Former stock-broker Julien Seydoux purchased Château des Estanilles in 2009 and successfully began conversion of its 35 hectares of vineyard to organic status the following year. Based in the hill village of Lenthéric – 20 kilometres north of Béziers – this is rugged vine country with elevated, free-draining and schist-rich soils, a long ripening season and the potential to produce outstanding wines. In hindsight, it was a pragmatic decision to invest in a region with a chequered history but room for improvement. Judicious investment and rigorous grape selection has yielded some terrific wines in recent vintages.
The principal white wine (in terms of volume) is the 'Vallongue' bottling made from a blend of 45% Marsanne, 35% Roussanne and 20% Vermentino. With attractive stone fruit scents and a nervy palate of white peaches and apricots underscored by fresh acidity, it drinks well from release and makes an excellent partner to seafood and poultry. A sibling red is from a blend of 45% Syrah, 35% Grenache Noir, 15% Carignan and 5% Mourvèdre that are vinified in vat and barrel for a minimum of 14 months prior to a fastidious assemblage. Jancis Robinson described the 2017 vintage as "Brilliant value. Seriously underpriced. Long, satisfying and charming." It is already drinking beautifully and should continue to do so for a further 3-5 years. Not to be overlooked is a prestigious patron's cuvée made from a parcel of the steepest, south-facing vines called 'Clos du Fou'. Made from Syrah that is aged in oak barrels and demi-muids, it has a wealth of the estate's signature briary garrigue fruit supported by notes of herbs and spices, fresh acidity and earthy tannins. It merits decanting and will cellar well for a decade.