A VISIT TO MAZIÈRE
Corbières is one of the most dramatic and beautiful areas in the Languedoc. Climbing up from the populated coast and the plains around Perpignan it is a shock to come across this craggy, undulating, precipitous, wind battered landscape. It is no surprise that the Cathars chose this area to build two of their most mind-bogglingly remote fortresses - Quéribus and Peyrepertuse.
One bright but icy morning between these two castles in the village of Padern on the bank of Le Verdouble I found Fabrice and Momoko wrapped up in their cellar labelling some of their tiny production. I had tasted the wines of Mazière at La Remise a few times and had been so struck by their singularity that it warranted further investigation; the day that followed proved I was right to investigate.
Fabrice and Momoko have not been growing grapes and making wine for long. Before coming to Corbières they ran the well-known wine bar and shop Les Zinszins du Vin in Besançon. After 15 years or so they decided to head to the source and came to Padern taking over Mazière from the Labouygues family. Fabrice and Momoko recognised how special these vineyards were and were keen to continue the tradition that the Labouygues family had established in their cellar.
Their two hectares of vines are made up of Grenache, Macabeu, Carignan and Syrah interspersed with some more obscure local varieties. The vines are old and planted on limestone in various expositions - as anywhere but particularly in this very hot region the exposition is key to keeping some freshness and minerality whilst the grapes are at full maturity. In the tiny cellar all work is done by gravity. The press is vertical and the barrels are old, mostly Burgundian and some demi-muids.
The wines we sell are often described as being low or minimal intervention. I find this expression clumsy as it suggests a lazy, hands-off approach. Yes, the wines are not interfered with chemically or mechanically but intervention is needed at every stage from pruning to bottling. You could argue that more intervention is needed compared to the industrial counterparts.
I have heard Fabrice describe himself as an éleveur - an interesting term that is hard to translate elegantly; someone who takes care of élevage - the progression of wine from fermented grape juice onwards. Undoubtedly the vines and the work in the vineyards give a strong base to these wines but it is in the cellar that they truly take their personality. Each grape is vinified separately and each barrel ages differently. Fabrice and Momoko pay attention to each individual barrel and don't always top them up; the resulting oxidative notes unlock the minerality and give some of their wines a striking salinity. Having tracked the progress of each barrel, they will either bottle one barrel or sometimes will blend a few barrels together to benefit from the qualities of each one - either from the same vintage or spanning a couple of years.
Tasting these wines with Fabrice and Momoko on that cold November morning in the shadow of Queribus I had the impression that there was alchemy happening here. The wines are extraordinary and we are very lucky to have some.