AT DOMAINE D’AUPILHAC
by Chris Santini
I’ll never forget a dinner in Corsica one night a few years ago with the venerated vigneron Antoine Arena in attendance, plus a pompous (yet also venerated, albeit by a different crowd) French wine critic. The critic, who had seemingly never much muddied his boots in vines or cellars, wanted to make it clear nonetheless that he was the all-knowing authority and spouted all kinds of sweepingly broad generalizations on all the subjects of interest and debate these days in the wine world. As he spoke, most of us just rolled our eyes and let him carry on. The breaking point, however, was when he proclaimed, “There is no good wine to be made with pure Carignan, period! C’est impossible!” I saw Antoine Arena wince, give pause, look the critic straight in the eye like a fed-up Clint Eastwood, and tell him, “You wouldn’t have said that had you ever bothered to taste Sylvain Fadat’s Carignan.” I wanted to jump up and yell, “BOOOOM!” while high-fiving Antoine, but I figured it might be inappropriate. The critic huffed a bit under his breath, but the case was closed, and he thought twice before yapping again. He knew that Antoine spends a lot of time with wine-growing buddies throughout France, and that there’s plenty of mud under his boots, so when Antoine stands up for a vigneron, you take heed.
Sylvain Fadat has had to face constant denigration and discouragement from critics who claim that Carignan has no place in the Languedoc. Since the beginning, Sylvain has tirelessly defended Carignan as the “origin, history, and essence of the region.” Regardless, the local authorities refuse to grant the wine appellation status because he doesn’t blend it with so-called “superior” grapes. But for those who’ve tasted it—whether young with its dark, brambly fruit and licorice, or aged with more smoke and complexity—there isn’t even a debate. It’s as true and authentic as it comes, filled with the taste of the land, a small slice of Languedoc called “Aupilhac” put in a bottle. His first vintage, 1989, is still drinking beautifully right now, so we don’t know just how far it can go. Thankfully, many young growers have begun to follow his lead and are planting and bottling pure Carignan. Critics, take note!
$36.00 per bottle $388.80 per case