Château Champ des Soeurs Fitou Bel Amant 2005
Soft tannins and a host of stimulating layers characterize this excellent $13 wine from Fitou
in France's Languedoc. Laurent and Marie Maynadier follow the careful procedures for
l'agriculture raisonnée (literally “reasoned farming”) promulgated by “Terra Vitis,” an
organization of growers and winemakers dedicated to sustainable agriculture and full
integration with the environment: people, soil, plants, land, fauna and flora. When related to
viticulture, of course, these practices do more than enhance the environment and human
health, they often result in exceptional wine.
The Champ des Soeurs Fitou Bel Amant is a Grenache, Carignan and Mourvèdre blend, notable for what I call integration; it has harmony and a solid direction. The wine has an arc—a vehicle—of purposeful acidity through its entire process, which includes a fine finish. The fruit on the nose includes what I call “deep plum,” with cassis, blackberry, strawberry and distinct black pepper. On the palate, red fruit like strawberry and raspberry take the lead, with touches of sour cherry and prune, overtones of thyme and mountain laurel, and that pepper again. I've already mentioned the tannins; though soft, they are yet sustained, weaving a fugue with the acidity, the fruit and the herbaceous elements toward a finish that is as much a statement as an endnote. This being a young wine—the kind you can cellar for five years or more—I decanted a full 24 hours, not an easy task when the aroma takes over the room.
The present political controversy in France involves the 35 hour week, a subject dedicated
winemakers like Laurent and Marie Maynadier must laugh at grimly, since their kind of work
requires 35 hour days. We wine fanciers, who risk little more than staining a shirt,
should thank our lucky stars the vine inspires such dedication, and then order a case of this
Fitou for the cellar.
The word “magic” so nicely captures the essence of a wine that truly works.
James Beard Award Nominee Elliot Essman