Discover the Corbières-Boutenac Cru
- By Jacky Blisson MW
- 11 Nov 2020
- 5 MIN
- Level 201
Corbières is a vast appellation of the Languedoc region, counting some 13,500 hectares of vineyards within its boundaries. In 2005 the high-quality Boutenac sub-zone was granted distinct AOP status in recognition of its superior vineyard sites.
The Story of Boutenac
The Corbières-Boutenac appellation got its name from the town of Boutenac, which lies in the centre of the vineyard area. The petition for an AOP designation was carried out by 30 of the region’s wineries and took over ten years to come to fruition.
Today, there are 26 wine producers in the area, three of which are cooperative wineries. The appellation currently accounts for just over 10% of Corbières’ vineyards, with some 1,429 hectares planted, producing an average yearly volume of 6,500 hectolitres. However, there is room to grow. The total area granted to the Corbières-Boutenac AOP designation covers 2,668 hectares.
Corbières-Boutenac is situated around the small, rocky Massif de Pinada mountain 30km from the Mediterranean Sea. The vineyards are planted at altitudes of up to 180 metres above sea level. Three rivers, the Aussou, the Nielle, and the Orbieu surround the area.
The hillsides of the area are covered with a variety of low-lying bushy plants including juniper, thyme, rosemary, and lavender. Their collective name is garrigue. Wines made from these garrigue-strewn vineyards often possess aromatic herbal notes.
The Corbières-Boutenac production area covers 10 municipalities: Boutenac, Ferrals-les-Corbières, Fabrezan, Lézignan-Corbières, Luc-sur-Orbieu, Montséret, Ornaisons, Saint-André-de-Roquelongue, Saint-Laurent-de-la-Cabrerisse, and Thézan-des-Corbières.
Corbières has a hot, dry Mediterranean climate. The extremes of heat in the region are moderated by two alternating breezes: a cold, dry northwesterly wind called the Cers and moist air blowing in from the Mediterranean Sea. These cooling influences are vital for acid retention within the grapes, allowing for a fine balance of bold, ripe fruit and fresh acidity in Corbières-Boutenac wines.
The soils of Corbières-Boutenac are composed of alluvial pebbles, sandstone, and shale. They have excellent drainage properties and are nutrient-deficient, obliging the vines to dig deep in search of sustenance. This results in lower-yielding vines which produce small grape berries with complex, concentrated flavours.
Corbières is red wine country, and the Boutenac sub-region is no exception. Carignan is the dominant red grape variety, generally making up the largest share of blends. Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre are the region’s secondary blending grape varieties.
When left unchecked, Carignan produces exceptionally high yields. Until recently it was the most-planted red cultivar in France; it was far from the most-beloved, however. To tone down its coarse tannins and somewhat rustic nature many wineries used carbonic maceration. This resulted in softer, fruitier wines but with little varietal typicity.
Happily, Carignan is undergoing a renaissance period in southern France. Lower yielding, old vine plantings of Carignan have shown a capacity for impressive depth, complexity, and fine-grained tannins. Traditional fermentation techniques are far more frequently employed nowadays.
Quality Control & Taste Profile
To obtain the right to use the Corbières-Boutenac AOP designation, wines from the area must undergo three quality control verifications by the region’s tasting commission throughout the winemaking period.
Corbières-Boutenac wines are a deep, inky dark colour in their youth. On the nose, ripe dark fruit, baking spices, espresso, and dark chocolate notes are common. They are full-bodied, richly textured, and ample on the palate, with moderately firm, rounded tannins.
Serve slightly chilled (16 - 18°C) with hearty dishes. Pairing suggestions from La Revue de Vins de France, include tapas with cured ham and stuffed squid in a tomato sauce.
Wine Producers of Note
- Château Jérémie by Domaines Paul Mas
- Gérard Bertrand
- Château Ollieux-Romanis
- Famille Fabre
- Domaine de Fontsainte
- Domaine la Bouysse
- Domaine Sainte Lucie d’Aussou
- Château Maylandie