When sylvain fadat founded Domaine d’Aupilhac in 1989, he set out to prove that the Languedoc, until then known primarily for its bulk wines, was a land capable of much, much more on a viticultural level. The family vineyards in Montpeyroux, a vigneron village in the foothills home to ideal sunbaked slopes, would be his starting point.Through organic farming and low yields, Sylvain sought to dispel the negative reputation associated with the Languedoc, shining a light on its best terroirs to show the region’s potential in the hands of a passionate artisan.The cuvée La Boda epitomizes his work: it combines full-throttle Mourvèdre from the marl soils of the lieu-dit Aupilhac with the fine-grained Syrah, Grenache, and Carignan of Cocalières, a cooler, high-altitude site with basalt and limestone soils. Aged for two years in barrel and bottled unfiltered, this soulful Languedoc super-cuvée promises to age just as gracefully as top bottlings from Bandol and the Rhône.
Three generations of Fadats have farmed the lieu-dit known as Aupilhac, in the village of Montpeyroux, across the river Hérault from Daumas Gassac and Grange des Pères. While the Fadats have farmed this land since the 19th century, it wasn’t until 1989 that the current member of the family, Sylvain, finally registered the domaine as a vigneron indépendant. Aupilhac sits at a high altitude, nestled below the ruins of the village’s château, at almost 1200 feet above sea level on terraced land. The soils are rich in prehistoric oyster fossils, which lend incredible length and minerality to the wines. In Sylvain’s words, “We believe that work in the vineyards has far more influence on a wine's quality than what we do in the cellar.”
Ask wine drinkers around the world, and the word “Languedoc” is sure to elicit mixed reactions. On the one hand, the region is still strongly tied to its past as a producer of cheap, insipid bulk wine in the eyes of many consumers. On the other hand, it is the source of countless great values providing affordable everyday pleasure, with an increasing number of higher-end wines capable of rivaling the best from other parts of France.
While there’s no denying the Languedoc’s checkered history, the last two decades have seen a noticeable shift to fine wine, with an emphasis on terroir. Ambitious growers have sought out vineyard sites with poor, well draining soils in hilly zones, curbed back on irrigation and the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, and looked to balance traditional production methods with technological advancements to craft wines with elegance, balance, and a clear sense of place. Today, the overall quality and variety of wines being made in the Languedoc is as high as ever.
Shaped like a crescent hugging the Mediterranean coast, the region boasts an enormous variety of soil types and microclimates depending on elevation, exposition, and relative distance from the coastline and the cooler foothills farther inland. While the warm Mediterranean climate is conducive to the production of reds, there are world-class whites and rosés to be found as well, along with stunning dessert wines revered by connoisseurs for centuries.
Great winemakers, great terroirs, there is never any hurry. And I no longer buy into this idea of “peak” maturity. Great winemakers, great terroirs, their wines offer different pleasures at different ages.
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