By Emma Kershaw from La Maison du Rire.
In early October I will be hosting a wine and food tasting for a group of Chinese visitors. They do not speak English nor French, and sadly my knowledge of either Chinese language is poorly lacking! So I have engaged an interpreter, Nan Ping Goa. She is the estate manager for Château la Bastide, a large wine domaine just five minutes north of Lezignan-Corbières in Esacles. I went to visit her this week as we had yet to meet and I wanted to discuss the event with her. Whilst I was there she kindly showed me around the domaine, recounting her fascinating story, and we tasted through their range of wines.
I first tasted the wines of Château la Bastide many years ago, when it was owned by the Durand’s and it was a very old vintage even then, so I was keen to see the changes under the new ownership. Nan came to France 30+ years ago, she had been a French language teacher in China and then became a Chinese language teacher in France! After which she opened and ran a very successful Chinese restaurant in Montpellier. At the time all of the bigwigs in the wine industry used to congregate at Nan’s restaurant. They told her that her food was fantastic but her wine list was rubbish and should be thrown in the bin! This both surprised her and opened her eyes to the world of wine and the fantastic selection of wines that surrounded her. Something that she knew nothing about. She then embarked on a mission to improve her knowledge of wine, which in turn led to a change of career and a life changing passion for wine!
After various wine studies and working as a wine importer, Nan set out to find Chinese investors for her Languedoc wine project (BHC Wine Investment Group) and in 2015 they bought château La Bastide. At this time la Bastide was pretty much unknown in the surrounding region as the previous owner chose to export nearly all of the wine, so none was available locally. Nan was keen to change that, she wanted to improve the quality and the reputation of La Bastide. They investigated heavily in machines; a state of the art mechanical harvester which cost €280k, new tanks, press, cuves and barrels etc.
The estate is enormous and Nan explained to me that it would take millions to refurbish the entire place so for now they are just concentrating on the wines and a shop. Someday, maybe, they might look at making the vast estate into a tourist destination with accommodation, but not for now.
Today Nan, and her team, are (quite rightly) proud of the success that they have achieved in such a short period. The wines are highly revered not only internationally but by their neighbours and peers. The range of 11 wines are adorned with prestigious medals and the wines are to be found at all of the top tables in France and across the world.
It is an impressive achievement for China’s first investment in the Languedoc. Nan is someone that does not shy away from hard work and strives for perfection, and it shows! I’m looking forward to our tasting together, but for now here are my notes on her wines.
Built in 1770, Château la Bastide has 180 ha with 60 ha in the AOP Corbières and IGP Aude Hauterive area. The soil is rich with limestone, slate terraces with large galets roulés. There are three IGP wines and 8 AOP Corbières wines.
Domaine de la Bastide IGP Hauterive Viognier 2018
Pale gold with an aromatic nose of acacia, almond blossom, peaches and cream.
Dry with crisp acidity, aromatic and open with a long slightly warming finish.
A good aperitif wine or could partner well with courgette and goats cheese beignets
Château la Bastide Blanc Tradition AOP Corbières 2018
50% Roussanne, 25% Vermentino 25% Bourboulenc
Pale lemon, floral and fresh with wafts of fragrant peaches.
Dry, crisp and fresh, mineral with a good balance and a medium length. The grapes are grown on the galets and you really sense that minerality coming through here.
Also an aperitif style but would work well with a spring poule-au-pot.
Astrosa Rosé AOP Corbières 2018
60% Syrah 40% Grenache
Made by the pressurage method. Named after the Occitan ‘Astruzio’, meaning ‘happy woman’. The label was designed by her artist son and shows a ‘happy woman’ enjoying a glass of rosé with a collection of the floral and fruit aromas floating around her romantically.
A very delicate rosé in both appearance and nose; delicate, floral perfume.
Dry, crisp, very delicate with a citrus and red berry notes, a hint of floral tones and a long mineral finish.
I felt that it was initially too cold and so possibly subdued, over-chilling usually equates to numbing the flavours and aromas of a wine and should be avoided!
It opened up with aeration and warmth, however this is a rosé to enjoy with delicate flavours lighter seafood and shellfish, and hands off the spice!
Syrah Vielles Vignes IGP Hauterive 2016
100% Syrah, here the vielle vignes are between 30 and 45 years old.
Deep purple and brooding! Black, bramble fruits, spicy and notes of cocoa. Floral and fresh on the palate with soft tannins and a crisp mineral finish.
Rich in fruit but fresh and not at all jammy.
A crowd pleaser, enjoy with friends over a barbecue and/or steak n’chips.
Merlot IGP Hauterive 2017
Garnet colour, plummy rip fruits, hints of violets and very ripe.
Slight smokey character, with ripe plums and damsons. A warming finish.
Apparently after a further six months in bottle the wine takes on an appealing black olive character.
I confess I am not generally a fan of Merlots from this neck of the woods but I was pleasantly taken by this wine. An enjoyable wine, not complicated or demanding but not headache material either!
Try it with roasted Mediterranean vegetables and halloumi.
Château la Bastide Tradition Rouge 2017
60% Syrah 20% Grenache 20% Mourvèdre
Mid garnet with damp, berry fruits. Plummy and dewy. Crisp acidity, smoky, black fruits with hints of spice and cacao. A good length, with a warming finish.
Try with now with the autumn flavours of girolle mushrooms and wild duck.
Château la Bastide Exubérance AOP Corbières
50% Grenache 50% Mourvèdre Vielle Vignes
This is Nan’s favourite cuvée, I found it a tad closed but I think that the bottle had been open for a wee while which is probably why.
Dark, ripe back fruits. Fresh acidity, powerful, yet silky tannins. Black chewy fruits, chalky, spice, warming and a long, chewy finish.
This wine has no oak but it certainly gives the impression with its creamy texture.
Nan informed me that it goes especially well with Chinese food and spices.
Eidos Blanc AOP Corbières 2015
85% Roussanne 15% Bourboulenc
Six months ageing in new oak barrels.
Very golden and a pronounced oaky nose; with cream, toast, butter and ripe apricots, spicy. A very full palate, ripe and intense, toasty, creamy, butter, hazelnuts and apricots.
I would have decanted this wine, it needed airing to soften the oak and bring all of the complex aromas to the fore. It shouldn’t be served too cold either, no cooler than 12c.
Gilles Goujon serves this with a rich salmon in sauce at the three star Le Vieux Puits in my neighbouring Fontjoncouse restaurant!
L’Optimée Rouge AOP Corbières 2015
80% Syrah 20% Grenache 12 months in oak barrels
Garnet and dark cherry tones with currant and prunes. Smoky. Crisp acidity, soft tannins and structured long finish.
Partner with a wild boar stew, I have just made one with girolles that would be a fabulous match! Autumnal and earthy but not overpowering.
Eidos Rouge AOP Corbières 2016
80% Syrah 20% Grenache 12 months oak ageing.
For the observant amongst you, you might notice that this is exactly the same grape mix and oak ageing as the Optimée, but they were very different beasts!
Deep purple, ripe berry fruits, chewy cacao and liquorice. Very fruit driven, ripe and rich.
Serve with a cassoulet or a rich flavoured stew.
I was only told on leaving what the key difference between the two were. It was the parcel selection! The Optimée vines being more in the shade of the protective pine trees, whilst the Eidos being in the full sun achieving riper fruit aromas and flavours.
Istoria 1770 AOP Corbières 2015
70% Syrah 20% Grenache 10% Mourvèdre 12 months new oak ageing.
A serious wine, their top cuvée, and it comes in a very heavy bottle weighing 1kg!
Opaque with a deep, broody nose. Cinnamon and earthy spices; black fruits, creamy, toast, vanilla ripe and chewy. Grippy tannins with a crisp freshness, smoky, toast, vanilla, black pepper, liquorice, cacao, earthy, and complex. Very long. Warrants decanting and ageing.
Open and decant in advance and enjoy with a rare roast rib of prime beef.
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In July each year they host part of the “Patrimoine et Culture Festival” which welcomes 500 people for a fun packed soiree of music, wine and food.
By Emma Kershaw from La Maison du Rire.