Domaine Laroque d'Antan

Resurrecting a Lost Terroir of Southwest France

World-renowned soil scientists Claude and Lydia Bourguignon have spent the best part of their lives working with some of the world’s greatest terroirs. In France alone, the Bourguignons’ Laboratoire Analyses Microbiologiques has advised the likes of Chave, DRC, Coche-Dury, Selosse, Dagueneau, Huet, Dauvissat and Egly-Ouriet.

During a routine soil analysis in 2005 in France’s southwest, the couple discovered the ruins of what was once a vineyard, lying in the small commune of Laroque-des-Arcs, just five kilometres from the medieval town of Cahors. A site almost entirely obscured by forest (a stony hillside on Kimmeridgian limestone), it had likely been abandoned following the phylloxera wave of the 1870s. The Bourguignon’s purchased the small parcel of land the following year.

Joined by their son Emmanuel, the family began clearing the woodland, and in the process uncovered abandoned stone huts (gariottes) and walls, feral vines and an old well (stained by Bordeaux mixture)—all relics of their place’s viticultural past.

The felled vegetation was mulched, and cereals and legumes were planted to stimulate the soil’s biodiversity. Claude Bourguignon notes that were this a conventional vineyard, the process would have taken up to 10 years for the earth to regenerate, but because this place had never seen any pesticides, it took just two. The first rootstocks were planted in 2009 at almost 10,000 vines per hectare (more than double the typical planting density in modern-day Cahors). Between 2012 and 2019, the family completed several field grafting campaigns—a far more physical and time-consuming process than the more common bench-grafting technique.

It took these pioneers more than 10 years to release their first wine. We can tell you, emphatically, it has been well worth the wait.

The vineyard lies just metres from AOC classification, not that modern bureaucratic status was ever part of the Bourguignons’ thinking. Through analysis, the family identified two terroirs: the top of the vineyard on shallow limestone, where the slope rears up to 35%; it then gives way to more clay as the slope descends—providing both a white terroir and a red terroir.

Drawing on a blend of history, climate data and their comprehensive knowledge on the subject, the family chose a broad selection of massale cuttings from a roster of each variety’s pre-eminent grower. Alongside Malbec and Cabernet Franc (from Clos Rougeard), the red vineyard was planted with Négrette, Prunelart (from Domaine Plageoles) and an ancient (almost extinct) dark-stemmed variety of Malbec called Cot à Pied Rouge (from La Grange Tiphaine). Planted on the upper limestone causse is massale selection Sauvignon Blanc sourced from the great Loire vineyards of Cotat and Dagueneau; Sauvignon Gris; two varieties of Gaillac’s Mauzac (Rose and Vert) and Verdanel (all from Plageoles).

As you would expect from France’s ‘first family of soil’, the work in the vineyard is second to none. As of 2022, Laroque D’Antan will be officially certified organic, and the vineyard is preparing for a transition to biodynamics within two to three years after that. The soil is worked superficially between March and July with a track tractor to minimise compaction. In winter, the inter-rows are protected with cover crops. Bees, hedges, fruit trees and wildflowers ensure the site’s biodiversity.

As far as we can tell, the cellar facilities have only been slightly updated since wine was last made here over a century ago! There’s a bladder press for the white and basket press for the red, as well as a stainless-steel tank and a concrete fermenter. All the oak is seasoned and sourced from the cellars of Selosse and Dujac. As you would expect from a family of microbiologists, wild yeasts are used exclusively, and fermentations are long and natural.

The Range

Domaine Laroque D'Antan IGP Côtes du Lot Néphèle Blanc 2020
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Domaine Laroque D'Antan IGP Côtes du Lot Néphèle Blanc 2020

Described by its growers as tasting like “crystalline limestone soaked in sunshine”, this astounding white is a blend of Sauvignons Blanc and Gris, Mauzac and Verdanel. The two Sauvignons account for three-quarters of the blend (the cuttings were sourced from the great limestone and flint vineyards of Dagueneau, Cotat and Vacheron in the upper Loire). The white portion of the vineyard is two hectares on the upper slope, where the fractured Kimmeridgian is covered by just 20cm of workable topsoil before the vine roots tap into the rock below. In traditional field blend style, all the grapes were whole-bunch pressed and co-fermented, which can take up to three months as the wild yeasts do their work. Emmanuel Bourguignon used a mix of mature barrels (70%) and stainless steel for fermentation. Aging was for 10 months in used barrels sourced from Domaine Jacques Selosse.When faced with a glass of wine as original as this, it’s natural to search for a comparison. In this case, our pursuit goes unrequited. This is a wine of contrasts, with the pungency of ripe orchard fruits countered by saline freshness; honey blossom sings of spring, while earthy notes point to autumn. Treble and bass. The mouthfeel is layered and complex, with pinpoint acidity leavening an otherwise dense core of flavour. With so much rocky presence, length and captivating personality, this is quite a leap from the already enchanting 2017. Although it was a challenge not to polish off the bottle, it looked even finer on day two. 

When faced with a glass of wine as original as this, it’s natural to search for a comparison. In this case, our pursuit goes unrequited. This is a wine of contrasts, with the pungency of ripe orchard fruits countered by saline freshness; honey blossom sings of spring, while earthy notes point to autumn. Treble and bass. The mouthfeel is layered and complex, with pinpoint acidity leavening an otherwise dense core of flavour. With so much rocky presence, length and captivating personality, this is quite a leap from the already enchanting 2017. Although it was a challenge not to polish off the bottle, it looked even finer on day two.

"Lots of dried apples, pears, honey and honeysuckle. Some lilacs and dried lemons. Full-bodied with a creamy texture and lots of dried fruit, as well as candied lemon skins. Lightly waxy. So fascinating and delicious. Dense and flavorful yet agile and energetic. Mostly sauvignon blanc and sauvignon gris with mauzac rose and verdanelle. Made with indigenous yeast, barrel-fermented and aged. From the terroir-specialist, Bourguignon. From biodynamically grown grapes. Drink now."
93 points, jamessuckling.com
Domaine Laroque D'Antan IGP Côtes du Lot Néphèle Blanc 2020
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Domaine Laroque D'Antan IGP Côtes du Lot Nigrine Rouge 2020
Added

Domaine Laroque D'Antan IGP Côtes du Lot Nigrine Rouge 2020

Nigrine is a tryst of Cabernet Franc and Malbec (massale selections sourced from Clos Rougeard and Clos Triguedina respectively), with a balance of Négrette, Prunelart and Jurançon Noir.Like the blanc, this is a true field blend. Emmanuel Bourguignon picks on freshness, looking to harness purity, delicacy and finesse, and wanting to “capture the freshness of the rocks”. In a region where many wines come in at a chewy 14 to 15%, this chimes in at a dainty 13% abv (the vintages on either side are even lower).Fermentation took place in concrete tank, followed by eight to 10 months aging in oak barrels from Domaine Dujac (aged between three and five years). Bourguignon explains that the choice of varieties, precise picking and rudimentary winemaking technique is, above all, geared towards drawing the most out of his limestone terroir. Even at this early stage, the evidence is compelling.The first rule of Nigrine: it looks and tastes nothing like what you may expect from the southwest’s often rustic canon. Day one it presents aromatically with pure red and blue fruits kissed by violets and baking spices. Focussed fruit and mineral tannin, purity and driving force make it hard to stop drinking (and eating duck confit). On day two there is more of the same clarity, detail and finesse on the palate, along with a wash of svelte texture met by a flurry of peppery spice and crisp, red-fruited acidity. It’s a compact and engaging wine with a lingering, savoury close. As the story unfolds in the glass, it’s the kind of wine you want to spend some time with, and then head back for seconds. 

The first rule of Nigrine: it looks and tastes nothing like what you may expect from the southwest’s often rustic canon. Day one it presents aromatically with pure red and blue fruits kissed by violets and baking spices. Focussed fruit and mineral tannin, purity and driving force make it hard to stop drinking (and eating duck confit). On day two there is more of the same clarity, detail and finesse on the palate, along with a wash of svelte texture met by a flurry of peppery spice and crisp, red-fruited acidity. It’s a compact and engaging wine with a lingering, savoury close. As the story unfolds in the glass, it’s the kind of wine you want to spend some time with, and then head back for seconds.

Domaine Laroque D'Antan IGP Côtes du Lot Nigrine Rouge 2020
Added
Domaine Laroque D'Antan IGP Côtes du Lot Néphèle Blanc 2017
Added

Domaine Laroque D'Antan IGP Côtes du Lot Néphèle Blanc 2017

Described by its growers as tasting like “crystalline limestone soaked in sunshine”, this remarkable white is a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Gris, Mauzac and Verdanel. The two Sauvignons account for three-quarters of the blend (the Blanc cuttings were sourced from the great limestone and flint vineyards of Dagueneau, Cotat and Vacheron in the upper Loire). The white portion of the vineyard is two hectares on the upper slope where the fractured Kimmeridgian is covered by just 20cm of workable topsoil before the vine roots tap into the rock below.In traditional field blend style, all the grapes were whole-bunch pressed and co-fermented, a process that can take up to three months as the wild yeasts do their work. Emmanuel Bourguignon used a mix of mature barrels (70%) and stainless steel for fermentation. Aging was for 10 months in used barrels sourced from Domaine Jacques Selosse. Following a few years of experimentation, this first vintage has been released with a measure of bottle age, which Bourguignon believes is required for the fruitier younger-vine character to meld with the earthy, limestone backbone.It opens with citrus rind and yellow orchard fruit spiked with pollen, giving way to a palate of mouth-watering pungency and precise textural focus. Among it all, a fusion of pristine citrus and smoky minerals charges through, bringing a gleam of brightness and length. A white for the heart and head and already in a league of its own… 

It opens with citrus rind and yellow orchard fruit spiked with pollen, giving way to a palate of mouth-watering pungency and precise textural focus. Among it all, a fusion of pristine citrus and smoky minerals charges through, bringing a gleam of brightness and length. A white for the heart and head and already in a league of its own…

"Crystalline indeed. Glass shard cut and crispness, rich lemony scents and flavours, floral notes, loads of saline-minerality and a kind of faint sweetness from mid palate to the finish. Squeaky, fresh, frisky, complex and detailed, an intriguing wine full of personality, just under medium weight with a raft of complex characters in tow. Fantastic drinking, compelling and wonderful. Brilliant drink."
94 points, Mike Bennie, The Winefront
Domaine Laroque D'Antan IGP Côtes du Lot Néphèle Blanc 2017
Added
Domaine Laroque D'Antan IGP Côtes du Lot Nigrine Rouge 2019
Added

Domaine Laroque D'Antan IGP Côtes du Lot Nigrine Rouge 2019

Nigrine is a tryst of Cabernet Franc and Malbec—massale selections sourced from Clos Rougeard and Clos Triguedina respectively—the balance is a combination of Négrette, Prunelart and Cot à Pied Rouge. The first rule of Nigrine: it looks and tastes nothing like what you may expect from the southwest's often rustic canon. We cannot state that strongly enough.Again, this is a true field blend. In 2019 Emmanuel Bourguignon picked on freshness, looking to harness purity, delicacy and finesse, and wanting to “capture the freshness of the rocks”. In a region where many wines come in at a chewy 14-15%, this chimes in at a dainty 12.5% abv. Fermentation took place in concrete tank followed by eight to ten months aging in oak barrels from Domaine Dujac (aged between two and five years). Bourguignon explains that the choice of varieties, precise picking and rudimentary winemaking technique are, above all, geared towards drawing the most out of his limestone terroir. Even at this early stage, the evidence is compelling.Silky and flavourful, with both refined depth and subtlety, this is a wine singing with personality. Natural energy plays out in shades of fruit and flowers, chalky tannin and smooth, balancing acidity with a hint of bloodiness on the finish pointing to its southwestern roots. By any measure it's a high-calibre French red of remarkable grace and finesse.

Silky and flavourful, with both refined depth and subtlety, this is a wine singing with personality. Natural energy plays out in shades of fruit and flowers, chalky tannin and smooth, balancing acidity with a hint of bloodiness on the finish pointing to its southwestern roots. By any measure it's a high-calibre French red of remarkable grace and finesse.

"Incredibly perfumed, dried herbs, garrigue, dark cherry, stewed plums, game meat, damp earth and brambles. Wonderful stuff. Satiny textured, supple and dark fruited to taste, loaded with dark fruits, spice, herbs, flush with bright, blood orange acidity and shaped with a web of lacy tannin that gently brings a pucker to the palate. A compelling, deep, dark and detailed wine. It feels destined for deepest, finest glassware and a long, contemplative drink. Fantastic."
94 points, Mike Bennie, The Winefront
Domaine Laroque D'Antan IGP Côtes du Lot Nigrine Rouge 2019
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Country

France

Primary Region

Southwest France

People

Winemakers: Claude, Emmanuel and Lydia Bourguignon

Availability

National

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