When one thinks of Minervois the first things that come to mind are Muscat, an easy and most of the time unremarkable dessert wine, and rich, over-extracted reds that gave Languedoc a bad name. But in the right hands this land of unspoiled, almost wild beauty, with garrigue and rocky soils that resemble a moonscape, can produce wines of great elegance and purity.
That is the case with Clos du Gravillas.
The story started in 1996 when John, a southern boy from Kentucky, and Nicole, a southern girl from Narbonne, decided to get married and rescue a vineyard in the town of St. Jean de Minervois, population 45.
The very mineral landscape of their 8.5 hectare domaine seduced them immediately: a high plateau, surrounded by the Parc Naturel de Haut Languedoc, with a soil of limestone and sea fossils, almost perfect weather with long days and cool nights, and a refreshing breeze coming down from the neighboring Montagne Noir. Being in one of the gateways to the park and immersed in biodiversity made farming the vineyard in the most natural way an obvious choice.
They cultivate 14 grape varietals indigenous to the land: Carignan, Syrah, Grenache blanc, Grenache gris, Grenache black, Muscat Petits Grains, Terret gris, Cinsault, Mourvèdre, Counoise, Maccabeo, Roussane, Viognier, and Terret noir. By working the soil, avoiding pesticides and fertilizers, and using plant infusions to keep and improve the health of the vine, they reach their goal of balance between freshness and minerality in their wines.
In the cellar they follow the same philosophy of the vineyard: no enzymes or synthetic yeast, and minimal use of sulfur.
Clos du Gravillas is a great example of wines that are unique, precise, and a perfect reflection of their terroir, showing beautiful fruit, restraint, and a mineral core.
At Eli’s List:
Minervois Blanc “L’Inattendu”: Certified Organic. 85% Grenache Blanc, 15% Macabeo. Extremely rocky white limestone soils on a high plateau at 300 meters above sea level. Native yeast with minimal sulfur. Fermented and aged 11 months on the lees in 500L Austrian barrels.
Carignan “Lo Viehl de 100 Ans”: Certified Organic. From Carignan vines planted in 1911 that Gravillas saved from being ripped out. Stemmed and foot-crushed, left on the skin six weeks with daily pigeage, native yeast with no additions besides minimal sulfur. 24 months on lees: 12 in steel and 12 in 400-liter French oak barrels.