up 60-65% of the normal blend, and Grenache are both grown on three distinct soils - limestone, what Frédéric calls éboulis de calcaire (broken-down limstone rubble) and galets roulés (big round stones from glaciers like at Châteauneuf), and also Mourvèdre which is grown exclusively on the galets roulés. Aside from the dramatic slopes and these poor soils, which provide the perfect challenging conditions for the vines, the temperature has a large part to play. Here the vines are high up, but it is still only the foothills of the Cévennes, and cold air can pour off the mountains at night, dropping the temperature from a warm daytime 20-22 to a mere 2 degrees overnight. This has considerable influence in preserving the complexity and delicacy of the aromas.