Pic Saint Loup, Languedoc
Organic certified and Biodynamic
Those in wine circles have known the potential of the Languedoc region for decades. With a large area under vine, it’s one of the most prolific wine producing regions in France, however it remains one of the most misunderstood (in our humble opinion). The region is an agricultural playground, with ancient soils, mature vines and a terroir that is more suited to natural farming than many of its surroundings. Languedoc has often attracted innovative winemakers given its diversity, and flying largely under the radar has allowed producers to push boundaries, experiment and ultimately create some of the most exciting wines in the world - including those of Clos Marie.
Clos Marie was established in 1995, when Christophe Peyrus and Françoise Julien took over the family vineyards in the Pic Saint-Loup appellation of the Languedoc, naming the domaine in honour of Francoise's grandmother to whom the vineyards had belonged. Until this point, the vineyard was a reliable source of fruit for the local cooperative, however Christophe and Françoise felt there was a greater potential for these vines.
Their intuition was confirmed after consultation with a slew of France’s greatest vignerons and domaines (Didier Dagueneau, Clos Rougeard, and Grange des Pères), and before long they set out on bottling wines under the Clos Marie label. The hardworking pair focused on caring for the vineyard above all else, quickly realising the benefits of organic and biodynamic practices, they began solely farming this way in 1997, achieving organic certification in 2010.
Today, the domaine’s vineyard holdings sit at 23 hectares (20ha reds, 3ha whites), and are sprinkled in and around the village of Lauret, located to the north of Montpellier. The vines sit on terraces nestled on the backside of the Montagne de l’Hortus, the peak that faces the pointed Pic Saint-Loup. This sub appellation under the Coteaux du Languedoc AOC is known for some of the most finessed wines of the region, in large part due to the cooling breezes that blow south from the Cévennes Mountains.
Working the vineyard to produce the best possible wines remains the focal point for Christophe and Françoise. The soils of the vineyards are continuously ploughed, forcing the vines’ roots to seek nourishment deep down in the chalky limestone bedrock. Yields are kept low, between 15 to 35 hl/ha, with 75% of the vineyards replanted from séléction massale cuttings (sourced from their 70- to 100-year-old vines) to achieve a higher vine density. Many growers believe this causes enough competition among the roots to invigorate the vine.
Perhaps the most intriguing and exciting element to Languedoc wines, and Clos Marie in particular is the diversity of varietals producers have at their fingertips. For Clos Marie, this includes Cinsault (10%), Syrah (50%), Grenache noir (15%), Carignan (15%), Mourvèdre (10%) for the reds, and Carignan gris (15%), Grenache blanc (20%), Clairette (10%), Roussanne (15%), Vermentino (10%), Grenache gris (20%), Muscat à petits grains blancs (5%) for the white wines.
In the cellar, Christophe continues his fastidious approach to winemaking, firmly believing the devil is in the detail. As the hand-picked grapes arrive in the cellar, they then ferment naturally in cement tanks and undergo long cuvaisons at cool temperatures, stabilising the wines sufficiently so that fining and filtration are not necessary. Vinification varies with each cuvee, with some of the wines, such as the signature ‘Les Glorieuses’ aged in barrel for up to three winters, mostly in neutral barrels and newer Stockinger foudres. Christophe is also in the minimal intervention camp and uses low sulfur while ensuring quality and purity in the end result.
Many of Clos Marie’s wines are considered to be reference points for Languedoc - a point we won’t argue having tasted these wines alongside many other, better known producers. Christophe and Françoise do not chase the limelight, or endeavour to be the best known producers in the region. Instead, their focus is on their vineyards, the grapes and producing wines of incredible purity to showcase just how good Languedoc can be.