Domaine de l'Hortus
Located in the heart of the Pic Saint-Loup appellation in the Languedoc, Domaine de l’Hortus was established by Jean Orliac in the late seventies. A keen rock climber and recent agricultural college graduate, Jean recognised the potential of Mount Hortus’ abandoned and steep limestone slopes for growing both red and white grapes successfully. Fortunately, the land was unwanted, and therefore cheap, so Jean managed to purchase 50 hectares. He then spent the next 15 years understanding the complex soil structures and carefully selecting the right parcels for each grape variety, before releasing their first vintage in 1990. Over the years, this unique location has persuaded his children to return home and take over different parts of the business. Now over 40 years later, Domaine de l’Hortus is a flag-bearer for the appellation and with 80 hectares to their name, François, Yves and Martin Orliac continue to drive it forwards.
This next generation have introduced higher planting densities and sustainable practices in the vineyards. Viticulturalist François uses cover crops and deep-rooting plants to break up the soil naturally, plus vegetal compost to boost the soil quality. Thanks to the moderate climate and surrounding rich biodiversity, no pesticides or insecticides are required. The 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 varying from 150-300 metres in altitude. This parcel benefits from the best water supply which, together with the limestone and altitude, allows for both homogenous maturity and excellent freshness. The blend is 65% Syrah, 30% Mourvèdre and 5% Grenache. The grapes are destemmed, crushed and vinified in vats before being blended and matured 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 foothills respectively. 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. The white is a blend of Roussanne, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier and Sauvignon Gris. It is classified as Vin de France as the Pic-Saint-Loup appellation only currently includes red and rosé. The grapes are harvested at night to retain maximum freshness and are then gently pressed and undergo cold-settling before a three to four week fermentation. After blending, the wine is then kept in vats for four months before bottling. The limestone foothills and 150 – 200m altitude help the Mourvèdre, Grenache and Syrah grapes to retain acidity, bright fruit expression and produce a vibrant red blend. The grapes are de-stemmed, crushed and then fermented in stainless-steel vats. The Grenache and Syrah are kept in vats for 12 months while the Mourvèdre is matured in two-year-old oak casks to lend additional weight to the blend.