Domaine Faillenc Sainte Marie

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Remains of a Roman winery have been found at the site of the Domaine Faillenc Sainte Marie, a testament to the ancient tradition of winegrowing at that location. The domaine, in its present form, was founded during the reign of Louis XIV by an officer returning from service on the Indian subcontinent. Situated just outside of the tiny village of Douzens a mere 12 kilometers east of the ancient walled city of Carcassonne, Faillenc Sainte Marie has recovered its past allure under the careful guidance of the energetic Gibert family and now produces an exciting range of red, white, and rose wines.

I had the good fortune of making the acquaintance of this delightful family when I drank a bottle of their wine while dining with Olivier Jullien (Mas Jullien) at Mimosa, a restaurant of exceedingly fine quality and taste located in Saint Guiraud, a little town in the Languedoc about an hour or so distant from the Faillenc and the Corbieres district. I barely waited for dinner to conclude before calling the Giberts to set up an appointment the following morning. We have been happily working together every year since 1991, the first vintage that we purchased.

Faillenc Sainte Marie is a small property, with only eight hectares of vineyards stubbornly clinging to the rocky foothills of Mont Alaric. The vineyards are buffeted by the northerwesterly Tramontane wind which blows over Alaric and by the southerly Autan breezes coming off the nearby Mediterranean, creating an extremely dry climate. Syrah, Grenache Noir, and Cinsault are the red grape varieties raised here. A small vineyard (1 hectare) is devoted to white grapes: Roussanne, Macabeu, Bourboulenc and Clairette. The terroir is composed of inhospitable, rocky limestone terraces. Only vines, olive trees and some scraggly brush survive under these harsh conditions. As a result, yields are naturally low. The grapes are strongly marked by their environment and this powerful character shows through in the wines. The charming, quirky personality, sense of humor and creativity of Dominique Gibert, as well as the sensitive and diligent vineyard work of his wife, Marie-Therese Gibert, also mark these wines, both in their style and in their names and labels (all designed by Dominique who is a practicing architect as well as vigneron).

Jean-Baptiste Gibert, son of Dominique and Marie-Therese, has now taken command of the domaine and has taken the steps necessary to have the vineyards certified organic. He has also expanded the estate and will increase the number of wines produced at Faillenc.

Faillenc-Ste-Marie-Corbieres-Pas-des-Louves Corbieres Blanc Pas des Louves: The white cuvée, named “Pas des Louves” (“path of the she-wolves”), is made from a blend of Roussanne, Macabeu, Bourboulenc and Clairette. The different grape varieties are pressed and vinified together benefiting from fine lees contact during fermentation which gives the wine extra body and complexity. The wine is vinified dry and has a compelling minerality married to a fresh herbal bouquet that instantly reminds one of the varied herbal vegetation that grows on the estate.
Faillenc-Ste-Marie-Rose-des-Galcieres Vin de Pays d’Oc Rose des Glacieres: The rosé is made via the saignée method. The grapes, in this case 100% Syrah, go into a tank for a short period of time, usually overnight. After this short maceration period, the juice “bled” off has absorbed some color from the skins, but does not carry the dark purple hue that Syrah can produce. The fermentation is long and slow at controlled temperatures. The Giberts have traditionally left a trace of residual sugar in this rosé, believing that it complements the fruit; but, beginning with the 2011 vintage, the wine will be vinified “dry” to emphasize the true terroir of this very special micro-climate.
Faillenc-Ste-Marie-Corbieres-Rouge Corbieres Rouge: The Corbières Rouge is made from a blend of Syrah, Grenache and Cinsault. The harvest is partially destemmed before going into the fermentation tanks. The different cépages are fermented together, benefiting from the long maceration period to extract the maximum of flavors and allow them to harmonize before being pressed and aged. This is a wine with enormous character often showing a rustic, somewhat “animal” aspect married to a vivacious wild berry symphony of aromas and flavors. This wine is aged entirely in tank without exposure to barrel aging. The severe weather conditions that are present restrict yields (often as little as 25 hectoliters per hectare) and produce a highly concentrated wine that has a proven track record for ageability.
Faillenc-Ste-Marie-Syrh-Conference-de-Presse Corbieres Rouge Syrhconférence de Presse: A special cuvee of Corbières Rouge, the “Syrhconférence de Presse”, is a unique and profound wine. Its name is derived from a play on words that refers to its origin as a “press wine” exclusively from Syrah. Contrary to the traditional Corbières mentioned above, this wine is aged in small oak barrels (not new). The resulting wine is powerful and velvety at the same time. It is rare to find a press wine with this sort of finesse and complexity. We import three barrels (900 bottles) annually.
Faillenc Sainte Marie Corbières Rouge “Noé”: Jean-Baptiste Gibert produces this unique cuvée from a parcel of Carignan that is well over a hundred years old. He includes a splash of Grenache—no more than 5%–in order to be within the regulations of the Corbières appellation (which forbid single-variety wines), but “Noé” is wholly driven by this powerful, wild, dense, and characterful old Carignan, a variety which thrives in the craggy, dusty terroir of Douzens. Gibert vinifies and ages the wine simply, in fiberglass tank without temperature stabilization or added yeasts.

2018 Rosé Field Report

The story throughout the south of France for the 2018 growing season was similar: an inordinate amount of rainfall from February through June engendered a rash of mildew that had growers scrambling, treating between five and ten times as much as usual in many instances. The weather pulled an immediate about-face in July, turning remarkably hot and remarkably dry—conditions which persisted until harvest. This whiplash effect stressed both vines and vignerons, to be sure, but happily the quality of the rosés from Provence is generally outstanding in 2018. The higher amount of rainfall led to rosés not burdened by unwelcome heaviness due to hyper-low yields, but the dryness of the latter part of the growing season prevented a sense of dilution in the final wines. In general, the 2018 rosés from the south of France display impeccable balance, superb drinkability, and a streak of classicism that sets them above the 2017s.


LANGUEDOC AND CORBIERES …. LANGUEDOCA huge variety of terroirs exist within the Languedoc’s vastness, and one particularly great one is having its moment: the Terrasses du Larzac, a zone just north of Montpellier and inland from the Mediterranean. The number of wine-producing domaines there has ballooned from 30 to 110 over the past decade, as […]

Domaine Faillenc Sainte Marie rosé

On this cold, rainy day in Douzens, we  enjoyed the 2016 Faillenc Sainte Marie Rosé des Glacières, partially thanks to the fire that the Gibert family had going to keep things warm. This rose is always 100% Syrah, made in the saignée method, from a 2-hectare parcel that is always picked early (in this instance […]

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