We recently paid a return visit to Paul Durand and were elated by what we tasted. Andrew Jefford describes him as a “peasant philosopher” (a sobriquet that Paul happily accepts), and also says, aptly, that “there is no more interesting person in the world of wine”.
Paul is a man of his region, speaking a wonderfully eloquent French in the heavy accent of the south-west. Devoted to the heritage of the Languedoc, he is nonetheless not above making wines from utterly non- traditional grapes if he feels that they have a statement to make about his terroirs.
His life in recent years has not been easy, but he has emerged from his troubles with a clarity of vision and a modest determination that translate into wines of unabashed power, endowed nonetheless with a grace and poise that are almost unheard-of in this region. Ever his own man, he was one of the very first producers in France to shun the Appellation Contrôlée system and make only “Vins de Table”. He has essentially reinvented himself by planting vines in long-abandoned vineyards buried deep in the nooks and crannies of his beloved Minervois hills. Without any special efforts on his part (he is somewhat averse to the hurly-burly of commerce), his wines have developed a cult following amongst a small band of cognoscenti. It is our confident belief that Americans will be added to their numbers when they experience these unique wines for the first time.
(Pinot Noir and Cinsault) It goes without saying that there is a certain audacity involved in making Pinot Noir in the Languedoc, but Paul has been doing it for a very long time, and he knows exactly what he is up to. One unusual insight he had was to temper the surmaturité that Pinot naturally achieves in this hot climate with the relative crispness of Cinsault. This is not a curiosity or a freak. It is an authentic and unmistakable Pinot from head to toe. Beginning with its reassuringly transparent colour and continuing with its celestially cherry-infused aroma, it delivers the most perfectly-judged palate, that pays proper homage both to the burgundian archetype and the Languedoc’s warmth and terroir. A 1995 drunk at the domaine with Paul (over a well-aged can of one of the magnificent pâtés he used to make from his sadly-missed pigs) was an unforgettable experience. We hope that this wine will open your eyes to the possibilities of Pinot Noir in unlikely places. It did that to us.
(Carignan and Grenache) An inspired blend of these two workhorse grapes. Sweet, sappy wine with preternatural freshness for its age. A super successor to the long sold-out 2004 vintage that made so many friends.
(Grenache) The first vintage of Paul’s new Grenache vineyard was most auspicious. More Collioure than Gigondas (though there is no schist in the soil), its gorgeous nose is varietally true, while the firm and spicy palate delivers pleasure and intrigue in equal measure.