Domaine La Madura
Producers: Nadia and Cyril Bourgne
Located in: St. Chinian, France.
Supplying PCC since: 2009
Try their "Classic" Blanc or St. Chinian Rouge.
Cyril and Nadia Bourgne are the kind of people that you instantly like — and to spend an hour or two with them is like a little taste of down-to-earth paradise. From vineyard to cellar to the elegantly delicious wine in the bottle, Domaine La Madura is a story of good people and good things: dirt, sunlight, hard work — and most of all, love.
At PCC, you’ll find great wines from all over the world, made by people like Cyril and Nadia.
A little taste of paradise.
It’s late morning in the hills just outside St. Chinian. As the sun nears its apex, the growing warmth of a late summer days chases the last of the previous night’s chill, lifting a veil of coolness that hints at the coming autumn. The first tendrils of that fade to darkness are visible in the sunlight that just today shows tints of tarnished gold. In the van, Benoit and I bump down the narrow dirt road through neighboring vineyards, bringing a load of pick bins and steaming hot coffee. Nadia and the vendangeurs take a brief pause to sip the dark, aromatic brew and return, refreshed, to the task. They’re in a contest with the sun to pick the remainder of the vineyard before the temperature climbs and the acids in the grapes fall, taking with them the vivid freshness that is a hallmark of La Madura wines.
“ They move through vineyard and cellar as if they had sprung from it, energized by the sun, its minerals in their blood, like the trees, vines and brush that give this place its character. ”
Freshness — a cool, agile, elegant exuberance — is the rhythm that drives Nadia and Cyril Bourgne’s wines. That verve leaps from the glass in both the sauvignon blanc, with its amazing mélange of sweet citrus fruit, wild herbs and exotic spice, and the St. Chinian rouge, a blend of grenache, carignan and syrah that bursts with notes of just-picked, perfectly ripe cherry and raspberry fruit, cloaking garrigues and sun-baked earth. In both wines there’s a sense of brightness that makes them dance on the palate.
Nadia gives me the Cliff’s Notes version of Picking 101, showing me examples of robust, healthy clusters, destined to be reincarnated as St. Chinian rouge; and the occasional, underdeveloped ones that will become a feast for the birds. Cutter in one hand, pick basket in the other, my career as a vendangeur is launched.
A city boy by 50 years of default, I’ve always recoiled at the thought of farm labor as mindless drudgery, an exercise in tedium, but as I lose my beginner’s clumsiness and grasp a facsimile of facility with the task, I begin to settle into a contented groove. I tell Nadia that I can see where this work could be strangely rewarding, therapeutic, even. She nods, smiles knowingly and tells me that she never tires of it and that it’s a pleasant break from the administrative side of the business. She notes that Cyril misses the opportunity to couper raisin, but that it’s become impossible, with all the work to be done in the cellar during harvest. Meanwhile, I’ve settled into a rhythm, cutting grapes as I bask in the sounds of casual conversation, the good-natured banter and laughter of my new comrades, blending with the song of the birds and the heady aroma of vines, grapes and the surrounding, brush and tree-covered hills. Onward, down one row, up the next, a big, fat grin on my face.
It’s astonishing that Nadia and Cyril have only been in St. Chinian since 1998. The soul and terroir of the Languedoc seem woven into their very fabric. They move through vineyard and cellar as if they had sprung from it, energized by the sun, its minerals in their blood, like the trees, vines and brush that give this place its character.
“ A profound respect for terroir, tradition and the healthy biodiversity of the soils is at the core of the La Madura philosophy — and is readily evident in the character, purity and depth of their wines. ”
For Nadia, a taste of the vineyard was more than enough to change her course from a career in the tourism industry to one rooted in the vineyard — a winegrower. Now, she touches every aspect of the winery, from the administrative and commercial end to working in the cellar, the vineyard, and at harvest, leading the team of vendangeurs.
For Cyril, life as a vigneron easily could be assumed to be the fruit of destiny or DNA. Born into a family of winemakers near the Languedoc village of Caux, he followed a degree in biochemistry with studies in oenology and ampelography, building a sturdy foundation in both wines and vines. Working harvest every year at his uncle’s domaine in the Languedoc served to add a taste for the labors of cave and vineyard to his growing skills. After nine vintages working in Bordeaux at Château Lynch-Bages and then at Château de Fieuzal, he and Nadia were ready for the next adventure — their own vineyard. A natural affinity for the Languedoc (and the prohibitive cost of vineyard property in Bordeaux) led to St. Chinian, where they found a vineyard with the traditional aspect and variety of terroirs to realize their winegrowing dreams. A profound respect for terroir, tradition and the healthy biodiversity of the soils is at the core of the La Madura philosophy — and is readily evident in the character, purity and depth of their wines.
On a quiet, modest street in town, double garage doors open onto the cool, dim light of the cellar. It’s modest, scrupulously clean and obviously was built following the maxim that form follows function. A small, immaculate crusher-destemmer sits at the ready, just inside the doorway. On the left stand several gleaming stainless steel fermenters, while the right side of the room is lined with concrete tanks, every bit as much a tradition in the south as grenache and carignan. It’s a welcome sight, a further sign that the focus here is on fruit, allowing the vineyard to sing in the wine.
As we load the just-picked syrah into the crusher-destemmer, bin by bin, the machine jams. I’m amazed at the matter-of-fact concentration with which both Cyril and Benoit deal with a problem that has the potential to turn a good day into a major headache. Having worked harvest at a number of wineries, I await the expletive-laced exclamations of disgust and frustration that are sure to come. They don’t. The two men take apart the machine, calmly, but with a note of concentration and concern furrowing their brows. They find the problem, put everything back together and restart the machine. It jams again, and the process is repeated, with the same deliberate calm. Once restarted, everything works flawlessly. The two shrug, smile — and we finish crushing the load of grapes. Ça y est. That’s it. Time for lunch, we’ll clean up later.
Later on, as I step from the cellar into the bright sunshine of the street, I feel as if I’m emerging from the pages of a sweet fairy tale. I close the door, and my metaphoric tale, reluctantly, but happy in the knowledge that like a good book, it’s there waiting to be opened and read again, with fresh eyes. And in the meantime, in just a few months, there will be La Madura wines in Seattle, making a taste of that delicious world just a corkscrew away.