Domaine Félines Jourdan
Producers: Claude Jourdan
Located in: Mèze, France
Supplying PCC since: 2010
As refreshing and brilliant as a Mediterranean breeze.
The most powerful melodies often are played softly — and real elegance has its roots in wild places. Shake hands with Claude Jourdan and you meet a natural grace, a quiet sophistication, a farmer’s integrity — and the sturdy, callused grip of the vigneronne. Her wines reflect that depth of character — and a place where the savage hills of the Languedoc meet sun and sea.
Try her Picpoul de Pinet
Imagine a whisper of wild honey, a kiss of salty sea air, the juicy, sweet tang of perfectly ripe citrus and a brilliantly refreshing crispness … and you get the idea. Better yet, enjoy a bottle of this luscious wine!
As refreshing and brilliant as a Mediterranean breeze.
There isn’t a tasting room, a retail store, or an elaborate gateway. A single-lane road leads from the edge of the village through vineyards and fields, past tile-roofed farmhouses to a pair of driveways where a modest sign announces "Domaine Félines-Jourdan."
Behind a wall, a hedge and a row of trees, there’s a complex of white-walled buildings, surrounded by an assortment of wine-growing implements, ranging from pick bins to tractors to stainless steel tanks. This is no soft focus, wine country idyll, no pains have been taken to keep the tell-tale signs of sweat equity out of sight, and no one has spiffed the place up to impress company. It’s evident form follows function here, and scrupulous cleanliness coexists easily with the energetic clutter of a place at work, a place where wine is the first order of business.
A broad expanse of vines extends to the sea on one side and to a distant hill crowned with a grove of trees and a crumbling villa on the other. Save the occasional call of the birds and the faintest whisper of a breeze, it’s quiet. But as if to fill the auditory void, the air is packed with the energy of vibrant aromas, ranging from the distant cypresses and junipers to vines, stones, earth, grasses, wild herbs and a chorus of hundreds of others, all woven into the heady, inimitably Mediterranean perfume of the Languedoc.
Squinting in the late afternoon sun, Claude emerges from the winery, dressed in the utilitarian habit of a person at work, an off-the-rack red blouse and blue jeans. Her handshake is that of a vigneronne, strong and sturdy, hands that know the meaning of real work. She speaks with a simple, unassuming, genuine grace, and I’m charmed by the very fact that she makes no effort to charm me. Her conversation is straightforward, direct and completely absent of any sort of sales pitch.
Later, as we taste her wines, the connection between wines, vineyards and vigneronne is obvious. They’re a harmonious alliance of vineyard, terroir and human effort, and a celebration of that character and unity. They make no effort to be anything else, and as a wine drinker or a potential customer, I either get it or I don’t. It’s a trait I find often among "vignerons indépendants" like Claude and it makes working with them as much a pleasure as drinking the wines they grow.
As Claude gives me a tour of the vineyards, describing the differences in soils and exposure that are key components in the freshness and brilliance of her wines, I’m impressed again with the synergy between vineyard and winegrower. Maybe it’s jet lag, maybe it’s the romanticizing of an urban soul, but sun, wind, soil, vines and woman seem inseparable parts of one landscape.
Such things don’t simply occur fully evolved, of course. Not only are they perpetual works in progress, they’re a labor of love, and the fruit of years of commitment and hard work. Claude gives the following resumé of Félines-Jourdan’s history and philosophy in her own words — leaving the rest of the story to be told in your glass!
"Our vineyards are located in an ideal geographical area, at the edge of the Thau Lagoon on the Mediterranean coast," explains Claude. "They benefit from cool marine breezes, ensuring the quality of our wines. The region is truly unique, a cool terroir that is ideal for crisp whites and bright reds, and in particular for the Picpoul de Pinet grape.
“ Later, as we taste her wines, the connection between wines, vineyards and vigneronne is obvious. They’re a harmonious alliance of vineyard, terroir and human effort, and a celebration of that character and unity. ”
"My family bought the ancient Domaine de Félines in 1983 when we decided to stop sending our grapes to the local cooperative. In 1990 and 1996, we increased our holdings by buying two adjacent domaines. Now, in the heart of the Picpoul de Pinet appellation, our holdings spread over 110 hectares (271 acres) spread out over three kilometers. Our white AOC Picpoul de Pinet owes its aromatic complexity to a blend of these three terroirs, reflecting the different soils and climatic conditions.
"In the north of the appelation, La Coulette is the furthest from our winery. Its soils have an Eastern exposure and are red, with a sandy gravel layer over deeper strata of sandstone. Here, Picpoul vines are planted at the edge of the forest, well shielded from the wind. Red grape varieties are planted on the 'Boule' — the highest point of the domaine, so-called because the strong winds keep the local grasses short, making the hill resemble a shaved head.
"Located on a plateau halfway between Les Félines and La Coulette, the Cadastres vineyard is truly at the heart of the appellation. The vines here are exposed to the marine air and wind, and bordered by an ancient Roman highway. The soils here are a complex composition of chalk and pebbles.
"The Domaine de Félines vineyard is located on the banks of the Thau Lagoon, where it enjoys the cool marine air and limestone and clay soils. These aspects are reflected in the wines coming from this area.
A simple philosophy
"We look for phenolic maturity in all our grapes to ensure balanced and high-quality wines. Each year is different, so we adapt to what each vintage offers.
"In the winery, we use temperature-controlled, stainless steel fermentation tanks to preserve the freshness of the wines. In our family, women make the wine, and I have been the winemaker since 1996 when I took over after my mother.
Protecting the environment
"We are located on the banks of the Thau Lagoon, near a bird sanctuary and a protected park called the Domaine de Bellevue, where we make wines that respect the environment and nature. We practice sustainable agriculture and any wastes from the winery are collected in holding basins. The reeds that grow around the lagoon house duck nests and waterfowl in spring. A local frog that has taken up residence in the vineyards serenades us each night in summer with its soothing sounds."