It is ironic that Faugères - which boasts some of the finest elevated, free-draining, schist-based terroir in the Languedoc - was historically a centre for producing some of its least impressive table wines and indifferent distillates to appease a burgeoning proletariat during the Industrial Revolution. Happily, the era of over-production and under-performance is well behind us and this exciting enclave of viticulture can now reveal its true potential. Ill-served by the Paris-based I.N.A.O., Faugères only gained Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée status for its red and rosé wines in 1982 but consequently its wines remain modestly priced and deserving of wider recognition.
Former stockbroker Julien Seydoux was quick to recognize the potential in Faugères and, in 2009, invested in one its premier properties when he purchased Château des Estanilles. Having taken charge of its 35 hectares of vines, Julien swiftly put them all under conversion to organic viticulture and invested in some innovative cellar equipment and barrels. His wines are highly evocative of their dramatic location in the hills surrounding the cellar in Lenthéric and pair well with the characterful local cuisine. His bottling of white 'Vallongue' is made from a blend of 45% Marsanne, 35% Roussanne and 20% Vermentino that are hand-harvested and pressed as whole bunches. The young wine is raised on its lees for 6 months prior to racking and bottling. With notes of verbena and lime and a stone-fruit palate underscored by nervy mineral notes, it drinks well as an aperitif or partner to shellfish. A red sibling is blended from 45% Syrah, 35% Grenache Noir, 15% Carignan and 5% Mourvèdre. It is raised in a combination of wooden vats and temperature-controlled tanks for at least 14 months before blending and release. It drinks well on its youthful fruit if decanted and can be cellared for a decade. It makes a fine partner to small game, wild mushrooms and chargrilled steaks. A flagship bottling from a single vineyard called 'Clos du Fou' is made from pure Syrah grown on very steep slopes. It is matured for 18 months in new and used oak barrels before bottling and can be matured for up to 20 years. With a wealth of red and black fruit flavours supported by peppery undertones and supple tannins, it makes a fine accompaniment to confit de canard.