The pretty village of Alaigne is not far from Carcasssonne. From 25 hectares of vines, planted at an altitude of 350 to 450 metres, Philippe Girard makes some superb Chardonnays. The vineyard has been in the family for four generations. Previously the grapes were sold to the cooperative, and it has only been since 2000 that Philippe has been producing his own wines. We have been shipping his wonderful Malepère reds for a number of years.
On our visit to see Philippe this Spring we were struck by the intensity of flavour and precision of these two lovely Chardonnays. He practises Agriculture Raisonnée, using the absolute minimum of pesticides and chemicals on his vines. Frequently Chardonnays from the South of France are too ripe and lack acidity, tending to be big, bland and flabby. What a contrast these two wines make! Being near to the foothills of the Pyrenees the vines are much cooler, ripening more slowly and evenly while maintaining good acidity.
This lovely pair of wines gives some of the pleasure of good Southern Burgundy, without breaking the bank!
Domaine Girard, Chardonnay Elevé sur lies fines 2014
This is vinified in 5ooL barrels, of which 40% are new and 60% are 1-3 years old. The aim is to preserve the intensity of the fruit, while adding complexity without oak flavours. And it works! Pale lemon in colour, it has lovely mouthfeel with good concentration of juicy, rip fruit. There is a hint of vanilla, lovely acidity and good length.
For all the world, like a good Saint Véran from Burgundy.
Domaine Girard Chardonnay Las Salvios 2013
The vines for this wine come from a tiny parcel in the adjacent area of Limoux, which has it’s own appellation. The slopes are at a higher altitude, the vines are older and the yields are lower. This is vinified in a similar way, but 80% of the oak barrels are new each year to match the higher quality of the fruit. Unusually for this region, it undergoes a secondary malolactic fermentation – as in Burgundy – which adds complexity and softens the mouthfeel.
It has a little more colour. The nose is richer and riper. There are wonderful exotic fruit salad flavours, the texture is more buttery and creamy. The acidity is softer and there is good length. Very much a Pouilly Fuissé is style – but at a fraction of the price!