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25th October 2022

Domaine de Baronarques


This property dates back to at least the 17th century when it was called Domaine de Lambert, and was part of the Abbey of St. Polycarpe. With the usual changes of ownership in the intervening years, it was given an actual Chateau at the turn of the twentieth century and the emblem of a theatrical mask, ostensibly to ward off demons then, but perhaps also a portend of theatrical ownership to come. Somewhat run down the property and estate came to the attention of Baroness Philippine de Rothschild and she completed the purchase with her two sons in 1998.

With a huge and comprehensive investment and overhaul process lasting over five years, of both property and vineyards, the new releases under the Rothschild auspices were first made from 2003, the name was altered to Domaine de Baronarques (from Baron’Arques) and a Chardonnay released from 2014.

Limoux is one of France’s most interesting terroirs, spanning the saddle of France and gaining both Mediterranean influences and warmth, and Atlantic breezes and freshness from east and west respectively, as well as the Pyrenean altitude in the hills above Carcassonne. Unsurprisingly, therefore the Appellation is perhaps most well known for its sparkling wines (which can be exceptional) and where a traditional bottle fermentation method has been employed for centuries, along with much of the finest Méthode Ancestral sparkling (the precursor to ‘petillant naturel’).

With a comprehensive array of grapes, including some from the Rhône and some from Bordeaux - a rarity in France, and the preserve of this part of the world, although not restricted to Limoux, the vineyard’s situation belie their latitude and taste unlike their nearest geographical neighbours from Roussillon.

As to be expected from a property owned by French vinous royalty, no expense has been spared in the production and presentation of these super-wines.

I have tasted two vintages now, and there is a definite improvement between them with the slight, although characterful, rusticity in the red being tamed, perhaps as the vines age. The Chardonnay is especially sublime.

Blanc 2020
98% Chardonnay 2% Chenin Blanc 13% Diam Cork (‘A2C”)
Rich orchard fruit aromas with very ripe Williams pear and nectarine as well as blossom, acacia and subtle rooty tones of ginger and parsnip. There is oak here, but it is somehow less to the fore than it was in the 2019 vintage with some pastry and light spices. In the mouth the oak is a little more apparent with a touch of smoke and toast, but the layered fruit is more rich than before with plenty of apricot, peach and yellow plum. There is a stone-edged mineral touch with a trace of last year’s salinity. The relatively cool altitude climate shows here with a depth of ripeness which is very well balanced with the moderate alcohol. Very good indeed. 92

Blanc 2019
96% Chardonnay 4% Chenin Blanc 13.5%, Diam Cork (‘A2C”)
Plenty of rich ripe pear and orange blossom fruit covered in a blanked of sweet spicy oatmeal and vanilla oak. There’s a richness here with hazelnut and pepper as well as a quite silken texture. The palate weight is - at this stage anyway - skewed towards the oak, but the fruit depth is there underneath. Rich, almost lime and slightly saline-fresh mineral finish. Needs time, but a terrific wine which shows just how good Limoux Chardonnay can be. 91

Rouge 2020
45% Merlot 32% Cabernet Franc 15% Syrah 7% Malbec 1% Cabernet Sauvignon 15% alc, natural cork, heavy glass bottle.
Rich, earthy and delightfully rustic aromas of sage and black fruit and wildness. It’s warm and sun-drenched without being over hot or stewed.
In the mouth it’s like some mythical Châteauneuf/Minervois la Livinère chimera. It has a lot more finesse than the 2019, especially with the very well managed tannins which have no harsh edges despite their depth, but as previously it is a quite roughly hewn monster of a wine, which will repay keeping (although don’t let it lose its fruit) and in the interim needs something wintry and flavoursome like a daube de sanglier. 91

Rouge 2019
46% Merlot 27% Cabernet Franc, 18% Syrah, 8% Malbec, 1% Cabernet Sauvignon 15% alc, natural cork
Dense and spicy garrigue like aromas of bramble, gorse and thyme. Black fruit underneath. Rich without being raisiny. Dry and complex palate with pretty pronounced tannins overlying the ripe rich black berry fruits. Fresh acidity despite the alcohol and weight. Remains a little rustic, and not to my mind, and at this age, quite as successful as the white, but a complex, serious and well structured wine which will repay keeping, or could be served now with suitably protein-rich food. 90


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