Luc and Marie Michel of Zélige-Caravent began in 1999 with three hectare of vines in Chemin de la Gravette a small village in the Languedoc, at the foot of the Cèvennes. Today the domaine comprises 15 hectare, made up of 25 different plots, and offers a wide range of different grape varieties native to the Languedoc: Aramon, Alicante, Cinsault, Carignane, Grenache, Mourvedre and Syrah. Old olive trees, dry stone walls and woods surround the old vines, which are planted with a density of 8000 vines/hectare. The deep, poor soil consists of limestone that has been fragmented into tiny pieces over the years.
In the vineyard, all vines are pruned by hand, the rows are tilled by horse and all treatments are organic. In the cellar, only indigenous yeasts are used, manual pressing and no treatments other than sulfur at a level lower or equal to 30mg/liter at bottling. The assemblage of each wine changes every year. The estate is now certified biodynamic by Demeter.
Zelige = Moroccan ceramic tile
Caravent = Caravanserai - a roadside inn along the silk/spice route
From David Schilknecht, erobertparker.com, August 2011:
“Take a walk on the wild side- reads the head of the English-language home page for Domaine Zelige-Caravent and That’s exactly what I did this April when I first tasted the risk-taking wines and walked the dauntingly stony, in part broadly-terraced vineyards of this estate at the relatively cool and well-watered northern extreme of Pic Saint-Loup. The domaine is located on a uniquely localized, deep, chalky, cobbled and pebbly dejection cone styled “La Gravette,” smack up against two steep escarpments of the Massif Coutach with the ominously-named natural Pont du Hasard in-between. Like so many of the Languedoc’s most passionately- and well-run estates, Zelige-Caravent is the realization of a dream as well as a second career for its proprietors: Luc Michel reconnecting with his family’s roots and his grandfather’s profession as a local wine grower; his wife Marie still finding time to work as a painter (and responsible among other things for the Domaine’s dramatically distinctive and diverse labels, which as such perfectly suit their bottles- contents.) The Michels farm biodynamically, and new plantings are derived exclusively from the mass selections that make up the majority of their acreage, with an average vine age of around forty years. The term “low-tech” is overused - not to mention it’s being to a large degree in the mind of the user - but surely this cellar (with some of its tanks outdoors) qualifies. The percentage of stems retained now varies according to vintage and cuvee, although from 2005-2008 (the estate’s first four vintages) all of the fruit was destemmed. There is no pigeage and to the extent possible fermentative extraction is, in the proprietors- words, “solely through infusion.“Elevage is exclusively in tank. The significance of Carignan for this estate is also singular in my experience of Pic Saint-Loup. After the lethal hundred-year frost of 1956 (to which here, as in many parts of Mediterranean Europe, even the olive groves almost entirely succumbed), replanting - or, in the case of those many vineyards that were abandoned for a generation, rededication to viticulture - took place only very slowly, with Carignan seldom the cepage of choice. (The Michels have also revived the olive trees on their terraces from huge stumps that bear witness to that great freeze.) It’s been quite some years since on the occasion of a first visit I was offered such a tiny subset of an estate’s wines to taste (which included none of the estate’s whites). But what a delicious subset it was! The limiting factor appears genuinely to have been that the wines sell out almost immediately on release to a loyal band of private customers, whereas their growers - who were very generous with their time showing me the vineyards and talking shop - cannot afford the luxury of cellaring any significant number of bottles.
The Michels have had recent discussions with more than one U.S. importer, and it would be to the collective discredit of that class if nobody stepped in soon to fill the void and render these wines accessible to their countrymen.”
For more information, visit Zelige-Caravent’s website.
50% Syrah, 40% Carignane, 10% Cinsault and aged for 1 year in barrel. Beautiful deep red color. Deep and rich in appearance and flavor. Brambly nose with a hint of licorice on the palate.
Review of 2008 vintage:
“From Syrah and Carignan with a bit of Cinsault, the Zelige-Caravent 2008 Coteaux du Languedoc Pic Saint-Loup Ellipse evinces a haunting perfume suggesting violet, iris, and rose petal, along with ripe dark berries and black tea; and like other wines of this estate is memorable for its combination of flattering - here, subtly creamy - texture with vivacity and invigoration borne of infectious primary juiciness along with berry seed and tart berry skin impingements. Deep seams of roasted red meat juices and pan drippings; salt and crushed stone; as well as walnut oil carry into a finish of superb persistence and finesse. I can imagine this highly distinctive variation on its appellation being worth following for another half dozen years. 92 Points.”
David Schildknecht on 2008 vintage