I first went to visit Château Canet in January this year to discuss wine events with owner Victoria Lemstra-Bake, I then returned the following month to taste the wines and meet with her husband and winemaker, Floris Lemstra. Château Canet is a wine estate in the Minervois village of Rustiques, just north of Trebes. Of the 120 hectares of land, 48ha are planted with vines producing both AOP and IGP wines, with a further 3ha of olive groves and the remainder planted with a combination of forest and farmland. It is also home to nine holiday cottages, sleeping up to 40, and a conference centre.
There has been a wine estate at Canet since the 12th century, however Floris and Victoria bought the domaine from Gabriel Meffre (producer of the Fat Bastard wines) back in 2007. Floris is originally from Holland and Victoria is a Dutch/New-Zealander, however they were both installed in Burgundy for 20 years before coming south to the Languedoc. Floris was the export manager for JC Boisset and Victoria worked for the luxury travel company Butterfield and Robinson. Today Floris runs the wine side; both production and export, whilst Victoria, with assistant Marlin, runs the tourism side of the business. It is a busy venture and very interesting to visit, I could have happily followed Floris around for the day discussing his wine making techniques and views on organic versus Terra Vitis® viticulture! As it was I spent a full morning there and enjoyed a cellar tasting which then continued on in their tasting room with a smorgasbord tapas lunch to partner the wines! Très conviviale!
Floris works under the Terra Vitis® label, he believes that it is preferable to farming organically due to the issues of using copper and sulphur in the vineyards with organic viticulture. They have introduced sexual confusion ( a practice that aims to protect the vineyards from insects without the need to spray insecticides, it is particularly used against the grape moth here) and work according to a method that is protective of nature with minimal chemical intervention. The idea is for complete traceability, a respect for nature and a minimal environmental impact. They have their own beehives alongside the vines, olive groves and farmland.
Unusually for the Minervois they produce a lot of white wine, around 30% of their production. They have also added to the estate recently and bought vines within the Limoux AOP in Digne d’Aval, and are now making a delicious Blanquette de Limoux. Most of the vines are machine harvested which allows them to get the grapes into the winery quickly, it also means that they are able to harvest during the evenings when the temperature is cooler and so there is less risk of the grape skins bursting and creating oxidative flavours in the wine. On arrival at the winery the grapes are sorted, de-stemmed and injected with nitrogen gas, which replaces the need for sulphites. Floris has invested in his own nitrogen producing machine seeing the longterm benefits of this system. By using nitrogen at this point he has found that he uses less than half the amount of sulphites traditionally used. (The addition of sulphites, and nitrogen, at this point is to prevent bacterial inhabitation and avoid off, or oxidative flavours spoiling the wine. Note that there is no such thing as a ‘sulphur-free’ wine, only a wine with no added sulphur.) The wines all undergo a cold maceration which allows the flavours to intensify, creating fruity and structured wines.
The winery is comprised of a combination of the old and the new; stainless steel and concrete tanks, oak barrels and egg-shaped plastic tanks. This is a marriage of modern wine making technology and letting nature take its course. Floris also uses a system called ‘bio-protection’, which allows him to use less additives, (such as added sulphur), and produces wines with a more pronounced aromatic profile. Floris explained that he was very open and interested in new ideas and technologies, he was also experimenting with a wine grenade from New Zealand that creates a form of extreme micro-oxygenation, a nano-oxygenation which makes the wines more expressive. Fascinating stuff!
They have a selection of wines under AOP and IGP labels, I tasted tank and barrel samples and a selection of bottled wines. Here are some of my notes:
Chardonnay IGP – tank sample
Crisp and apply character, creamy with hints of toasty oak. Elegant and fragrant.
Merlot IGP – tank sample
A combination of red and black berry fruits, green pepper pyrazines notes of green olive.
Syrah IGP – tank sample
Black fruits, smokey, creamy and peppery. Good tannic structure .
All of the IGP’s are made with a lovely fresh character for youthful drinking.
Alternative Chardonnay IGP 2017 15€
- a crisp, buttery character with ripe apples, apricots and white peaches. Floral and creamy, with a good length.
- serve with Coquilles St Jacques in a creamy, buttery sauce.
Minervois Blanc AOP 2018 9€
- made from a blend of Roussanne, Vermentino, Bourboulenc, Muscat and Viognier.
- dry with crisp acidity, grapefruit and lychee and hints of acacia blossom. A slight spritz which lends an agreeable freshness to the wine. Drink young and aromatic, no oak.
- I shall serve this with my courgette carpaccio with a creamy goats cheese.
La Chapelle AOP Minervois 2016 22,50€
- made in the plastic eggs from 70 year old Grenache.
- perfumed black currants with hints of smoke and liquorice. Crisp acidity and soft, ripe tannins. Black plums and damsons, with plenty of fresh fruit character.
- serve with pork ribs and a smokey duck brochette.
Les Evangiles AOP Minervois 201622,50€
- 100% Syrah from their high vineyards, aged in Burgundian barrels, only 6,000 bottles made.
- aromatic nose of dark berries and currants, creamy oak and blueberry pie.
- grippy tannins, crisp, smokey and toasty. Blueberries and violets with chalky tannins and a warming hint of spice. Long finish.
- decant for a couple of hours and serve with a seven hour slow roasted lamb.
They also make a Minervois Rosé and Red, I did not get a chance to try these at this point.
By Emma Kershaw