It is one of those hidden gemstone wines of France emanating from vineyards nestled between the mountains and the Mediterranean in the scenic region of the southwest in the Aude between Narbonne and Perpignan and the Spanish border. It is a land of contrasts making for robust ruby red wines, the wines of Fitou. The village of Fitou itself is nestled against the large Leucate Pond, a protected wetlands area which faces the sea, and the Corbières Maritimes foothills of the Pyrenees mountains where the vineyards thrive at an altitude of 450 meters (1,476 feet). Nestled into the Languedoc Roussillon region, Fitou was the first wine of Languedoc to obtain its AOP, Protected Designation of Origin, all the way back in 1948. It is the only appellation in France to be separated into two distinct territories, one maritime and the other mountainous.
The Gourmet Gazette recently enjoyed a Fitou 2020 from the beautiful estate of the Château les Fenals which is nestled on the Leucate pond and whose vineyards stretch out towards the sea. It has all of the great characteristics of a Fitou, bold, full-bodied with that striking ruby color but it was also fruity, quite fruity, something we hadn’t had the privilege to enjoy before in a Fitou. The estate’s Fitou 2020 is a blend of the characteristic grape varieties of the region Carignan for 45%, Grenache for 40% and Syrah for 15%. The wine is organic with just 10,000 bottles of the 2020 vintage being produced. And the house follows the lunar calendar to rack (the process of filtering), to assemble and to bottle. Perhaps a moon light key to its uniqueness. It is a wine that can be kept for four to eight years. This is a powerful wine and can be paired with thick stews and pungent meats like the bull stew, a celebrated dish from the nearby Camargue region or a cassoulet, a white bean-based stew with various cuts of potted duck or goose and pork, also a nearby regional dish. We enjoyed it with thick slices of country ham simmered in a homemade honey and mustard sauce.
The Château les Fenals estate is family owned and in addition to the AOP Fitou also produces another wondrous libation of the region, the Muscat de Rivesaltes, a fortified wine and a delicious before dinner drink, as well as a nice range of French table wines. The property with its manor house and then castle was owned by the Aragon family until the French Revolution. It was administered by the nephew of the great French writer and philosopher Voltaire who greatly appreciated the estate’s wines as attested to in a letter dating from 1770. A vacation home on the property is available to rent and you can also taste the wines and visit the vineyards. The AOP Fitou wines are only produced as red wines by the 215 producers in the region which is spread out over the scenic villages of Cascastel-des-Corbières, Caves, Fitou, La Palme, Leucate, Paziols, Treilles, Tuchan and Villeneuve-les-Corbières. Each AOP Fitou has its own distinctive taste due largely to the variety of soils and climates, and the region is worth exploring with many of the estates offering visits and tastings.
©Trish Valicenti for The Gourmet Gazette
Château les Fenals
Marion and Mickaël Fontanel Moyer
Tel: + 33 (0)4 68 45 71 94
Categories: Gourmet Fare