Wine enthusiasts are getting better and better at picking out some of the finest gems of the natural movement and pointing us in their direction…This time, we can claim the discovery for ourselves! During the Angers wine fair last year, we had the chance to try some cuvées from Clos Fantine, and we fell head over heels!
If you’re into the French classics (or maybe have a soft spot for musical theatre!), you’ll surely recognise the name Fantine from Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables. You’ll be pleased to hear, in any case, that there’s no tragedy here! The story of Clos Fantine began in 1990s Cabrerolles, an Occitan village with a rather sunny disposition. This is where the Andrieu family have built their reputation, working on schist-rich, sloping layers.
Taking up the estate from their father, Corine, Carole, and Olivier Andrieu care for their 31 hectares of vines with an inherited philosophy in mind: to respect the life with which they’ve been entrusted. In the vineyard, this looks like organic farming of the native varietals: Carignan, Grenache, Mourvèdre, Cinsault, and Syrah. Walking among the plants, you might be surprised by the kind of garden surrounding the tangled, gobelet-pruned vines, with flowers and wild herbs growing freely.
If you’re lucky enough to be in possession of hundred-year-old Carignan parcels, the last thing you want to do is disturb them! This is why all synthetic products, herbicides, and additives are banned. However, the abundance of greenery around the vines is actively encouraged since it has a fundamental role: this diversity allows the vines to push deeply into the soil for its nutrients and to react well to water stress, a common issue during the summer period in this hot, dry region.
The family then continues with this philosophy through to the vinification, with processes carried out as naturally as possible. This means that the grape juice ferments using only the help of wild yeasts. Also, the climate here means that mildew is less of a problem. As such, sulphur isn’t often necessary, and is actively avoided by the domain, this being the key tenet of natural production.
When you put all of these thorough gestures together, the resulting wines are striking in their purity and authenticity, reminding us of the sunshine that brought them into being. At Clos Fantine, the term “terroir wine” truly comes into its own.
What do the guides say?
Guide Vert by La Revue du vin de France
Clos Fantine is a family venture in the village of Cabrerolles that was founded in the 1990s. Following on from their father, Corine, Carole, and Olivier Andrieu see respect for the earth and its plant life as central to their work. There is total dedication in the vineyard and cellar alike, and the wines, matured in concrete vats, aren’t concerned by current oenological dogma. They are made as deep, free, and multifaceted reflections of where they come from. In the most recent vintages, they have a reached an inspiring level of quality.
The wines: strength and an incredible, floral force in the Faugères, whilst the Courtiol cuvée (two-thirds Mourvèdre and a third Syrah) is denser and more compact, flirting with a hint of sweetness. A wine that will refine in time.