Domaine Henry, organic wines of St Georges d’Orques

Feb 26, 18 Domaine Henry, organic wines of St Georges d’Orques

I was in Montpellier recently to do a bit of judging for the 2018 Milliseme Bio trade fair. It’s always nice to escape to the South of France in the middle of winter and when it’s to do a bit of winetasting, all the more fun.

entrance to the winery

While I was there, part of my visit was an excursion to Domaine Henry. The domaine is right outside of Montpellier in St. Georges D’orques, a commune in the Herault department. Wine has been made here for centuries and the owners of Domaine Henry are no exception. The Henry’s have been making wine here for 15 generations. Today Laurence and Francois Henry have their winery and founded it, Domaine Henry, in 1992. They were originally conventional grape growers but quickly converted to organic and  have been certified since 1996. They have vines that are over 100 years old, including grenache blanc, grenache gris and morastrell. They also grow grenache, syrah and cincault.

old vines grenache

old vines in winter

The Henry’s take a keen interest in everything that goes into their wines and for this reason pay particular attention to native yeasts and the use of sulfur. They use indigenous yeasts and often have a long wait before their wines complete fermentation. They also use very little sulfur in their wines. As a matter of fact, they prefer not to use sulfur if they can get away with it. Sometimes, this is to the detriment of their wines as they found out in 2015 when one of their award winning wines, which had very little sulfur, was found to have gone completely off after fermentation but before bottling. As Laurence said, sometimes you have to take a risk and if you lose it all, well, c’est la vie!

in tasting room/winery

Francois did a massive amount of research through the archives of the region and discovered the history of Oeillades noires and gris and l’aspiran noir and gris, these two varieties are native to the region and were once known make a wine that rivaled the great wines of Burgundy (Cote de Nuits)  The name of the wine is Maihol (which means ‘young wine’ in the local lingo) and back in the 18th century it was quite famous, even being served in the Imperial Russian court. The Henry’s have now revived this wine and are producing very small quantities for discerning wine lovers. We tasted the 2011 Maihol and I found it to be a robust but supple wine with intense fruit  flavours and concentration.

We also tried a Vin Vermeil – it’s a blend that is made by the saignee method, full of flavour but light at the same time with lots of minerality and a slight bitterness to it. This style of wine was popular in the reigon from 15th to 18th century. The wine gets it colour by spending about 24 hrs on the skins in maceration but before fermentation kicks in. This gives it the body of red wine without the tannins- a rose with character, one you can drink year round.

the terroir

A lovely way to spend the afternoon, visiting passionate vignerons, interested in not only the wine of today but also the wine of yesteryear and in creating sustainable, organic, quality wines that we can enjoy now.

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