Zélige-Caravent Pic St.-Loup "Ellipse" 2010
The Zélige-Caravent story is not an uncommon one: a couple tires of their day jobs and decides to disappear into the countryside to pursue an agrarian lifestyle. What is uncommon is what this couple, Luc and Marie Michel, were able to achieve in a very short period of time. Leaving his government job with the local department of l'Herault in 1999, Luc decided to return to the family roots and reclaim a few hectares of vines belonging to his grandfather in the Languedoc, more specifically in the northern reaches of the Pic St.-Loup appellation between Montpellier and Nîmes. This is one of the best terroirs in all of Languedoc, located in a dejection cone with deep, chalky soils with lots of gravel and great drainage. His wife Marie, who left her job as an event planner to pursue her passion for art, joined him soon after and with neither of the two having any experience at all with viticulture or winemaking and no cellar or
equipment to work with, they decided to start as growers and sell their fruit to the local co-op. Their organic farming methods and insistence on keeping the traditional local varietals like Aramon stood out in stark contrast to the practices of their neighbors, virtually all of whom had torn up the old Cinsault, Alicante-Bouschet and Carignan vines to plant Syrah and using lots of chemical fertilizers and pesticides in the process. After a couple of rudimentary courses in enology and a little research into biodynamics, they began producing their own wines in earnest five years later and these two are now producing some of the most beautiful wines in the appellation. They still don’t have much in the way of cellar space or equipment with a couple of tanks outside of what looks like a garage. The term low-tech comes to mind and it’s really an understatement. Production here is tiny with most wines being sold to a loyal band of private clients so we don’t see very much in the US. The domaine name, by the way is an interesting construct. You can read about it here www.zelige-caravent.com
The Pic St.-Loup “Ellipse”, 50% Syrah/40% Carignan/10% Cinsault, is the prettiest, most elegant wine from the Languedoc or anywhere else in the south of France that I’ve ever tasted. Though Pic St.-Loup has a reputation for producing some of the finest wines in all of the Languedoc, the dominant style here is a big, bold red wine based on Syrah and Grenache; elegance isn’t the first word that comes to mind. The wines at Zélige-Caravent are definitely something different. The first thing that draws you in is the striking perfume of this wine. All violet and iris with notes of ripe red berries and subtle black tea. A soft, almost shy attack with gorgeous, plush texture that grows on the palate with a long, mineral finish. This the sort of finesse I expect in great Burgundy, not from anything made out of even a little bit of Syrah. Very limited, 24 bottles in stock.
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