We made our way up to this hidden Languedoc estate after tasting Julien Zernott's fabulous first releases at ViniSud in 2006. At the fair, Julien's top cuvee "Le Grand Pas" created quite a stir. Word travels fast at ViniSud and it didn't take long for the crowds to build around the Pas de l'Escalette booth. When we reached this breathtaking corner of the appellation, we began to understand what all the fuss was about.
The 22 acre estate is entirely planted on terraces that are buttressed by old stone walls, known as 'clapas' locally. Set at over 1,000 feet in elevation at the foot of the plateau of Larzac, the estate is situated in one of the coolest microclimates of the Languedoc, accounting for the fine structure and acid backbone of the wines.
While the place seems primitive, the viticulture and vinification techniques are cutting edge. Zernott employs homeopathic treatments in the vines, eschewing the use of chemical herbicides and pesticides. At harvest, all grapes are sorted in the vineyards and harvested by hand, then dropped into small buckets and transported to the winery in pristine condition. Upon arrival at the cellar, the grapes are sorted again and destemmed before fermentation begins in large wooden fermenters. Julien prefers the wooden fermenters as they provide more oxygen exchange, particularly important for Syrah and Carignane which are prone to reduction. After fermentation is completed, the wine is transfered to equal parts small wooden barrels and large wooden 'cuves' for aging.
Like the rest of southern France, this corner of the Languedoc benefited from a near perfect growing season in 2005. A blend of old vine Carignane and Cinsault, Grenache and Syrah, this deeply colored red is sturdily built. Drink now for Las Clapas's effusive red fruit flavors and aromas or age for up to 7 years allowing all of the complex aromatics provided by the old vine fruit to take hold.
Enjoy with grilled meats, roasted game or rich fish like tuna or salmon.