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Domaine de Courbissac

The southern French Languedoc region is home to a swathe of old vineyards, and hence incredibly diverse vine material. Before the boom of what would become known as ‘international’ varieties (such as Chardonnay, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon), the region was celebrated for varieties such as Grenache, Terret Gris, Cinsault and even Listan (Palomino). 

These days, the region is slowly but surely undergoing a rebirth; rediscovering its roots; and these varieties are finally being given the limelight they deserve. Through the dedication and hard graft of growers such as Brunnhilde Claux of Domaine de Courbissac, the wine world’s focus is turning to these old vines and lesser-known historical varieties.

People: Brunnhilde Claux and Reinhard Brundig

Place: Minervois, Languedoc, France

Varieties: Cinsault, Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Carignan, Terret, Listan (Palomino), Terret Gris, Marsanne, Muscat, Macabeu, Grenache Gris, Carignan Blanc & a handful of unknown old varieties 

Farming: Organic

Hectares: 30

Did You Know? For Brunnhilde, the chance to work with old vines (some are 100 years old!) and such diverse historic vine material is a dream come true. She says,

“These vines, they’re our patrimony. They’re a true gift. It’s almost unimaginable! They’re amazing. Free standing vines, without wire… to be pruning these 80-year-old treasures, well… these are very special moments.”

Due to the age of the vines and the diversity of the material they were planted from, there are some varieties unknown to Brunnhilde and Reinhard. She says,

“We have varieties I don’t even know… we need to bring an ampelographer to look at it all! I’m not an academic, I do what I can with what there is. I work with what I have. It’s like being a mother with many children!”

These old vines are pruned in the traditional, old-school way of bush vine training, known in French as gobelet. When using this method, the vines appear more like little bushes or trees, and are free standing as opposed to relying on a wire. Brunnhilde says,

“Gobelet pruning is a much gentler form of pruning. If you train vines on a wire, it’s like you don’t have hands — all the sap arrives in one place. But when you do gobelet pruning, it’s like the vine has fingers which are spread out. It looks like a sculpture. And philosophically, for a farmer, it’s a lovely notion to be able to sculpt a wine and give it its form. I also think the sap flows better with gobelet. Plus, in the Mediterranean , pruning this way is important as it lets you create canopies and give the fruit shade in the sun, whereas when you train on a wire, all the foliage is just moving...

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