Sunday, 2 September 2018

Domaine La Colombette

Francois and Vincent Pugibet
Pre-occupied with 'no-spray' varieties, we have mentioned the work of the German grape-breeding intitutes (Geisenheim, Geilweilerhof, Freiburg), the Vivai Cooperativo Rauscedo (VCR) in Italy and
the Swiss private grape breeder Valentin Blattner and indeed visited them.

There is only one place we know of where most of these strands come together: Domaine La Colombette near Beziers, Herault (Languedoc).

This is a large domain comprising 3 sites in the region and almost all the varieties they grow comprise cutting-edge developments from the various sources mentioned above, viz;


CAL 1-14
CAL 1-15
CAL 1-20
CAL 1-22
CAL 1-28
CAL 1-36
CAL 6-04
VB  5-12
VB  5-24
VB  32-07
Cabernet Blanc
Cabernet Jura
Cabernet Noir


Cabernet Carbon
Cabernet Cortis
Souvignier Gris 


Sauvignon Kretos


Bouquet 3176/3179 (Bulgarian crossing?)
Villard (Seyve Villard)


Cabernet Franc
Cabernet Sauvignon
Lledoner Pelut

Under his discussion of Valentin Blattner's varieties ('Wine Growing in Great Britain'), Stephen Skelton MW writes;

"In early September 2013 I visited his (Blattner's) 20-20 vineyard - 'twentyhours work a year and twenty tonnes a hectare' near Bezier (sic) in the south of France which belongs to Domaine La Colombette ( This vineyard receives no pesticide applications, is machine pruned, irrigated with subsoil irrigation, machine harvested and whilst not quite 20-tonnes per hectare, crops very well and produces very acceptable wine. Varieties from Blattner which are already on trial in the UK or being considered are;

Cabernet Blanc
CAL 6-04
VB 32-7
Cabernet Jura
VB 91-26-29
VB 86-03 Reselle
Cabernet Dorsa
Souvignier Gris

Here we should declare an interest. Through tasting Domaine La Colombette's Cabernet Noir back in February this year we decided to re-plant the red block in our experimental vineyard in the Thames Vally with this Cabernet Noir. Domaine La Colombette's Cabernet Noir is available in the UK from Adnams but our sample was from the Organic Wine Club who now seem to have sold out. On the strength of this tasting we went ahead and planted this Blattner Cabernet Noir.

Inspired by this, we determined to visit Domaine La Colombette this summer so finding ourselves in the Luberon we took a train from Avignon to Beziers (a TGV bound for Madrid no less).

On arrival at the Domaine we enquired if it would be possible to meet and have a short conversation with M. Pugibet Pere or Fils. In our usual way we had neglected to make an appointment, calling by phone only the previous day. The office seemed dubious if we would be able to catch M. Pugibet (they didn't say which) but we were willing to wait on the off-chance something could be arranged.

Meanwhile we visited the Cellar Door tasting room next door.

This was obviously the old Chaix with fermenters and equipment still to be seen. All very atmospheric.

Nevertheless, through a door there could also be seen a high-tech laboratory.

The kind staff would gladly have had us taste many of the Colombette range but we were particularly interested in the Souvignier Gris/Muscaris blend (Freiburg varieties) which was quite wonderfully aromatic. We immediately bought a bottle.

We were also very interested to taste their Lledoner Pelut. This is a kind of Grenache. The taste wasn't noticeably different from Grenache but it may be necessary to taste Lledoner Pelut together with a Grenache to get the idea.

And the Blattner Cabernet Blanc. We must admit that the Blattner whites we have tasted tend towards the very aromatic indeed and whereas we love aromatic wines we find these - with the exception of his CAL 06-04 - sometimes referred to as 'Namenlos' - interesting but perhaps not for every day. Cabernet Blanc is a very welcome addition to one's repertoire so we bought a bottle of this too even if in our case it might stop there. We will see.

Word had it that we might be able to meet M. Pugibet the younger after lunch. We were kindly encouraged to take a walk in the vineyard in the meantime.

Bouquet 3156/3159 opposite the Cellar door gates?

impressive subsoil irrigation and possibly fertilisation equipment with CAL 06-04 ('Namenlos') behind?

the avenue along which Cab Blanc, Bouquet, Muscaris, Souvignier Gris and CAL 06-04
Cabernet Blanc head on?


To the untrained eye the vines were not noticeably different. All appeared to have the same dark green hue and vigour. We're not sure we had ever seen a vineyard up close where everything was done mechanically. It makes one ponder how necessary are all the measures advised concerning canopy management and so forth (removing suckers, pinching out the tips etc.). Maybe only for the very top estates? Also, given that La Colombette are as 'bio' as they can be with herbicides used only in extreme cases and otherwise just Copper and Sulphur and minimum sulphites. They are registered 'Fr - Bio - 01.'

Shortly after this pleasant walk, M. Pugibet Junior - Vincent - arrived in a whirl of energy. He was extremely cordial but we were not going to waste his time. There followed a short conversation heavy with information. We learned that

1. Following the planting of their resistant varieties they were concentrating on the whites.

2. They consider their most promising white blends are of Souvignier Gris and Muscaris and CAL 06-04 and Cabernet Blanc in mono-varieties.

2. Cabernet Noir is too deep in colour to make Rose.

3. They favour Cabernet Noir over Cabernet Jura

4. They are aware of all the developments in the PIWI sphere having planted Fleurtai and are considering others including Soreli.

This was truly inspiring for anyone concerned about the long-term sustainability of present viticulture. Pugibet wines are making headway internationally.

You can even find them on the winelists of a London restaurants such as St. John. Now that's an endorsement!

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