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Château de Nouvelles Cuvée Augusta Fitou

August 16th, 2011 · No Comments · Uncategorized

Fitou is one of the most prominent of the AOC regions in Corbières, south and west of Marseilles and Montpellier, lying just inland from that final arc of the French coast which runs down to Spain and the Pyrenées.  “Fitou” comes from the ancient Occitan word fita  which means border.

In August two of us visited Château de Nouvelles in Tuchan.  This is a working property — dusty lanes, lots of heavy equipment — but there is a large house and, from somewhere unseen, the sound of children splashing in the piscine.  For people turning up late on a Friday afternoon, however, there is an ominous stillness.   

The land in Fitou is rough:  limestone hills, garrigue – the pervasive scrub land of the south — and, everywhere, vineyards spreading across the hillsides and bottom land.  Throughout the Corbières region, the wine, principally red, is based upon the carignan grape — a sturdy vine which grows upright, without support, in the style called goblet  — like roses trained as standards.

In time, a man appears.  Cheerful and voluble, middle-aged, he is passionate about his wine.  But we can only understand ten or fifteen percent of what he says, generally the part we already know.  One regrets not paying more attention in the eighth grade. 

Château de Nouvelles produces red wine — the staple for Fitou — and, less commonly, sweet wines, both red and white.  The red Fitou — we tried Cuvée Augusta — is forthright — fruit and oak in a very direct, gregarious expression.  The taste of the grapes in the glass is warm and candid.      The wine is aged in enormous foudres –  immense oak casks of great age rising to twice the height of a man’s head.

Wines which are based upon the carignan grape can taste a little plummy, dense and introverted.  Solemn in the manner of certain Spanish wines.  The Cuvée Augusta — 50 percent  carignan with the remainder grenache and syrah — is more welcoming and accessible.  Without breaking with the traditions of the region, the vigneron has produced a wine which is more broadly Rhône in style and appeal.

We tell our host we love his wine.  I try to explain the phrase “straight from the shoulder”  in halting French.  ”Epaule,”  I offer. He is quizzicalWe leave with half a case and have no problem finishing it all before the flight home.

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