No matter how many wines regions I try, there is always another waiting to be discovered, and France is particularly replete with appellations. Take Faugères in the Coteaux du Languedoc in the South of France. The appellation has only been around since 1982, but Faugères is now considered an unofficial cru of sorts for the region (meaning some think it is better than others), known mostly for its reds made from Mourvedre, Syrah and Grenache.
This small appellation due north of Béziers is only about 5000 acres, and it would have been a blip on my radar, had not a local restaurant been willing to take a chance and serve this little-region-that-could by the glass. What makes Faugères unique is that it sits on a schist-load of rock. No, seriously, the soil is 350 million year old schist (a metamorphic rock derived mostly from clay, that flakes and breaks easily). For winemakers, particularly the French, this translates into terroir. Another attribute of Faugères, so I read, are the like-minded, quality-driven winemakers that dominate production.
Enter Domaine de Cébène. The founder of the winery is Brigitte Chevalier, a former export manager in Bordeaux, who began making wines from others’ grapes, before purchasing her own vineyard in Northern Faugères. First, let us applaud that Brigitte is a female owner/winemaker. I hope one day we needn’t give special kudos to women in the biz, but as it stands, there are a lot of dudes dominating the industry. Second, her wines have received a lot of acclaim in a short amount of time–a woman who knows her schist.
Brigitte produces several wines, one of which is the Les Bancels, or “terraces”, made from Mourvedre, Syrah and Grenache. I purchased the 2010 vintage from Garagiste for $18.99, after a write-up promising I would be in-the-know for this rising artisanal star. Honestly though, I had kept an eye out for anything Faugères, after drinking that first, intriguing glass a few weeks prior. How did it go?
Les Bancels tastes like a dance through the wild herb-strewn, summer fields of the South of France, where blueberries, cherries and bramble fruit ripen from the endless sunshine. Lots of ready-to-be picked fruit up front, with a spicy, peppery finish and minerality (the shist terroir?) throughout. The wine is balanced by good acidity and smooth tannins. There is a little alcoholic heat that can be tempered by an ever-so-slight chill on the bottle.