Brett happens

All wine, most of the time

MWG May 15th tasting (3/6): Dry whites from Clos du Gravillas

with 2 comments

Founded in 1996, Clos du Gravillas is run by a husband and wife team (he’s from Kentucky, she’s from Narbonne). Their 8.5 hectares of vines, including a parcel of Carignan planted in 1911 and some old Grenache Blanc and Gris, are located on rocky soils within the Parc naturel régional du Haut-Languedoc and the Minervois AOC. The estate is certified organic.

VDP des Côtes du Brian 2012, Emmenez-moi au bout du Terret, Clos du Gravillas ($26.38, private import, 12 bottles/case)
100% organically farmed Terret Gris from 50-year-old vines. Manually harvested. Vinified and matured for nine to 11 months in 500-litre Austrian oak barrels. 2,500 bottles produced. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Plan Vin.
Pungent nose: candied pear and lemon, wax, pastry with a hint of butterscotch and straw. Clean, rainwatery attack then swelling fruit and savour. Minerally and saline, with brisk acidity. Dry despite the ripe fruit. Quartzy finish. Unfortunately, our bottle wasn’t as fresh or pure as the one tasted a couple of weeks earlier at RASPIPAV’s Le printemps dézippé event. The delightful label takes its inspiration from the pun in the wine’s name, a play on Emmenez-moi au bout de la terre (take me to the end of the earth). Suggested food pairings: shellfish, lean fish, lemon chicken. (Buy again? Yes.)

Minervois 2011, L’Inattendu, Clos du Gravillas ($34.18, private import, 6 bottles/case)
A blend of organically farmed old-vine Grenache Blanc and Gris (80%) and Macabeu (aka Macabeo, 20%). Manually harvested. After pressing, the juice is clarified by cold settling. Fermented and matured for nine to 11 months on the lees in 500-litre Austrian oak barrels. 3,000 bottles produced. 14% ABV. Quebec agent: Plan Vin.
Complex nose: initially ash, then quartz, lily flower, white fruit and hints of burnt rubber and roasted poultry juices. In the mouth, multidimensional. Rich yet fluid, soft-textured yet acid-bright and minerally. A touch of honey flavours the lemony, applely fruit. Balanced and surprisingly fresh from start through the long finish. Memorable. As food parings, the winemaker suggests veal paprikash, white fish and cheeses. (Buy again? Done!)

VDP des Côtes du Brian 2012, Mademoiselle Lily, Clos du Gravillas ($25.64, private import, 12 bottles/case)
Organically farmed Viognier, Roussanne and Terret Gris. Manually harvested. Vinified and matured for 11 months in 500-litre Austrian oak barrels. 2,500 bottles produced. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: Plan Vin.
Lemon meringue pie, Lemon Pledge, rose, Lifesavers. Aromatic, even floral, in the mouth with a rich texture. While it doesn’t come across as bone dry, it remains fluid and bright, due largely to the crisp acidity. A welcome bitter note marks the finish. A bit bonbon to my palate but popular with several around the table, who said they would serve it as an aperitif or summer sipper. (Buy again? Maybe.)

Updated on June 10, 2014, with information provided by the winemaker.

2 Responses

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  1. Dear Brett (!)
    Thanks for the nice comments. How’d it happen that you did a horizontal of all our available whites?!? Just a couple of notes on your comments that you might have found somewhere on our website (and that are not quite exact). ALL three whites are raised for 9-11 months on lees in 500L Austrian barrels. We no longer have any Allier barrels with whites–they’ve gone over to the reds. That said, we have 7 white barrels only… They are all bottled at the same time, so if one is 10 months in any year, they are all three ten months. The 2013 whites will exit their barrels in a week or so.

    And Mad. Lily has no residual sugar–just the viognier doing its aromatic thing (and maybe some lees effects). The cuvee happened because we found the varietal (which we’d planted) to be just too much–but when accompanied by much less aromatic terret, the ‘sound’ gets turned down just enough to recover some elegance. We’ve been surprised by the longevity of what we originally dismissed as a ‘nice vin de piscine’. Lily goes great with curry and other powerful foods and becomes strikingly more refined after 3-4 years in bottle. Who woulda thought (thunk?)??

    See you sometime in the Sud?

    John (de Kentucky)

    john bojanowski

    June 8, 2014 at 15:55

    • Thanks for the comments, John. And apologies for the delay in approving them and penning replies. I lost my Internet access for about 36 hours starting on Sunday and have been scrambling to catch up since getting it back.

      It’s so good to get information straight from the source. I spend a lot of time trying to track down the technical details of the wines I post notes about but even when I find some, it’s not always easy to know how accurate it is.

      A friend who lives in Montreal but hails from France introduced me to your wines a decade or so ago when he gave me a bottle of Vous en voulez en voilà. I liked it so much, we split cases of Lo Vièlh and L’Inattendu (don’t recall the vintages on either but probably late ’90s or early ’00s). By the way, one of the bottles of the latter went astray in my cellar and turned up only several years later; I was afraid it might be past its prime but needn’t have worried — it was drinking beautifully. Anyway, when I tasted — and enjoyed — the 2012 Terret at Montreal’s spring private import expo, I asked Plan Vin what Gravillas wines they had in stock and realized I could make them the centrepiece of a tasting. There’s still a vertical of Lo Vièlh to report on; the notes should be up later today or tomorrow.

      Will make a point of visiting the domaine if ever I find myself in the area. And if your travels bring you to Montreal, let us know. You’d be most welcome to join the other winemakers (including Pierre Breton, François Barmès, Arianna Occhipinti, Olivier Guyot and Bruno Schueller) who have led tastings of their wines at the Mo’ Wine Group.



      June 10, 2014 at 12:47

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