On the Trail

The Wines of Clos de l'Anhel

Almost every French winemaker you speak to has a history of winemaking in their family. Seemingly every winemaker is at least the third generation of the estate, with family winemaking traditions dating back hundreds of years before the estate was created.  In Corbieres, our directly-imported producer Sophie Guiraudon is creating a new tradition. Sophie is the proprietor and winemaker of Clos de l’Anhel, who describes herself as part of the “zero generation.” Sophie comes from a family of...well, I’m not sure, but I do know they’re not winemakers.  Her family has never been involved in wine—ever. She is a self-described “generation zero” winemaker and proud of it.  Sophie was inspired by the beautiful wines of her country and decided to go to school for oenology in Toulouse.  After studying oenology she worked for the renowned Pech Latt in Corbieres before she decided it was time to care for her own vines.  She purchased a few hectares in the the picturesque Corbieres nearby Pechh Latt.  Corbieres is a unique growing region in the Languedoc that has such varied soil type that the region is broken up into eleven different terriors.  Sophie works with a lot of beautiful limestone soil and soil laden with oyster fossils. She now has around ten hectares of land that she farms organically in Corbieres. 

Our French Regional buyer Keith Mabry met Sophie at Millesime Bio, a fair that celebrates the organic vineyards of Southern France. He was so taken with her wines that he visited her estate just days later. Clos de l’Anhel is truly a one woman show: farming all ten hectares, managing her winemaking facility, and bottling everything herself. It's like a sanctuary for Sophie. She explained to me that she started her own winery so she could do more than just manage an estate. Not content to tell people what to do and how to do it, Sophie wanted be in the vineyards everyday and be involved in every step of the process. She has no plans to expand the vineyard, not wanting to sacrifice quality for quantity.  By keeping the vineyards at ten hectares, she can ensure that sustainable practices are employed. Sophie’s goal with her land is to be able to tell her children that “you can eat the grapes off the vine but also blackberries, cherries, and wild leeks that border the vineyard.”  While she is not expanding, she is promoting more sustainable land by planting an additional 200 trees in the vineyards and allows the local shepherd to bring his sheep to her land to graze.

Sophie’s wines truly express a sense of place. I’ve never visited Corbieres, but when I drink her wines, I can vividly imagine the vineyards, the land and the wildlife living off that land, promoting better fruit and better vines.  We had the pleasure of welcoming Sophie to Los Angeles this past week where she shared her passion of winemaking with the staff and the public by pouring us her spicy, earthy, rustic wines.  If you live in the Bay Area, don’t miss her pouring at our San Francisco store this week.

-Olivia Ragni