Thursday, 10 October 2013

Pas de l'Escalette

The Pas de l'Escalette is where the RN9, now replaced by the A75 autoroute tunnel, penetrated the Larzac plateau through a carved out nick in the Dolomitic limestone cliffs. The valley below down to Lodève delivers one of the most spectacular big scenery settings in the region. The Lodève tourist office has been holding a series of "Duo Vignerons" mornings consisting of a guided pastoral stroll followed by a local cave and wine tasting visit. The Domaine du Pas de l'Escalette was one of the more interesting vinously given its reputation, plus the walk on this occasion was through the domain's dramatic vineyards.

Despite being well into the second half of September the harvest had yet to start, some two weeks late as is the case for rest of the Hérault valley.

These prime Grenache bunchs are still a little rosé

Electric defences
The valley is surrounded by woodland, mainly dense native oaks which means sanglier territory. All the Domaine's vineyards use electric fence protection, something I've not seen before for vines. I have though seen the results of sanglier grazed vines, they strip grapes from the stems as cleanly as any vendanges machine.

Young Carignan Blanc vines
Delphine Rousseau joined us on the walk and explained how enthusiastic they had become over the more naturalised varieties - Grenache, Carignan and Syrah for reds and Carignan blanc, Terret and Grenache blanc for their white. For me their white Le Clapas Blanc is the icon of the estate, up there with the likes of Mas Jullien and Mas Gabriel. It was heartening to see that Carignan blanc had been planted to expand production.

Delphine Rousseau, fig basket to hand, explains all.
The cliffs of the Larzac plateau provide a spectacular backdrop
Back at their recently constructed chai we tasted Le Clapas Blanc 2012 followed by Le Clapas Rouge 2011 and the sturdily built Le Grand Pas 2011. The reds I know go well with food and benefit from a bit of bottle age. Certainly a generous tasting with the average bottle price working out at 20€.

The Domaine Pas de l'Escalette line-up

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