The Languedoc is one of the most exciting and best-value hunting grounds for wine enthusiasts. Some of the greatest potential in this entire region can be found in the elevated vineyards of Faugères. Situated 400 metres above sea level in the hills beyond Béziers, the appellation is experiencing something of a Renaissance and is a source of some incredibly well made and good-value wines. Its largely south-south-west facing slopes are shielded from northerly winds by the Massif Central, making it an ideal location for cultivating warm climate Mediterranean grape varieties. Soils are principally composed of schist which forces vines to send their roots deep in search of nutrients and water. Little else bar garrigue scrub can tolerate the harsh conditions, yet over 50% of wineries in the Faugères AOC are organic - the highest percentage in Languedoc-Roussillon.
Julien Seydoux of Château Estanilles in Lenthéric is one of the driving forces behind Faugères' revival. Since taking over the highly regarded estate in 2009, he has made meticulous improvements and has successfully converted all 35 hectares of his vine holdings to organic certification.
Julian bottles a superb triumvirate of Faugères wines under his signature 'Vallongue' label, named after a stream that runs through the vineyard. The white is a blend of 45% Marsanne, 35% Roussanne and 20% Vermentino and has alluring citrus scents and a racy, mineral-edged stone-fruit palate offset by fresh acidity. It serves well as an outdoor aperitif or partner to seafood. A sibling rosé wine is made from a base of Grenache Noir augmented by the addition of Mourvèdre and Syrah. With an attractive coral-pink colour, its red berry aromas and a palate of watermelon, pink grapefruit and Sichuan peppercorns lead to a lengthy, elegant finish. Admirably under 13% degrees of alcohol, it is ideal for picnics or garden parties. Completing the 'Vallongue' range is a robust red wine made from 45% Syrah, 35% Grenache Noir, 15% Carignan and 5% Mourvèdre that are vinified then raised in vat and barrel for a year prior to blending and bottling. It has a briary, garrigue herb and hedgerow berry bouquet and earthy black fruit palate with peppery undertones and enough tannins to support 3 to 5+ years bottle age. It pairs well with stews, daubes and wild mushroom dishes.
Julian also makes a site-specific red wine called 'Clos du Fou' named after a very steep terrace, of 95% Syrah and 5% Grenache Noir that yields small volumes of very concentrated fruit. With scents of leather, dark berries and wild herbs on top of a core of blackcurrant and blackberry fruit, it has enough body and backbone to cellar well for a decade. It merits decanting and makes a fine accompaniment to cassoulets of all origins.