We had driven down to Fonroque to solicit help and advice from our building surveyor in how best to deal with the builder who had turned to bully-boy tactics (“I need a cheque for €8,000 now, or we down tools”). Little did we expect that this would lead to an invitation to join them, some friends and guests at a wine tasting the following night.
We met in the driveway of Le Prince Noir and followed our hosts on a quick drive through the lanes to the nearby village of St. Julien d’Eymet just as the vineyard crew were leaving for the day. Roland Tatard, the vigneron, strolled out to greet Gordon & Jane warmly and welcome us all to Clos le Joncal.
It had been a wet day, which meant that Roland couldn’t commence his introduction to his vineyard in the manner he prefers – a late afternoon/early evening stroll through the vines. Instead, he led us into his cave which had, until about 1995, done service as a cow shed. Here, resting against his large oak barrrels, he told us about Clos le Joncal, its wines and a little of himself too.
Fortunately for us Roland has excellent English, a legacy from his days as a fighter pilot with the French air force. He explained the range of wines that he produces, his philosophy regarding the production of the wines (strictly organic), the grapes and the all-important Terroir.
Incredibly, they only started concentrating on wine in 1995. Prior to that the farm had been owned and worked by Roland’s in-laws, the Fonmartys, as a mixed use farm, with the wine produced being delivered to the local cooperative. As Roland prepared to retire from his life of flying Mirage jets and his in-laws sought to retire too, the family decided to embark on a new venture – that of concentrating on the crafting of fine wines.
Roland and Joelle’s passion for their work is most clearly demonstrated by their products and the critical acclaim that they have earned in such a short time. I was very relieved when Roland suggested that we move from the very cool barrel cellar to the small space he has reserved for wine tasting as I was getting very cold and shivering!
There was a brief halt in the wine cellar where huge double-skinned vats stood, mostly cleaned and empty, awaiting their burden of this year’s grapes while Roland explained this phase in the wine-making process and we (briefly) met his wife, Joelle.
We are not white wine drinkers. Nor are we imbibers of anything “pink” either. Our household is a firmly “better be red than dead” one. That said, Clos le Joncal’s “classic” white was good, and the Alpha very good. We were surprised by the rosé and it is possible that as summer ramps up in temperature we may yet be converted (on a seasonal basis, of course). It was when Roland introduced his reds that we got really interested.
The “classic” red is very palatable and makes excellent every-day wine. We enjoyed the rounder flavours of the Haut Fontette. Mirage, the top-of-the-range annually produceed wine was velvet-smooth and delectable, but not within our budget this trip. Understandably, Clos le Joncal’s premium wine, the Mystére, was not included in the tasting as they produce only about 4,000 bottles of it a year, when the vintage is of high enough quality for Roland to deem it worthy of the name. Sadly, with our funds committed to the renovation of Les Terraces, the Mystere remains a pipe-dream for now, but we drove home with a mixed case of Classic red and Haut Fontette and there were still a couple of bottles left in the wine rack when we left to return to the BVI.
For more information on Clos le Joncal visit www.closlejoncal.com