At the many tastings we attend during the year, we often hear people exclaim "Is this Albarino from France?" or "I didn't know you could get Albarino in France!" It's true that until Laurent brought Albarino to France in 2009 and planted it at Chateau Auzines, the grape hadn't been in France for over 400 years, but we like to think that we brought it home.
Most people associate the grape with the region of Galicia, in the north west of Spain, but we believe that Albarino originated far north of there, possibly even as far as Germany. We do know that it was the Burgundian monks who brought the grape with them to Spain on early pilgrimages, where it became well established into the popular style it is today. Laurent has always enjoyed the freshness and saline minerality of good quality Albarino and wanted for many years to create a wine of equal finesse and vibrancy to the best Spanish examples that he'd enjoyed. He believed that Chateau Auzines in the Corbieres region, with its limestone soils, high altitude and cooling mountain breezes and morning fogs - thanks to our location in the foothills of the Pyrenees - would be the perfect terroir to grow Albarino.
Laurent never does anything in a half-hearted manner, so when he decided to experiment with Albarino plantings, he went headlong into a full commitment and planted 29 hectares! Preparation for planting was intense - the soils around Chateau Auzines consist of rocky limestone, with a clay sub-soil, but the limestone was in very large slabs, some several metres long! It took many hours of labour to break those slabs into stones small enough to allow for the planting of vines. 4 years ago we also planted another 8 hectares, which will be fully mature and go into production next year. As our Albarino sells out every year, this will be good news for our customers.
Water was the other key requirement to ensure success in vine growing here. The Corbieres is a hot, arid region and water is scarce, even more so in recent decades with the onset of climate change. Eight generations of family expertise has taught Laurent that access to water is critical to avoid hydric stress in the vine, which ultimately affects quality, and he had the foresight to apply for permission to construct a lake on the property. Our lake harvests rainwater during the winter months, and we use it for drip irrigation of our vines during the growing season. It took over 5 years to get official approval, but we persisted because the harvesting of rainwater to conserve and manage our water use is also part of our sustainability commitment under the HVE Level 3 certification. Biodiversity projects and soil health through cover crops is another important part of this certification.
Our first vintage of Albarino was in 2013 and in 2020 we launched the Côte 238 Pech Gentille Albarino, sourced from the best plots in the vineyard, which is more concentrated and aged for 2-3 months on the lees. Laurent Miquel have been recognised as one of the best white wine producers in the south of France, cementing the reputation we established in the 1990s with our Viognier wines from our Cazal Viel estate. We are delighted with the many accolades we have received for our Albarino and we are grateful to our clients and importers around the world for supporting our wines and bringing it to wine lovers everywhere.
We love to serve Lagrasse Albarino as a refreshing aperitif or with a plate of local seafood or oysters. Santé!