Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Le Clos du Serres: Terroir-Driven Wines From Terrasses du Larzac

Sébastien Fillon was born in the Loire and worked as an engineer in Lyon. At 30, he switched careers and became a winemaker. He received a degree in viticulture and started looking for a place to make his own wine. After three years of searching, Sébastien and his wife Béatrice found the perfect spot in Southern France’s Languedoc. In 2006, they bought Domaine le Clos du Serres, near St. Jean de la Blaquière in the relatively new Terrasses du Larzac appellation.

“There’s everything one needs to make great wine: arid soil, deep water, sun, a very special climate,” Sébastien explains. “After the era of mass wine production, it was here that Languedoc quality wines began re-emerging in the ’90s. Nowadays this outstanding terroir is buzzing and its true potential has only been recognized in the past few years.”
The Fillon family in Terrasses du Larzac. Photo courtesy of Weygandt Selections.
Terrasses du Larzac was recognized as a sub-appellation of the AOC Coteaux du Languedoc in 2004. The AOC regulations allow only red blends to be produced under the Terrasses du Larzac appellation. These wines are mostly blends of syrah, grenache and mourvèdre, but these three grapes cannot individually exceed 75% of the blend. Also, syrah and/or mourvèdre must make up a minimum of 20% of the wine. Every Terrasses du Larzac wine must be a blend of at least two varieties. While these regulations sound strict, they do allow for a lot of variation in the amount and percentage of grape varieties in the final blend.

The soils of Terrasses vary widely, composed of stones, clay, sand, limestone. The hot Languedoc sun is tempered by the proximity to the limestone Larzac plateau and the river valleys of Hérault and Lergue, which bring in cool air during the summer nights. This large shift in temperature between day and night helps the grapes mature slowly and maintain acidity.

For Sébastien, Terrasses was the perfect place to lay down roots. “The Terrasses du Larzac appellation is still young but its reputation is coming on in leaps and bounds,” he explains on his website. “The number of seriously high quality vineyards in the sector is incredible.”

I recently had the opportunity to meet Sébastien in DC and taste through some new releases from Domaine Le Clos du Serres. Weygandt Wines, the DC shop of one of my favorite wine importers, recently started bringing these wines into the U.S. Considering their quality and reasonable prices, I’m sure these wines will be a big hit.

My notes on the wines of Domaine Le Clos du Serres are posted below.

2011 Domaine Le Clos du Serres “Le Saut du Poisson” Blanc - France, Languedoc ($15)
This is a really interesting and unique blend of 70% grenache blanc, 20% roussanne and 10% vermentino. (Being a white blend, it’s not eligible for the Terrasses du Larzac designation.) Tart melon, white flowers, green pears on the nose. Tart on the palate, with clean acid and pure pear and apple fruit. Very tangy, but not simple at all. I bought some to open with salads or seafood appetizers, because I think this is a really crowd-pleasing wine. (87 points)

2011 Domaine Le Clos du Serres Les Terrasses du Larzac “Le Clos” - France, Languedoc, Coteaux du Languedoc Les Terrasses du Larzac ($15)
A blend of 43% syrah, 35% cinsault and 22% grenache. Complex aromas of olive tapenade, cherry jam, ripe raspberries and roses. The palate shows fine tannins and bright, lip-smacking acid. I love the spiced cherry and perfumed approach of this wine. Long, focused finish with plums and stewing spices. Firm enough to cellar, but drinking wonderfully now. (89 points)

2011 Domaine Le Clos du Serres Les Terrasses du Larzac “Les Maros” - France, Languedoc, Coteaux du Languedoc Les Terrasses du Larzac ($20)
60% grenache, 20% carignan and 20% cinsault. Deeper, more intense aromas of plum sauce, potting soil, sage, black pepper. On the palate, this wine is open and generous, showing flavors of juicy plums and cherries, herbs, charcoal, soil. Fresh acid keeps makes this delightful to drink and gets me happy about the food pairing possibilities. Delicious stuff, very Chateauneuf-like in its mixed fruit and grilled herb approach. (90 points)

2010 Domaine Le Clos du Serres Les Terrasses du Larzac “La Blaca” - France, Languedoc, Coteaux du Languedoc Les Terrasses du Larzac ($25)
A syrah-based blend (70%) with 15% carignan and 15% grenache. Deep inky color. Aromas of blackberry jam, soil, scorched meat, green olives and brine. Like Chateauneuf-du-Pape in its intensity and complexity. The palate is pure and juicy with lovely acid the whole way through. Flavors of blueberry mix with soil, rosemary, hops and charcoal. The grapes are grown in sandstone and rocks, and that minerality is evident throughout this wine. Very pretty and capable of more complexity after two or three years in the cellar. (92 points)

2011 Domaine Le Clos du Serres Les Terrasses du Larzac “L'Humeur Vagabonde” - France, Languedoc, Coteaux du Languedoc Les Terrasses du Larzac ($30)
70% carignan (some vines are 100 years old) mixed with 15% grenache and 15% syrah. Wow, beautiful aromas of raspberries, plums, ginger, charcoal and anise. Creamy and full on the palate, with hard tannins and dense black plum and raspberry fruit. The secondary flavors of earth, charcoal, coffee grinds and sage make this a perfect pairing for rich lamb or brisket. Lovely stuff that will improve for at least five years. (91 points)

If you’re interested in learning more about this appellation, click here for an in-depth article from Decanter about Terrasses du Larzac, which also features Domaine Le Clos du Serres.


  1. We also had a good time, wound up picking up 5 bottles (skipping the La Blaca, and doubling up on the Poisson). Sebastian was very open to discussing his wines, and did a great job, considering his English skills, of communicating his wine-making philosophy.

    Fully expect to be buying more of the Poisson - completely agree that it will be a crowd-pleaser, and it's great for the price point.

  2. Yeah, Sebastian is a really cool guy. Sorry I missed you at the tasting.