It is an irony that much of the land with the greatest vinous potential in France used to produce some of the worst wines in its illustrious wine-making history. The onset of industrialisation in the mid-eighteenth century saw burgeoning demand in rapidly expanding cities whereby volume (not quality) became the over-arching concern. This saw widespread planting of high-yielding inferior grapes, such as Aramon, coupled with dubious state contracts to supply hospitals and the army. Eventually the bulk wine market collapsed in the 1970s inducing the French government to give grants for grubbing up vines and planting cépages améliorateurs, culminating in the creation of Faugères appellation contrôlée in 1982.
With a Mediterranean climate providing a long, sunny ripening season, an elevated topography of rolling hills and a unique terroir of friable schist, Faugères boasts some of France's best viticultural real estate. This was not lost on savvy former stockbroker Julien Seydoux when he bought Château des Estanilles in 2009 and converted its 35 hectares of vines to organic status. Julien is meticulous in his vineyard and cellar management and his wines have been extremely well-received both critically and commercially. His principal bottling of white (in volume terms) is made from a blend of 45% Marsanne, 35% Roussanne and 20% Vermentino. It has appealing white peach and apricot scents and flavours and an elegant dry finish. A red stablemate is made from 45% Syrah, 5% Mourvèdre, 35% Grenache Noir and 15% of Carignan. It has a bright red fruit bouquet and a wonderful complex core of dark berries and cherries with peppery undertones and supple tannins. Julien also produces a single vineyard red wine called 'Clos du Fou' made from 100% Syrah that is matured in oak barrels for 18 months before bottling. It has diverse wild herb and dark fruit aromas and a rich, complex palate of garrigue berries supported by rugged tannins. It will cellar well for a decade.