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Garrigue - marketing or terroir?

Anytime you read about - or even taste - a wine from the Languedoc, you probably hear references to the "garrigue", described as unique to the south of France. Some might wonder if it is like the "flint" you're supposed to taste in Chablis or is it simply a marketing term when it comes to wine? Taste, terroir or marketing, what is garrigue?

The word 'garrigue' refers to the heady scent of the mix of herbs and shrubs found everywhere in the arid, wild scrublands of the Languedoc. It's most commonly found in soils that are alkaline, i.e. rich in limestone or calcium deposits, around the Mediterranean basin. In our part of Southern France, the garrigue is mostly made up of wild herbs like lavender, thyme, sage and rosemary and the aromas scent the air, especially during the summer months. So can garrigue impart a taste into the red wines, and, if so, how?

Walking around our vineyards at Châteaux Auzines and Cazal Viel, it would be difficult to see how you could avoid garrigue impacting the wines! Our soils are calcareous-clay and herbs and shrubs grow in abundance. The estates are a haven of natural biodiversity - our HVE Level 3 certification means our hedges and native plants are protected and provide a safe habitat for many birds and creatures. Wild herbs are growing everywhere and the aromas are unmistakeable. If you pick the leaves and rub them between your fingers the scent lingers, along with a slight oily sensation. This is what happens with the wines - the natural oil essences from these herbs get carried through the air onto the vines and settle onto the leaves and grape skins. When the must is macerated with the grape skins, an unmistakeable essence of garrigue is imparted to our red wines, notably Syrah. We like to gather these herbs on our weekend walks and we use them to marinate meat for the barbeque and sometimes the children dry them for scented bouquets, which they dot around the house.

We love the unique herbal note on our Syrah wines, particularly our single vineyard Bardou and Larmes des Fées - it makes them a great pairing for cheese and charcuterie plates. Often in summer it's so hot that we don't have the inclination to cook! I like to chill the wines down in the fridge for an hour, as it brings out the savoury, herby element.

I hope you're having a great summer wherever you are and that it's not too hot. Soon it will be harvest time! Watch this space.


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