A dose of La Clape, Chateau L’Hospitalet
It may sound like a smutty seaside postcard, but in fact La Clape is a wonderful, seaside wine region very close to Narbonne in the South of France. A ‘defined terroir’ within the Coteaux du Languedoc AOC, La Clape is dominated by a modest mountain overlooking the Mediterranean, a mere 10km or so away. It is classic garrigue territory: dusty, hot earth populated by wild thyme, rosemary and vines – and is one of the sunniest vine growing areas in France. The wines are among the most exciting in the Languedoc:
spicy, powerful and robust but blessed with a cooler, maritime-influenced climate and vine-loving limestone soils.
Nestled in a bowl in the hills is Chateau L’Hospitalet, the HQ of Gerard Bertrand. Gerard is something of a phenomenon in the south of France. A local boy made good, he first hit the headlines as a professional rugby player for Stade Francais and the French national team. Whilst still playing, he inherited the family’s wine business and has gradually built it up, acquiring vineyards and estates across the Languedoc. The jewel in the crown is L’Hospitalet, which he bought in 2002.
The estate is surrounded by 52ha of vines but in addition to a fully functioning winery it also comprises a hotel, restaurant, conference centre and public cellar door. Incredibly, it is the third most visited tourist attraction in the region. The top two are the old city in Carcasonne and an African themed safari park.
What is even more incredible is that despite the size of the business and the obvious commercial nous, the wines are outstanding. Not many wineries manage to combine quality and quantity, balancing the volume demands of the market with the desire to make brilliant wines that genuinely reflect their terroir. Bertrand and his team deserve a lot of praise for doing just that. Don’t take my word for it either, doing some background googling for this update, I discovered an old article on Jamie Goode’s website that made the same point, noting that “if France had more wine companies like this, they
wouldn’t have too much to fear from new world competition.”
Chateau L’Hospitalet Rouge La Clape 2010 – this wine is sourced from the vineyards surrounding the chateau. Herby, warming and spicy with dark black olive fruit rounded out by the oak. Smooth and well-balanced but full of character with some classic cool La Clape minerality.
Come and enjoy a bottle with Steve and the Team!!