October 2017—Our 45th Anniversary!
Many of you may be aware of Didier Barral’s status in France as one of the few capable of truly “making wine in the vineyard.” He definitely takes the concept to the extreme. When you cut off the main road and meander through rolling hills to find his domaine in the small hamlet of Lentheric, time decidedly slows down. With the exception of tractor technology, little has changed here in terms of viticulture since Roman times. Each time I arrive, Didier’s brother Jean-Luc will inevitably be in their tractor shed tinkering with one of their new inventions, his mother will be tending her vegetable patch next to the shed, and his son Victor will be rooting for earthworms to go fishing or minding the family’s ducks and chickens. It has been this way every visit over the past ten years, and I really don’t expect it to change much.
Each year Didier will have new theories about harnessing the wonderful power of Mother Nature to promote biodiversity and, most important for him, vine health in his vineyards. Last year he planted fruit trees around his vineyards to allow bats to effectively hunt at night and eat predatory insects. Didier has no cell phone, television, email address, or computer, and hones his craft by observation and reflection.
Barral wines come straight from the farm—nothing added or taken away—and you immediately taste the difference. Jadis is based upon old-vine Carignan but sees a complement of southern-exposed Syrah along with a dollop of Grenache. Didier ages it in older barrels for two years prior to bottling. –Dixon Brooke
|Blend:||50% Carignan, 30% Syrah, 20% Grenache|
|Producer:||Domaine Léon Barral|
|Vineyard:||30 to 60 years, 10 ha|
|Aging:||Aged for 24 to 26 months in barrel (10% new oak)|
Didier Barral represents the 13th generation to grow grapes in the tiny hamlet of Lenthéric, deep in the heart of the Languedoc. Domaine Léon Barral is a beacon of revolutionary winegrowing: shortly after founding the domaine, Didier decided that biodynamic practices were best for his 30 hectares of vineyards. His vines are very old—some up to 90 years of age—keeping yields naturally low. Once in the cellar, Didier’s harvest is cared for with the same zeal, though he would consider the wine all but finished once it leaves the vineyard. This level of artisanship was once nearly extinct, had it not been for Didier and the profound influence he has over viticulteurs who now see how his work ethic and ideology translates to results.
I want you to realize once and for all: Even the winemaker does not know what aging is going to do to a new vintage; Robert Parker does not know; I do not know. We all make educated (hopefully) guesses about what the future will bring, but guesses they are. And one of the pleasures of a wine cellar is the opportunity it provides for you to witness the evolution of your various selections. Living wines have ups and downs just as people do, periods of glory and dog days, too. If wine did not remind me of real life, I would not care about it so much.
Inspiring Thirst, page 171