Les Compagnons de Maguelone
IGP Pays d’Oc & IGP Hérault
If you ever wanted to leave the modern world behind and lose yourself in the hazy bucolic idyll of the southern French lifestyle, you could not choose a better place than the island of Maguelone. On a quiet wooded mound in the middle of a seawater lagoon on the shores of the Mediterranean, where successive civilisations have landed and settled since prehistory, in a secluded stand of pine trees and holm oaks, stands a 10th century cathedral noted by medieval Pope Clement as second only in grandeur to St Peter’s in Rome. Off the beaten track yet only 20 minutes from the centre of Montpellier, this uniquely atmospheric corner of nature with fabulous views across the sea is not only a precious hideaway but also a long-established vineyard, now fully converted to organic viticulture.
This property is part of the Vertuvin group of wineries, and been managed as an ESAT charity since 1970. This charity offers training and work to local mentally handicapped people within a protected environment, overseen by experienced industry professionals and dedicated care staff. By undertaking all the usual activities associated with wine production, from pruning to packaging, workers gain a variety of experiences and an invaluable sense of accomplishment, leading to a richer quality of life.
Making wine here is far from easy, though: to plough the land on this remarkable time capsule of a hillock requires countless permits and seals of approval from politicians and archaeologists, for fear of upsetting ancient burial sites of world importance; to survive the winter means the vines must battle against extreme marine storms and the residual salty atmosphere, while to ripen grapes correctly and maintain enough refreshing acidity means struggling to protect them from summer temperatures that would normally only produce raisins!
But the team at Maguelone have committed themselves entirely to producing more and better wines from their 18 hectares, they acquired organic certification in 2014 and the results from recent vintages are a reward in themselves. Dry reds and whites from the classic varieties Merlot, Syrah and Chardonnay, thrilling expressions of fruit and ripeness, as well as their delicious signature 100% Petit Verdot bottling, will delight all lovers of wines from this sun-drenched corner of France.