Moving to France doesn’t mean an immediate understanding of a region’s wines, wine-growers and the all-important terroir. Wine is (generally speaking) an enhancement to life in France; easily available, reasonably priced and its traditions have whittled our landscapes.
It takes time to appreciate that what you’ve got isn’t simply another bottle to open with dinner. Wines are consequences of individual lives, personalities, effort, passions, techniques, family traditions, terroir and deeply engraved histories.
Local vineyards come in many different shapes and sizes and it’s a privilege to expand on our knowledge and understanding by being able to visit them in person rather than just perusing a supermarkets’ pre-selected offerings. The Quercy region is rich with smaller, highly-independent vineyards and without-a-doubt Domaine de Lancement at Thézac falls into this category. Lying just outside of the Cahors AOC region but with the land retaining many of the same characteristics. This vineyard comes under the IGP Thezac Perricard Appellation, so small it covers only 3 vineyards. The cooperative vineyard of Vin du Tzars, Le Domaine de Lions and then the smallest Domaine de Lancement, run virtually single-handed by Sandrine Annibal.
Sandrine is an independent winegrower, who’s worked for Bordeaux vineyards, studied at the Wine and Spirit Education Trust in London and also worked in the Harvey Nichols Wine department in London. However, in 2003 she returned to the Lot et Garonne and took over the running of the family vineyard, which at the time consisted of 4 ha of vines which was sending its grapes to a local cooperative. Wishing to be totally independent Sandrine started to make changes and developed her own maturing cellar in a nearby empty building.
Soon the vineyard began its change to being totally organic and started the application for an Ecocert Oranganic Agriculture. Stopping using weed-killers and pesticides increases the manual work required to produce a good crop. This didn’t deter Sandrine for whom the annual pruning, tying down of the vines, removing side shoots, removing suckers, leaf stripping, weeding and harvesting had been the attraction to taking over the vineyards from her father.
In 2010, and with a definite plan in mind, Sandrine purchased an extra 2ha of vines and leased a further 0.60 ha; this was added to in 2011 by an extra 0.64 ha. This was the start of Sandrine’s new-adventure, a chance to develop the family land in her own way. She planted 1ha. of white grape vines. These were the Petit Manseng and Gros Manseng vines from further south towards the Pyrenees. Sandrine’s white wine is called Escapade and I was lucky enough to enjoy some of the 2013 harvest. This was on the dryer-side of what these grapes can produce and it was probably one of the nicest white wines I have tried. I believe the next year’s harvest was a little sweeter. These very particular changes in a harvest make it all the more important to speak to the growers, go and try and be led by what you like.
Malbec and Merlot are the main vines grown at Lancement. The award-winning red wine Domaine de Lancement is full-bodied, fruity and well-balanced and of course organically produced. Sandrine also produces a very crisp and fruity rosé wine called Carescade. If you can wait long enough this rosé has got to be one to have ready for warm summer days.
Sandrine is a busy lady, with a young family and working alongside groups promoting and protecting the Thézac-Perricard IGP (Protected geographical indication). She also has responsibilities with the Tourist Office in Fumel and her own shop and tasting area to run on the vineyard, where Sandrine’s brother, Guillaume, also keeps a herd of Blonde Aquitaine cattle.
You don’t need to be an expert to appreciate the differences between wines and maybe the first place to start it with the hearts and souls producing the wine. There’s no excuse why we shouldn’t all find out more and Lancement is a great place to start. Sandrine speaks English and would be delighted to explain more about her wines if you visit her.
Domaine de Lancement - 47370 Thézac, Open Mon – Sat 10am – 12 and 3pm-7pm, 05 53 41 17 02 www.domainelancement.fr
by Anna Atkinson