Friday 28 October 2011

Village wine makers

Saturday 15th October saw the village fair of associations take place at the Boulodrome. As France were beating Wales in the Rugby World Cup semi-final that morning proceedings made a calm start with a late rush. Many of the stalls were selling children's vide grenier (literally empty the loft) wares, but of adult interest was the presence of four wine producers.

I described in this post how the Cave Cooperative has at last joined a group of neighbouring cooperatives called Clochers et Terroirs this year and their stand showed a range of well made wines. I particularly liked the Chardonnay - quite crisp and not too overbearing.

At the other end of the wine making spectrum were three small independent producers - David Caer (Clos Mathelisse), Jacques Fanet (Mas d'Arlenques) and Régis Pichon (Domaine Ribiera). My grape picking exploits at Domaine Ribiera are described here.

David Caer gauges the reaction to his sublime Coeur de Pépite white and Exorde red from Clos Mathelisse.

The Mairie Jean-Noël Satger demonstrates suave glass holding technique while engaging with Jacques Fanet who make a hearty and gutsy red from his new Mas d'Arlenques. Régis Pichon is in the background, presumably discussing his expressive Domaine Ribiera red Causse Toujours.

Unfortunately these grower's wines are not retailed locally. David Caer exports his production to Switzerland and Canada. Much of Domaine Ribiera goes to Paris and beyond. As hand-crafted small production wines expect to pay €7 and up.

That said, they'll be delighted to receive visitors and will have a few bottles to sell. Contact details can be found in seconds using the on-line directory Pages Blanches - simply enter a surname and Aspiran 34800.

Wednesday 26 October 2011

Cave Cooperative - a new future

Like many Cave Cooperetives in the region, Aspiran's has been in decline. Wine hasn't been bottled for pushing a decade, no doubt because a massive investment in wine making equipment is required to make wine to modern standards. It hasn't always been like that. 1957 saw the first, at least for a Languedoc cooperative, Vaslin horizontal presses installed (replaced in 1975). As recently as 1988 was another first when a Bucher pneumatic press was acquired.

There are similar stories in the area. The cooperative at nearby Caux closed several years ago and is already a decaying building - the grapes go down the road to Les Caves Molière at Pézenas. Nizas has a similar tale.

The trend has been for cooperatives to combine to create even greater economies of scale, but there are notable local exceptions. Fontès and Cabrières seem to be doing well and certainly do better at marketing. Fontès boasts the best rosé in the area and a new customer reception salon has been constructed this year. Cabrières uses their reception space to host art exhibitions and has managed to maintain a reputation for its wine. Further south at Florensac a light and airy tasting and sales space has been created with an excellent and popular attached restaurant Bistro d'Alex serving their wine at near retail price. Neighbour Adissan has more land suited to growing Clairette and their bottles line the shelves of the regions supermarkets. Much will also be supplied to make Noilly Prat in Marseillan (my blog entry is here).

Nevertheless, things are looking up for the grape growers of Aspiran to obtain a higher price. Between 1963 and 2003 eight villages, including Nébian and Paulhan on the Aspiran side of the river Hérault, combined to produce wine under the Clochers et Terroirs branding. An enormous modern facility at Puilacher now makes all the wine and at last the Aspiran cooperative has joined them. The cooperative building survives for now as the harvested grapes are still received and have their stems removed before being tankered off to Puilacher.

To buy Clochers et Terroirs wines visit the marketing suites at Nebian and Paulhan.

Tuesday 4 October 2011

Commune fires

I am aware of three fires in the commune this year, relatively small at less than a hectare and fortunately dealt with quickly and efficiently. This is the most recent and closest to the village at less than 100m from occupied property.

I fear there will be an increased fire risk in the coming years as the trend is for the surface area under vine to reduce. Vineyards don't easily catch fire and being large make excellent fire breaks. In 2004 50% of the surface area of the commune, amounting to just over 8 square kms, was vineyards. In the 5 years to 2009 this has reduced to just over 40% (source Observatoire viticole for the Hérault). The fire at this site, and at least one of the others, involved vines that had recently been pulled up and the field seemingly abandoned.

Monday 3 October 2011

Pampas Grass

Until recently this field off the road to Paulhan was a vineyard. Grubbed up with the land earmarked for expansion of the village is one story. Pampas grass (Cortaderia selloana native to southern South America) has appeared, presumably having spread from a domestic garden across the road.

The past two months has seen little more than a few drops of rain. While ideal for the vendanges, the land is parched and time is running out for a second "spring" where rain brings on a wave of autumn flowers and a splash of colour. For now, this Pampas grass is the most interesting obvious floral feature.