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GRAPEVINE: Liz Sagues encounters a true son of the organic soil

PUBLISHED: 15:27 11 July 2007 | UPDATED: 14:35 07 September 2010

Back in early spring, there was a Grapevine about the increasingly good organic wines exhibited at France s major green wine showcase, Millésime Bio 2007. What I didn t describe then, though, were the three Languedoc estates which warmly welcomed the grou

Back in early spring, there was a Grapevine about the increasingly good organic wines exhibited at France's major green wine showcase, Millésime Bio 2007. What I didn't describe then, though, were the three Languedoc estates which warmly welcomed the group of visiting English wine writers.

The first, Les Auzines, was spectacularly located up in the Corbières hills. Well, it would have been spectacular had it not been pitch black outside the minibus windows - I think the trip organisers took on board our suggestion that the timing wasn't perfect.

Inside the beautifully restored buildings, the wine equalled the setting: full of the herby essence of the landscape around the carignan, grenache and syrah vines yet stylish, modern and of impeccable quality. While the reds were excellent, the white was fascinating, unusual and very classy.

You can buy them (Fleur des Garrigues 2005 £7.45 and Fleurs Blanches 2006 £7.95) from French specialist Vine Trail, www.vinetrail.co.uk, 0117 921 1770.

At the third estate, Domaine de Clairac in the gentle hills north of Beziers, we were led on an energetic march around the vineyards by the hugely enthusiastic Deborah Knowland and her two enormous St Bernards, Jane and Tarzan. She's an enthusiastic advocate of old-vine carignan and of practices which bring vine and soil into equilibrium, while furiously condemning the increasing industralisation of wine.

Her 2004 carignans and 2002 syrah were very good indeed but are hard to find here (www.everywine.co.uk has a selection of other Clairac wines, £71-£100 a case).

But it was the visit between these two which left the happiest memories, and not simply because Les Chemins de Bassac owner Remi Ducellier fed us a simple but delicious lunch which allowed his wines to be shown off as they should be, alongside food.

First, we strolled among the clean, healthy vines, set on an ancient river terrace between parcels of woodland and with views south to the Pyrenees. Then into the cellar, high and cavernous, the legacy of a previous family exploitation on a much larger scale, and echoing with classical music. The green theme continued with a hairdressing salon's cast-out basins reused as a unique tasting facility.

Sitting round the kitchen table in Ducellier's lovingly-restored maison de maitre, with talented family art on the walls, we enjoyed all his four wines, all vins de pays des Cotes de Thongue.

Under the Isa label there's a fragrant, peachy white from viognier and roussanne, a pale, pretty and very pleasurable rosé from grenache, mourvèdre and syrah, and a smooth, fresh red also incorporating cabernet sauvignon and, unusually, pinot noir. Top cuvée Camille Leonie is cabernet and grenache only, more serious but still fresh and very drinkable.

Prices are very reasonable, from around five euros a bottle, but sadly there are no current UK importers, so head south to the Languedoc and include 9 Place de la Mairie, Puimisson, in your itinerary (phone first: +33 (0) 467 32 14 05).

There are many more vignerons like Ducellier, not necessarily all organic but committed to expressing the best qualities of their vineyards in their wines. If you're on holiday in a wine region, seek them out. They'll welcome you, their wines will be special - as will your memories when, back home, you drink your holiday souvenirs.


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