When it comes to France's south-west Languedoc region I tread lightly. There are many hidden gems throughout, but certain criteria is a prerequisite: high altitude vineyards, very rocky soils, organic farming, and a light touch in the cellar. When a Burgundy-born, Jean Foillard protégé heads south you know there's going to be something special at the end of that rainbow.
In the case of Maxime Magnon, it's 100-year-old Carignan vines planted on some of Corbière's rockiest mountain terrain. They say the best wines come from soil so deficient in nutrients that nothing else but vines will strive. It's this kind of backdrop that sets the stage for the ultimate reminder that the Languedoc is capable of nuance, grace, and a true sense of vitality.
Maxime began working in Morgon with the iconic, Jean Foillard. Afterwards traversing his way through the Languedoc spending time with Faugères's most respected ambassador, Didier Barral. He was then introduced to abandoned plots of old Carignan vines in nearby Corbières where he quickly settled.
Most noted from Maxime's vineyards is the lack of topsoil. Certainly all great vineyards have a rocky base below, but in these high altitude parcels the drama is jaw-dropping (see picture below). Old Carignan makes up most of the plantings, but small percentages of Grenache, Syrah, Grenache Gris, Macabou, and Terret are found throughout and all grapes are fermented together. It's this addition that helps brings an elevated lift and aromatic brilliance to these wines that's ingratiated them to more natural-leaning wine lovers.
Magnon's influence from Burgundy and Beaujolais are clear the moment you pour and put your nose in the glass. They have a paler hue than the Languedoc norm and the electric spice bursts out, reverberating terroir before you've taken a single sip.
I speak a lot about a wine's sense of life and verve. This heartbeat of authenticity is something winemakers often shy away from, instead opting for the safe haven of dark extraction of fruit and density for the sake of power. Magnon flips these typical Languedoc sensibilities upside down, instead relying on transparency and only minimal sulphur at bottling to highlight the most inherent traits of these ancient hillside plantings.
Rozeta is sourced from a limestone and decomposed granite (schist) parcel of 50-60-year-old Carignan vines. It's supplemented with small amounts of the field blend: Grenache, Syrah, Grenache Gris, Macabou, and Terret.
Campagnès comes from a clay and limestone parcel of Carignan vines all over 100-years-old. It is supplemented by 5% of the field blend.
Both wines are aged in neutral Burgundy barrels sourced from Chassagne Montrachet.
2014 Maxime Magnon Rozeta Corbières Rouge
$36 per bottle.
2015 Maxime Magnon Corbières Campagnès
$47 per bottle.