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Domaine de Courbissac

Minervois finds its Inner Beauty
Domaine de Courbissac

While we don’t work extensively with the wines of southern France, you can be assured that when we do, it is with good reason. Run almost single-handedly by the talented Brunnhilde Claux, this grower’s juicy and engaging wines turn the typical Mediterranean red stereotype on its head.

All the vines lie in and around Cesseras, a village within the prized La Livinière terroir of high-country Minervois, at the foot of the Languedoc’s Montagne Noire. This elevated, limestone-rich part of the appellation has always held enormous potential. Today, Claux is one of a handful of hardy souls showcasing what is possible when these rocky soils and old vineyards aren’t beaten down by chemicals and technical winemaking. At the heart of Domaine de Courbissac lies a collection of 90-year-old Grenache, 70-year-old Carignan and 70-year-old Cinsault, as well as some Syrah and Mourvèdre that clock in at 40-odd.

Unsurprisingly for a grower who trained under Roussillon royalty, Gérard and Ghislaine Gauby—and who worked in Priorat with Terroir al Límit—Brunnhilde has plenty of experience handling the natural exuberance of grapes grown in the generous climes of the Mediterranean hinterland. Working with low yields, Claux continues to nurture the estate’s existing biodynamic tradition, though her main drive has been to work the vineyards to achieve ripeness at the lowest possible Baumé. She captures as much freshness as possible.

This work, combined with gentle extraction, whole-bunch winemaking, low sulphur additions and the absence of new oak, results in a paradoxical mix of power and refinement and a range of wines that are appreciably livelier, more seductive and more digestible than what we have come to expect of this appellation. Of course, this is the South of France, so you want—and get—flesh and fruit. Yet here, lower alcohols set free a buoyant, juicy finesse rarely encountered in this part of the world.

The Wines

Domaine de Courbissac Minervois Les Traverses Rouge 2021

Domaine de Courbissac Minervois Les Traverses Rouge 2021

Les Traverses is drawn from the estate’s younger vines. It’s a blend of roughly equal parts Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre, hand-harvested from 11 parcels surrounding the cellar in the heart of Cesseras within the La Livinière Cru of the Minervois appellation. As with all Claux’s wines, the fruit is farmed biodynamically and natural whole-bunch fermentation occurs in concrete vat with minimal sulphur. The grapes are gently foot-stomped, followed by six months in concrete. Bottled at 13%, this is cracking value, as always: a supple and juicy red with spicy brambly fruit and delicious plum-skin tanginess. A wine that tells us something of what the finest Minervois wines were once known for, and a wonderful introduction to this exciting domaine.   

Domaine de Courbissac Minervois Les Traverses Rouge 2021
Domaine de Courbissac Minervois Roc du Pière 2019

Domaine de Courbissac Minervois Roc du Pière 2019

As the name suggests, Roc du Pière comes from rocky, bony, limestone-rich soils. Two plots contribute to the cuvée—80% Mourvèdre (from 60-year-old vines) and 20% Syrah (45 years old)—and both around 250-300 metres altitude. These are the same estate vineyards used for Les Traverses, but here the vines are older. The varieties and the southern exposure mean that this is winemaker Brunnhilde Claux’s deepest and most layered wine, while the cool nights, altitude and mineral soil give it ample freshness.

Claux’s biodynamic viticulture and minimalist approach in the cellar are geared towards preserving the grapes’ natural vitality. For example, the wine aged for only 12 months in a neutral, 4,000-litre cask. As with all her wines, she adds only a pinch (20 mg/L) of sulphur. The new release is generous, with ripe blackberry and black cherry and an engaging savoury profile filled with touches of baking spice, woody green herbs and meaty depths. Fresh acidity and chalky tannins provide levity and framework—it barrels through the palate, finishing with a lingering stony presence. A paradoxical mix of power and refinement, all at just 13%.

Domaine de Courbissac Minervois Roc du Pière 2019
Domaine de Courbissac Vin de France L'Orange 2022

Domaine de Courbissac Vin de France L'Orange 2022

Organic. L’Orange is a whole-bunch, skin-contact blend from two sources. Most of the fruit comes from a 70- to 90-year-old field blend of old-vine blanc and gris varieties, historically co-planted on the limestone soils of the Roc Suzadou vineyard. While these include Terret Gris, Carignan Blanc, Macabeu and Grenache Gris, there are also rare indigenous varieties that have not yet been identified. Then, there’s some Marsanne and Muscat Blanc from another site, the latter bringing top notes to the wine.

Whatever the exact make-up, it makes for marvellous drinking. Macerated on skins for 10 days, it offers mouthfuls of fuzzy stone fruit, tangy, preserved citrus and amaro spice balanced by crisp acidity, a nip of grape tannin and a salty finish. In a sense, the name is a distraction; this is an intriguing, Mediterranean-style white that works brilliantly with many different foods.

Domaine de Courbissac Vin de France L'Orange 2022

“These are seriously good wines worthy of attention.” The Wine Advocate



“[Brunnhilde Claux’s] wines still express the distinctive, bold flavours of this hot, dry part of the world, but do so with uncommon finesse and detail and deliciousness.” Max Allen, Australian Financial Review

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