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In the heart of the Languedoc’s Pic Saint-Loup appellation, Domaine de l’Hortus was established by Jean Orliac in the late 1970s. A keen rock climber and recent agricultural college graduate, Jean recognised the potential for growing quality grapes on the steep, limestone slopes of Mount Hortus. Fortunately, this land was unwanted and cheap, so Jean could purchase 50 hectares to grow vines. He spent the next 15 years understanding the complex soil structures of his domaine and carefully selecting suitable parcels for each grape variety. Domaine de l'Hortus’ released their first vintage in 1990. Over the years, this unique location persuaded Jean’s children, François, Yves and Martin Orliac, to return home and take over the business. Now over 40 years later, Domaine de l’Hortus comprises 80 hectarres of vines and is a flag-bearer for the Pic Saint-Loup appellation.
Since taking over, Jean’s children have introduced higher planting densities and sustainable practices in the vineyards of Domaine de l'Hortus. Viticulturist François uses cover crops and deep-rooting plants to break up the soil naturally, plus vegetal compost to boost soil quality. No pesticides or insecticides are required thanks to the moderate climate and surrounding rich biodiversity. Limestone terraces, planted on the lower slopes of Mount Hortus, reflect the heat and allow Mourvèdre to ripen well. In contrast, the cooler, north-east facing, steep slopes of neighbouring Mount Pic produce scented Syrah and bright Grenache, while the alluvial soils of the valley floor suit the white varieties.
The ‘Grand Cuvée’ Rouge is sourced from the mid-slope limestone terraces, which vary in elevation from 150-300 metres. This parcel benefits from the best water supply which, together with the limestone soils and elevation, allows for both homogenous maturity and excellent freshness. A blend of 65% Syrah, 30% Mourvèdre and 5% Grenache is destemmed, crushed and vinified in vats before blending. The final wine is then aged in new, one and two-year-old, 225 and 400-litre oak casks for 12 months to lend added complexity.
The ‘Bergerie’ white and red are sourced from the valley floor and Mountain foothills respectively. These vines are less exposed to the elements than those on the higher terraces, causing the grapes to mature later and produce an excellent balance of acidity and aromatic complexity. The white blends Roussanne, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier and Sauvignon Gris and is classified as ‘Vin de France’ since the Pic-Saint-Loup appellation only currently includes red and rosé wines. The grapes are harvested at night to retain maximum freshness, before being gently pressed and cold-settled before a three-to-four-week fermentation. After blending, the wine is aged in vats for four months before bottling. The limestone foothills and 150 – 200m elevation help the Mourvèdre, Grenache and Syrah grapes retain their excellent acidity and bright fruit expression, resulting in a vibrant red blend. These grapes are de-stemmed, crushed and then fermented in stainless-steel vats. The Grenache and Syrah are aged in vats for 12 months while the Mourvèdre is aged in two-year-old oak casks to lend additional weight to the blend.
The vineyards stretch across a deep valley between two mountains: The Pic Saint Loup and the Hortus. The Bergerie white are sourced from vineyards planted on the alluvial soils of the valley floor. The vines are less exposed to the elements than the higher terraces and the grapes therefore mature later, resulting in an excellent balance between acidity and aromatic complexity. Jean's children have introduced higher density plantings and sustainable practices to the vineyards to improve the soils and quality of the grapes.
The Domaine lost 50% of production in 2021 due to a very damaging frost on the 8th of April. The weather that followed was very cool and delayed ripening. The summer was rather fresh and humid. Harvest of the white grapes started on 1st September and finished on 10th with the Roussanne. The cooler summer resulted in excellent acidity and aromatic complexity.
The grapes were harvested in the early hours to preserve freshness and then pressed before undergoing cold-settling and fermentation in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks. The wine was racked at the end of fermentation and then spent a further four months in tank before bottling. The wine is classified as Vin de France due to the Pic-Saint-Loup appellation only including red and rosé wines.
Tasting Notes & Technical Details
The nose displays aromas of fresh lime, white flowers and apricot notes while the palate is driven by energetic acidity, notes of stone fruit culminating in a long, saline finish.