‘La Clape’ is the bit to look out for on the label. It’s a World Heritage site, meaning ‘pile of stones’ in Occitan and was an island up until the Gallo-Roman period, and before the Aude’s river sediment deposits became part of the mainland. The geological history is important – its soil is a sandy limestone originating from very porous, calcareous rock slides, which allows the soil to retain rainwater. Additionally, the sea’s proximity and influence regulate the impact of harsh weather, both intense heat from the sun and the dry, powerful northern Tramontane winds. It’s what the word ‘terroir’ was invented for.
The Château de la Négly is located 20 km from Narbonne in the heart of the La Clape mountains. In 1992, Jean Paux-Rosset took over the 18th century château and immediately set about some significant changes in the way wine was produced on the estate. Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre vines replaced Aramon, Terret and Carignan Blanc. Machine harvesters were traded for hand shears and wood crates, sustainable agriculture became a focus and nothing was left to chance: leaf-thinning, debudding, hand-harvesting, twice table hand-sorting berries, low and controlled yields.
With keenly-priced Coteaux de Languedoc through to super cuvées produced in miniscule quantities, we think we’ve discovered another absolute gem.
Best buy: Domaine Ferri Arnaud La Clape 2010 (€11.99) Mike’s Wine of the Year for 2012. Dark, savoury, silky minerals, complex and beautifully balanced, it’s simply sensational for the price.
See the new range from Château de la Négly here.