Cave de Castelmaure has been producing ‘good wine for everyone and with everyone’ in the wild beauty of Corbières for one hundred years.

Castelmaure is a co-operative rooted in the sleepy village of Embres et Castelmaure, in the extreme south of the Corbières region. 

This is quite an extraordinary co-operative. The 67 members are disseminated over 420 hectares of vines, but in fact just 18 of these members account for 85% of the co-operative’s output.

These vineyards, scattered in almost 850 plots, are protected by a gigantic 4,000-hectare plateau of limestone, isolating them from the Mediterranean. In addition, the commune of Embres et Castelmaure spreads over 3,700 hectares of garrigue and is, for most of the year, windswept too. It sounds like a ‘garden of vines’ lost in the hills and wild terrain.

Like many co-operatives in the Languedoc, Castelmaure once focused on quantity more than quality. In recent years, however, that perception has dramatically changed, and Castelmaure has become one of the best run co-operatives in France.

In the nineties, a state-of-the-art cellar was built by two renowned architects, Lacaton and Vassal, also the personalities behind the renovation of the Palais de Tokyo in Paris. They worked closely with the members and the community to create a cellar that is well equipped and completely environmentally friendly, with natural air conditioning.

The grape varieties grown in this rugged countryside are Grenache Noir, Syrah, Carignan, Mourvèdre, Macabeu, and Grenache Blanc, and there is a diversity of soils, including schist, limestone, alluvial river wash, and clay-chalk. 

Technicians supervise each member’s plot and oversee the pruning, the ploughing, the yield management, picking and sorting, all of which is done with the ecosystem in mind.

At harvest time, control is rigorous, and only the best grapes are accepted. In the cellar, modern technology prevails, contributing to an authentic expression of the terroir. 

All these developments wouldn’t have happened without Patrick de Marien, the cave’s president and also a winegrower. Eccentric and creative, yet dynamic and visionary, de Marien, with the assistance for the last 35 years of winemaker Bernard Pueyo, has revolutionised Castelmaure.

Now retired, Bernard Pueyo has been replaced by winemaker Antoine Robert, fresh from making wine at Cape Mentelle, in Western Australia.

The wines of Catelmaure are polished with a definite identity. They are demonstrative of the potential of Corbières to make fine wines.

Profile © Françoise and Seán Gilley

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