Wine producer: Alain Chabanon, Lagamas (Hérault, Languedoc)Wednesday April 21st, 2010
I met Alain in February just a few days before Vinisud in Montpellier. He is clearly one of my favourite wine producers in the Languedoc. Why? Because having studied agronomic sciences, he has both a very scientific and intuitive approach to viticulture. He runs his domaine both organically and biodynamically. He is not one a biodynamics “fan” or “guru”, he just tried it and saw that it worked amazingly well in his vineyards.
Before running his own domaine Alain worked with two of Europe’s leading winemakers, Alain Brumont in Madiran and Comte Peraldi in Corsica. Alain bought his first few hectares in the late 1980s and produced his first vintage in 1992. His ambition was to make fine, elegant wines that could compete with the best in the world. A project that seemed completely mad to many people in the Languedoc at that time! But Alain achieved his goal in a very short time. In 1998, one of his top cuvées, the “Merle aux Alouettes”, came before Petrus at a blind tasting held by top wine professionals like Jancis Robinson and Jasper Morris… As a matter of fact, the “Merle aux Alouettes” deserves a special attention because it is made from 90% Merlot. Merlot is not a tradiitional grape variety in the region. It is not adapted to the local conditions. As a consequence, very often it gives disappoining flabby wines in the Languedoc. But thanks to a microclimate in his vineyards located at the foothills of the Larzac and unique soils, Alain manages to make with Merlot an excellent quality wine that can compete with the best Bordeaux. The name “merle aux alouettes” is a pun coming from “merlot” because a “merle” means “blackbird” in French and “Alouettes” is the name of another little bird (lark). Alain Chabanon, also a poet? 😉