Hugo used to raise pigs in England until he realized that he did not share the vision of British agriculture. Don’t think of a "Bordelaise-type" property here; that is, a large house surrounded by vines. As its name suggests, “Les Clos perdus” are a very typical cluster of small plots located east and south of the Corbières. These are "complicated", old, isolated plots, usually lost among scrublands, of a very high quality hence threatened by a picking madness.
For image purposes, Paul and Hugo are often photographed close to their Peyriac-de-mer cellar surrounded by their favorite vineyard, an old Terret-Bourret that magnificently overlooks the village of Bages and the ponds. They also have a Mourvèdre nearby. Not to mention their Roussillon Grenache on the southern slopes of the Corbières towards Maury.
But, according to me, it is in Villesèque that these two foreigners gave everyone a "Corbières Master Class". Don’t look for a sunny Corbières from their “Prioundo” vintage made on these lands, nor for bright Beaujolais with "carbonic flavors", as dictated by Paris. They produce a Grenache (with a sharp hint of Cinsault) on a small clay plateau with deep soils which dominates the surrounding villages and is well drained and which is constantly threatened by exasperating boars. Tasting it can lead you far from the Languedoc. During a blind tasting of a 2009 bottle which had been usefully decanted, a famous Spanish sommelier, a certified wine educator at that, assured me that he was sampling a Bourgogne from Côte de Nuits! More seriously, Dominique Roujou de Boubée, the most Galician amongst French oenologists, told me about the same Prioundo, ripe but fresh, whose remarkably digestible quality is a secret that all Mediterranean growers would do well to uncover.
This “Prioundo” is a marvel, surely the most accomplished wine of “Clos perdus”I have finally tasted a 2010 bottle which comes from the same barrel as 2009. It has the same elegant style (especially if care is taken to decant two hours in advance) that will only grow with time. For it is indeed a long-term cellaring wine, the 2007 is now reaching such levels that when tasted blind one is tempted to compare it with the best stuff the Rhône has to offer. Or the Bourgogne, as suggested by the wine educator ... But if you’re on the property, you should also taste “Le Rouge”, strong but fluid and a peculiar “Clos perdus” rosé. It is a Mourvèdre rosé, hence a keeper. The 2009 is my son's all-time favorite wine and it is a great food-pairing bottle.
So, where's the catch, you may ask? What’s wrong? Why isn’t “Les Clos perdus” wildly popular?*. I’ve asked myself the same question, and I was still thinking about it last weekend when I visited them during harvest. The answer is probably multiple. It is possibly linked to the personality of the winemakers who are not really the flashy type; they are rather conscientious and discrete. It is perhaps also because of the style of the wine; complex, full of "interiority" almost intellectual. In any case, the opposite of simpleton bottles which noisily place themselves at the top of the bill. And finally, I think there's something unclassifiable about this adventure. A few years ago, for an article which I cannot find at the moment, I asked Hugo Stewart a bit of a silly question: What is the style of your wine; is it natural, organic, etc.?..."It’s real wine" he replied without missing a beat. Yes, that’s what "real wine" must be like. Why not?
*Especially in light of the fact that they’ve had good press in the past, including a glowing review less than a year ago written by their fellow countrywoman Jancis Robinson. Who knows...?