Brilliant French Chardonnay that's not from Burgundy - this is cracking stuff. Bright and fresh with delicacy of body and great complexity. Apricot and almond notes are lit up by lemony acidity and lightly toasted brioche. It really takes the best from all of better-known Chardonnay regions and pops them into one bottle. Gorgeous!
Hand-picked grapes, with very traditional wine-making that sees the wines ferment in barrique with three weeks of battonage, before a further six months of ageing in large barrels. The complexity is clearly fruit-based, but that level of wine-making involvement certainly adds a backbone or structure from which the rest hangs so well. Grown in Limoux, this style of wine has to be the calling card for serious wines in this region - it's so eminently capable of delicious, balanced and rewarding, complex wines. No doubt that these two will find others following in their tracks.
The upper valley of the Aude river is relatively young in terms of finer wine production and is therefore a great place to start looking for mono-varietal wines, as there are no preexisting regulations and the canvas is very much yours to work with. The cooler temperature (right in the foothills of the Pyrenees), clayey limestone soils, along with lower sunlight hours allows for fresher styles to be made - again, perfect for grapes like Chardonnay, especially in the lighter, complex style.
Though your eyes may roll at the concept for two friends who want to "break the rules of the vineyard" you have to remember context: many winemakers in Europe are completely confined by often arbitrary regulations of local, vested interests. Look again, then and judge on quality. In other words, we think it's all well and good to aspire to break the rules but only if you can show us that what you've done without them is worth the noise.
This is very much the case here. These are vibrant, engaging and generous wines that are made not to shock, but to enjoy. Stylistically very much from the South, they take best sites and appellations in Roussillon and Languedoc and seek to create an identity of their own around these villages whose own reputations are rapidly growing. The wines certainly benefit from the warmth, terroir and indigenous varieties (mostly...) that are so much part of the South of France experience, making these wines point us in a new direction: they bring you a little down the road and say "this is where we should be going", rather than forcing you to go there. All good for us.
The other side to their project is their principled stance around the ecological impact of the wine industry - they boarder a position that is perilously close to being tiresome in their determination to be part of saving the planet. Organic; Carbon-neutral; eco-friendly locally-sourced recycled lighter-weight glass bottles; bio-diversity in planting hundreds of trees and building bee hives... and a large part of our reaction has been that this is excellent, and we are really glad to support that sort of a business, SO LONG AS the wines are good! And, again, they really are.
This, then, is good; it's very, very good. Mad labels? We don't mind - if it catches the attention of new drinkers and pays homage to a local historic artist at the same time, it's no bad thing... just check that the wines are worth it... not to sound like a stuck record or anything, it's just that it really is important...!
To be clear, this wine was called Hors Pistes, which does sound vaguely unpleasant; however, it's now called Hautes Pistes, which simply translates as Upper Slopes; but really is a reference to the search for vineyards that are away from the main drag... no skiing here, I'm fairly sure.
Style: Vibrant, Medium, Fruity, Fresh, Balanced
Best food matches: Seafood, Roasts, Poultry, Game, Cheeses