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We're proud to be working, for almost ten years, with the affable Thierry Navarre, one of the first producers of natural wines in the Languedoc. Based in the town of Roquebrun ("brown rock") in Saint-Chinian, Thierry became the third generation to take over the domaine's high-altitude vineyards in 1988 and continue his grandfather's legacy of preserving ancient varieties. Today, Thierry is one of the few winemakers in the region still making wine from the obscure Œillades (a cousin of Cinsault), Terret and the light and delightfully floral Ribeyrenc.
Thierry's vineyards are planted high up in the mountains, farmed organically, and are surrounded by olive trees and flowering bushes. The vines are southwest exposed, and the soils are composed of loose brown schist, which generally produce lighter, more early-drinking styles than wines from the clay and limestone based soils in the south of the Saint-Chinian appellation. His intuition for winemaking and passion for history translate into some of the most compelling wines we carry from the Languedoc-Roussillon.
We weren't able to visit Thierry this past winter, but had a great tasting with him at La Dive Bouteille in Saumur, where his entire range showed beautifully. First up was the 2018 "Vin d'Œillades" which was extraordinary - bursting with lovely fruit, ripe, dense and long but at the same time relatively light and low in alcohol, just a delightful wine! Next, the 2017 Saint-Chinian "Le Laouzil" from a terroir of brown schiste covered with fragments of slate ("lauzes" or "laouzil" in Occitan) which reflect sunlight and holds moisture in the soil. This is the domain's principal cuvée, "with aromas of garrigue and the singular spicy minerality of wines from schistes in the Languedoc" says the Navarre website. At $14.99 it's an outstanding value! The 2016 "Cuvée Olivier" is from the estates oldest vines of Carignan, Grenache and Syrah - it's a deep and elegant Languedoc red that is delicious now and will cellar beautifully for ten to fifteen years. From a vineyard co-planted with old varieties - Ribeyrenc Blanc, Grenache Gris and Clairette du Languedoc - Thierry made the 2017 "Lignières." It's a delighful wine with slightly spicy and floral aromas of almond, pear and honeysuckle, dry and dense on the palate with mineral, herbal and dried stone fruit flavors - really lovely, a great aperitif or serve with fish or chicken in sauce, salads, sheep and goat cheeses. Every few years Thierry makes a new batch of his late-harvest "Vin de Grenache" - this version is outrageous - it's an oxidative orange wine (!) showing a dark orange color and aromas of dried fruits - apricot and prune - brown spice, walnut, honey and wildflowers with slightly sweet palate of ripe black cherry, dried apricot, brown spice and minerals. Serve with dried fruits and nuts, strong cheeses or just enjoy by itself - only 36 bottles for the US, please 3 btl maximum purchase.
The wines of Thierry Navarre are not expensive, but they are quite special - unique and natural expressons of his mountainous schiste terroir - we urge you to try them! Our friend and neighbor at Racines NY, Pascaline Lepeltier, MS (Meilleure Sommelière de France 2018) will conduct a tasting of these wines on Tuesday, July 23 starting at 6pm, $30 for 6 half-pours. To reserve go to racinesny.com or call 212-227-3400.
Every few years Thierry Navarre makes a new batch of his late-harvest "Vin de Grenache" - this version is outrageous - it's an oxidative orange wine (!) showing a dark orange color and aromas of dried fruits - apricot and prune - brown spice, walnut, honey and wildflowers with slightly sweet palate of ripe black cherry, dried apricot, brown spice and minerals. Serve with dried fruits and nuts, strong cheeses or just enjoy by itself - only 36 bottles for the US. David Lillie
Guilhaume Darde at the Mas des Chimeres makes this surprisingly light Languedoc red from Cinsault, and the older local version called Oeillades, hence the name Clin D'Oeil - wink of an eye or Oeillades. In the Coteaux du Salagou, west of Montpellier, the soils are a combination of clay, schist, and granite with veins of basaltic slate.In 2018 this interesting terroir produced a lovely Cinsault at a whopping 13.5% alcohol that remains relatively light in body and beautifully fragrant, showing ripe raspberry and wild strawberry with rose and orange peel. The palate is sappy and ripe with chalky raspberry fruit and hints of white pepper, spice and citrus. The finish is long, ripe and refreshing - serve cool with a grilled burger, chicken or pork, charcuterie and cow cheeses. Lovely wine! David Lillie
From a vineyard co-planted with old varieties - Ribeyrenc Blanc, Grenache Gris and Clairette du Languedoc - Thierry Navarre made the 2017 "Lignières." It's a delighful wine with slightly spicy and floral aromas of almond, pear and honeysuckle, dry and dense on the palate with mineral, herbal and dried stone fruit flavors - really lovely, a great aperitif or serve with fish or chicken in sauce, salads, sheep and goat cheeses. David Lillie
Oeillades is an ancient Languedoc variety, probably related to Cinsault. Thierry Navarre, who is proud of his vineyards of "forgotton varieties," produces Terret and Ribeyrenc as well as this lovely light-bodied Oeillades. The 2018 has pretty high-toned red-currant, boysenberry, black plum, violet, spiced citrus and smokey aromas, quite fresh and appealing. The palate has red currant, blackberry and plum fruit, it's light to medium-bodied, but with lovely ripeness and depth with refreshing acidity and good sappy length. Good intensity of fruit but low alcohol, 12%, which makes it very food-friendly. Serve cool with charcuterie, burgers, grillled chicken and pork and mild cheeses. Highly recommended and a great value! David Lillie
Thierry Navarre's touchstone "Laouzil" is a blend of equal parts Grenache, Carignan, and Syrah from old vines planted on brown schist ("Laouzil" in the local dialect) soils in the rugged mountains of Roquebrun (Saint-Chinian). The grapes are de-stemmed and aged in neutral barrel before bottling with minimal sulfur. The 2017 has a beautiful robe of deep red/black. The nose shows decadent aromas of spiced plums, blackberry patch, sage, and deeper notes of espresso. The palate is creamy with fine powdery tannins. Perhaps a bit softer than the 2016, with less high-toned acidity, but wonderfully balanced and accessible for drinking now. Flavors of black fruits, peppercorn, and savory herbs cling to a core of dense minerals on the long, persistent finish. This is a fascinating wine of terroir that Thierry says will be perfect in 5 years (though it is delicious now). Amanda Bowman
Thierry Navarre's Cuvée Olivier is a blend from old vines of Carignan, Grenache, and Syrah in Thierry’s 12-hectare practicing organic estate situated in the AOC of Saint-Chinian, grown in brown schist soils that give density to the finished wine. On the nose it is deep and complex with dusty dark plum, boysenberry, pink peppercorn, sage, lemon oil, and clementine zest. The palate is poised and structured, leaning towards more smoky and mineral flavors but is balanced by fresh fruit. Blackberries, citrus, and savory herbs come to mind on the finish that lingers on the palate. On day two the palate is beginning to open up with more fruit redolent of pomegranate seeds and minerals. Drink now or cellar for 10 to 15 years. Truly a great wine, perfect with grilled meats, tagines and stews and a fantastic value.
"Caminarèm," from winemaker Guilhem Dardé, is a blend of equal parts Cinsault, Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre, and Carignan from the Terrasses du Larzac AOC. The vines range in age from 20 to 100 years old and are planted in basalt soils. The grapes are hand harvested, de-stemmed, fermented with native yeasts, then assembled and matured in various sized barrels for a year before bottling. The 2017 shows a deep ruby color in the glass. The nose is effusive with savory notes of sage, white pepper, blood orange and rosewater. The palate offers the firm, tightly-knit tannins of youth, but with some air (and especially on the second day), shows deep, brooding layers of dusty minerals, snappy red currant, citrus, and salty plum on the long, persistent finish. This is a beautiful wine that has great balance of fruit and acid. Decant if drinking now or save for 2025-2030. Amanda Bowman
"Fontanilles" comes from ancient vines of Carignan, Syrah, and Grenache Noir grown in Mediterranean bedrock and limestone scree in the Corbieres AOC. Magali Terrier works this plot using biodynamic methods and uses her intuition and deep knowledge of the local climate to pick at the perfect moment before Carignan becomes too ripe and austere. All de-stemmed, this blend showcases the softer side of Carignan, and with the addition of Syrah and Grenache, the 2017 is a virtual trip to the Mediterranean. Aromas of violets and peppery spice lead to flavors of cocoa, thyme grown on windswept hills, with a bitter orange peel on the finish. A wonderfully balanced wine from the Languedoc that is made to enjoy now with a variety of food. As the weather warms up, this will be our BBQ go-to! Amanda Bowman