Domaine de Baron’arques – a (still) affordable rising Star

by Katharina Woitczyk

Until recently the Limoux region was first and foremost known for its white and sparkling wines. This changed in 2003 with the recognition of the AOC Limoux rouge appellation, of which the most illustrious representative is Domaine de Baron’arques.

The Baroness Philippine de Rothschild and her two sons, Philippe and Julien, who bought this ancient and historical 17th century property in 1998 were actually in some sort the pioneers of high quality red wine production in the region. From the very beginning their declared objective was to produce premium red wines of the same class and quality as those they produce at Château Mouton Rothschild, Château Clerc Millon, Château d’Armailhac or still Opus One in California.

Since the acquisition of the property in 1998 the Rothschild’s entirely refurbished the winemaking facilities and most parts of the vineyards were replanted with rootstock and clones perfectly adapted to the soils and microclimates of the property’s vineyards.  During the restructuring of the vineyards the planting density was increased and varies currently between 4600 and 7500 vines per hectare according to the plots. The Director of the property, Vincent Montigaud explained that finding the perfect balance between the vines and the soil, and the microclimates was one of the major concerns of the owners during the refurbishment of the vineyards.

Speaking of the climate or rather climates, Domaine de Baron’arques benefits from three distinct climatic influences, the warm and dry Mediterranean climate, the cold climate of the Pyrenees and the rather wet Atlantic climate. Thanks to this climatic diversity, both Atlantic and Mediterranean grape varieties participate to the complexity and refinement of the Domaine de Baron’arques wines.

Actually some 70% of the vineyards are planted with Atlantic varieties, split into 50% of Merlot, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon and  10% of Cabernet Franc. The remaining 30% are Mediterranean varietals, 10% are Grenache, 10% Malbec and 10% Syrah.

Amazingly according to the vintages the character of the Domaine de Baron’arques wines will either tend to be Mediterranean or Atlantic, which makes it even more fascinating to follow this interesting property. The actual surface planted with wines has remained pretty much the same, for more than 100 years:  48 hectares or 118 acres. The total surface of the property, including forests, meadows and the buildings is of 254 acres.

The house, with its aspects of beautiful countryside mansion was built between 1890 and 1900. It is currently not inhabited but hosts the tasting room and reception facilities.

The winemaking facilities and ageing cellar show all the knowhow and tradition of the Bordeaux style winemaking and Rothschild expertise.  Grapes and juices are transferred by gravity into the vats and barrels. The carefully hand harvested and sorted grapes are thoroughly and gently de-stemmed and very slightly crushed upon their arrival in the cellars. The wines are fermented in thermo regulated stainless steel vats, post fermentation maceration is practiced. All the cellar operations are carefully adapted to the characteristics of each vintage in order to obtain the very best wines possible.

Currently, according to the vintages, Domaine de Baron’arques produces some 60.000 bottles per year. Besides its exceptional quality what makes Domaine de Baron’arques a wine to be followed is the fantastic value for money price ratio.

During my visit at Domaine de Baron’arques Vincent Montigaud offered me an exceptional vertical tasting of the past decade of Domaine de Baron’arques wines.

Below a description of my personal favourites:

Domaine de Baron’arques 2004

Colour is starting to evolve. On the nose this wine shows beautiful fruit and flowery aromas reminiscent of violets, blackberry and cherry. On the palate the wine is very round and velvety with finely grained tannins, quite powerful with a long lingering finish.

Domaine de Baron’arques 2005

Colour is starting to evolve. Beautiful and fresh nose with aromas of cedar wood, spice box and fruit backed up by hints of tobacco and vanilla. Very dense and powerful on the palate with a great structure and a lot of elegance. Great length  and opulent finish.

Domaine de Baron’arques 2006

Darker red colour. Again a lot of freshness reminiscent of cedar wood on the nose. Lots of fruit that reminds me of cherries, blackberries and some spice. Also attractive flowery perfumes. Very smooth and velvety palate yet powerful and opulent mouth feel.

Domaine de Baron’arques 2007

Brilliant ruby colour. Very complex nose showing aromas of dark berries and dark cherries. Rather spicy  yet with a beautiful soft and creamy attack very round and well structured, roasted notes, coffee and spice.

Domaine de Baron’arques 2008

Dark red nearly violet hue. Very intense nose with a lot of spices and flowers such as roses and dark fruit. Beautiful attack  soft and finely grained tannins, nice freshness some cedar wood and menthol. Nice and opulent mouth feel. Long and lingering aftertaste.

Domaine de Baron’arques 2010

Dark red nearly black violet colour. Still very young on the nose, but already showing beautiful aromas of dark berry fruit, and hints of violets, cherry. Well-structured on the palate, very well balanced acidity, powerful, already long and lingering aftertaste. Complex and very promising.