Richards Walford      Importers of Wine  
Jean-Michel Alquier
Domaine Jean-Michel Alquier
34600 Faugères
Owner / wine maker: Jean-Michel Alquier

Background

Swooning is not something one encounters much these days – along with smouldering it rather seems to have gone out of fashion – but mention the name of Jean-Michel Alquier to any of Richards Walford’s female employees and you are certain to see something which closely resembles it. With his film-star good looks and smooth charm, what else would one expect. It should not be forgotten however that behind the good looks lies a passionate winemaker who makes some of the best wines in the appellation.

Whilst not wishing to downplay Jean-Michel’s achievements, being one of the best winemakers in Faugères is not outstandingly difficult as there is so little competition. Whilst it is one of the oldest appellations in the Languedoc (it got its AC status in 1982) there are surprisingly few private estates. In fact over half of the total production is controlled by just three co-operatives. None of this changes the fact, however, that the Alquier wines are in a league of their own and have consistently been so for over a decade. Not only is he one of the best growers in Faugères, he can now justifiably lay claim to being one of the best in the Languedoc. (How many of his peers can boast that they sell 40% of their harvest en primeur?).

The estate was created, and the family house built, in the 1870s by Jean-Michel’s forefathers. Back then it represented just 3ha. In the 40s, his grandfather extended the domaine, buying up woods and garrigues. The work was then continued by his father, who replanted extensively between 1955 and 1970, principally with Grenache and Syrah. In the early ‘80s the first experiments with barrel ageing were undertaken and in 1982 a barrel cellar was dug out of the schist. Over the years the percentage of wine raised in oak has increased, so that today Jean-Michel vinifies all of his wine in wood.

In 1996 the property was divided up between the two brothers, Frédéric and Jean-Michel. The former kept the domaine name, Gilbert Alquier, the latter created his own eponymous estate. Jean-Michel now has 11ha of vines – just one hectare of white - which he runs along organic lines. He produces his Grand Blanc, and three Faugères: a generic wine, la Maison Jaune - which has a higher proportion of Grenache - and les Bastides, a Syrah-based wine from the vines situated on the poorer soils of the hill-tops.

What marks out Jean-Michel’s wines from those of his neighbours? Their class and the quality of their tannins. He achieves concentration without over-extraction and coaxes tannins from his grapes which are never dry. Coupled with the wild fruit character and mixed spices, these are heady sensual wines.

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