On Tuesday I drove one hour SW of Montpellier to visit Famile Ligneres Winery near Corbierres. It was a wonderful visit with owners Anne and Jean. They provided an excellent tour of the vineyards where they specialize in growing Grenache, Carignan, Mouvedre and Syrah for reds, and Rousanne, Grenache Blanc and Vermintino for whites. They have 200 acres – all dried farmed and organic. Some of the soil is quite rocky (see photo), with dramatic mountains rising behind. They are about 30 minutes from the Mediterranean.
Currently they export about 90% of their wine to the USA where they have received scores of 92+ from Wine Spectator and Advocate. The red wines all have concentrated fruit flavors with plush, velvety tannins and higher alcohol levels. They are now looking to export to other countries and sell more wine directly in France.
The most unusual element to the winemaking, and perhaps what makes the wines so delicious, is the fact that they age for 12 to 16 months in 20% new French oak, but only top up the wines once during that time with no racking. They let all of the wines age on the gross lees, which are transferred from fermentation tanks to barrel. A unique barrel turning device allows them to rotate the barrels in order to stir the lees without opening the bungs. They also protect with nitrogen gas. The result is a wine of very concentrated fruit, dense color, and smooth tannins.
I was impressed with the international character of the wines and will seek them out in the USA market. Prices range from $15 to $30 – depending on the program level. I tasted three vintages – from 2004 to 2006. All were excellent, but the 2005’s (which have not yet been released) are even more impressive with very long finish and layers of complex fruit and mineral. See http://www.familleligneres.com/ for more information.