In Caux, within the Pézenas appellation area in Languedoc, the timeless setting of Font des Ormes and its valley sides clad with two basalt flows belies the estate’s ongoing transformation. The overriding ambition is to capture the elegant, tranquil energy of the landscape in the wines.

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A feeling of rediscovery

Descending upon the small valley of Sallèles, swept along by a welcome breeze, they immediately recognise a scene from childhood, an uncannily well-preserved haven. It may well even hark back to a more distant past, ancient history, tinged with the elation of the Romans who planted the first vines here. Stunned by the silence, broken only by bird song, and by the unfurling landscape reminiscent of times long gone, before the phylloxera revolution put paid to the vast swathes of vineyards now superseded by the tranquil harmony of meadows and olive groves ringed by oaks and blossoming almond trees. It is as if this long, gentle apse-like valley caressed by the wind beneath the benevolent skies, had remained untouched by modernity yet left no room for nostalgia.
Come here as custodians, maybe, but to take ownership of its heritage and ensure its future, the journey is infinitely longer…

Deciphering the landscape

Walking along the paths that wend their way amongst the mosaic of vineyards, following the lie of the land, venturing onto the black limestone plateau and entering the kaleidoscope of colours etched by the dappled light through the holm oak trees and marvelling at the fleeting dance of the rock roses and the grasses, they start to absorb and understand the landscape. They begin to gradually unravel the entangled mineral soils, the quartz carried down by the rivers on the Montagne Noire, silica from the Cevennes, polished by the ebb and flow of the Miocene sea until they embedded themselves in the carpet of blue marl and giant fossilised oysters – the “molasse dotted with sugar-coated sweets” as a geologist from another century poetically referred to it. They imagine the lava flowing into the valleys from the ancient volcano, then the very gradual erosion transforming the landform and turning it into an oblong crucible.

Awakening the soils

With the complicity of the architect Ariel Balmassière, the decrepit walls of the Mediaeval hamlet were re-clad with lime render, the timber frames were restored, the roof re-tiled and the subtle fusion of woodwork and texture recreated. The vineyard stone huts were given a new lease of life, the gardens redesigned and the lace-like outline of the tall pines began to dance once again against the ochre facades. Then, the deeply buried call of the slumbering soul could be heard. Lydia and Claude Bourguignon were invited to the hillside vineyards, to “Mexique”, the ancient plot of Carignan vines circled with irises. They marvelled with them at the rarest of bonds between the limestone and the basalt, and the promising pink of the roots. They scrupulously followed their precepts as healers of the soil, and nurtured its rebirth.
 

Wine as a catalyst for sharing

They designed the wines as a tribute, a song. Imagined the landscape as a score discovered in a museum of early music. A score they handed to young performers so that they could draw the inspiration from it to produce a fresh, vibrant, seamless version, freighted with new vibrations. Where Mourvèdre offers up the tension of a background bass, Grenache the gratifying roundness, and Carignan the familiar exotic flavour of its spices. A score where forcefulness and artifice are banished, and where the effortless temptation to yield to candied fruits is shunned. Rather, a form of austerity is chosen, a gently murmured elegance, the deeply-penetrating modesty of a Languedoc that requires patience and time, like a loyal friend.

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