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Two Wines from Pic Saint Loup

Pic Saint-Loup (background) and l' Hortus (foreground), Image From l'Ermitage

Pic Saint Loup is the northernmost appellation in the Languedoc.  The Pic Saint Loup is a peak of Jurassic limestone that reaches 658 meters and while the Causse de l’Hortus reaches 150 meters.  Legend has it that in the middle ages a man named Loup fell in love with the beautiful Bertrade.  She had two other suitors.  The three men went off to prove their valor in the Crusades.  When they returned she was gone so the men took vows to live as hermits on the mountains.

Like many other areas of Coteaux du Languedoc, Pic Saint Loup became a Vin Delimite de Qualitate Superieure “Delimited Wine of Superior Quality” (VDQS) in 1955.  In 1985 it joined the appellation of Coteatux du Languedoc and in 1994 it became a Cru.  In 2001 the thirteen villages submitted an application to the Institut National des Appellations d’Origine (INAO) to have their own Appellation d’Origine Controlee (AOC).  The application is still under review.  Pic Saint Loup has diverse soils surrounded by a chain of cliffs.  Good vineyards may be found where limestone scree has been covered with coarse, red clay.  The temperatures are a bit cooler, there is a bit more rain spread throughout the winter, and the large amount of rocks allows for good drainage.  The breezes also fight against rot and frost.

A wine from Pic Saint-Loup must contain at least a blend of two main grapes: Syrah, Grenache, or Mourvedre.  It may also contain no more than 10% of Cinsault or Carignan.  The vines must be at least six years old.  Both of the wines featured in this post are available at MacArthur’s for $15-$16.  They are worth tasting together.

2007 Bergerie de l’Hortus, Cuvee Classique, Pic Saint Loup
Jean Orliac discovered an abandoned piece of land between two cliffs.  There were old grape vines and huge, old olive trees.  He purchased the five hectacres in the 1970s and eventually acquired 50 more.  He named his estate l’Hortus and worked with the local Cooperative.  He produced his first wine in 1990 and by 1995 he finished building his timbery winery.

l'Hortus Winery, Image By Comunicano (Flickr)

This wine is a blend of 60% Syrah, 30% Grenache, and 10% Mourvedre.  The Syrah vineyard is located under the Pic Saint Loup cliff with northern exposure, the Grenache with intermediate exposure, and the Mourvedre is located under the Hortus cliff with south-west exposure.   The vineyards lie at 150-200 meters.  For ten months the Syrah and Grenache are aged in stainless steel vats and Mourvedre in neutral barrels.

Mourvedre Vineyard, Image from l'Hortus

On the second night this wine sports a light+ nose of darker red fruit, herbs, and red berries.  It too is medium bodied but is more modern with dark, red fruit that is not as tart as the l’Ermitage.  It is ticklish on the tongue, tart in the finish, and has a good aftertaste.  It has fine tannins and is more structured than the l’Ermitage.  It seems younger and is not yet as expressive. ** 2015-2019.

2007 l’Ermitage du Pic Saint Loup, Pic Saint Loup

l’Ermitage is an old family property.  The grandfather joined a cooperative and used the estate to raise sheep whose milk was used for Roquefort cheese.  When the son-in-law inherited the property he planted Syrah vines in 1970.  Then in 1992 the three Ravelle sons decided to convert the estate into a winery.  In 1999 they started using biodynamic methods and they have recently begun organic certification process.

The Old Estate, Image from l'Ermitage

The wines are vinified separately, by parcel and varietal.  Native yeasts are used and the wines are aged from one to two years in vats or barrels.  This wine is a blend of 50% Syrah, 40% Grenache, and 10% Mourvedre from vines that are 30-40 years old.  The soils are chalky and red clay.  The wine is aged for twelve months in barrels and large barrels.  The label shows three fish which symbolize the brothers.

Vineyard, Image from l'Ermitage

On the second night this wine has a light nose of rose, Kirsch, and candied-raspberry.  In the mouth, this medium-bodied wine has tart, red fruits, some herbs, a good mouthfeel, and acidity.  It is a structured wine that leaves the impression of stones. It is enjoyable due to its wild nature, herbs, and different profile.  There are tart/sour red berries in the aftertaste that leaves salivating acidity.  Neat stuff!  *** Now-2017.

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