The relationship between earth and life is the backbone of the winemaking process and it is certainly the philosophy behind Michel Chapoutier’s wines from Domaine De Bila-Haut, especially Occultum Lapidem. Earth is represented by the terroir and the vineyard symbolizes life. Essentially the goal of the winemaker is to find the harmony and balance between the two and let it come forth in each bottle of wine.
The Bila-Haut Estate is located in an area of Lanquedoc known as Côtes du Roussillon. This land that is located quite close to the Spanish border is filled with history that goes back to the Knights Templar. The soil is composed of schist and gneiss. The Mistral wind that barrels through the Rhone Valley on its way to the Mediterranean Sea plays an important role in the development of the vines and grapes. The steep slopes of the area result in deep-rooted vines. The Roussillon Vineyard is one of the oldest vineyards and it is currently planted with Syrah, Grenache and Carignan.
Occultum Lapidem means secret stone. It is interesting to note that in the middle of the Roussillon vineyard resides a massive rock and myth has it that this rock has magical powers, which capture the earth’s energy and spreads it throughout the land. This secret stone is considered a hidden gem and its influence some believe comes through into the Bila-Haut vineyard. Perhaps it emerges through the grapes of this vineyard into the marvelous wine that lies within each bottle of Domaine De Bila-Haut Occultum Lapidem.
I was privileged to sample both the 2012 and the 2013 Domaine De Bila- Haut Occultum Lapidem Côte du Roussillon Villages Latour de France. These Rhone blends combine Syrah, Grenache and Carignane and are fermented in concrete. I first tasted the 2013 and its wonderful aromas of lavender and violets filled the air. It is a blend of 50% Syrah, 40% Grenache and 10% Carignane. There was an earthy quality to the wine as flavors of herbs, mint, pepper and other spices dominated while at the same time subtle hints of dark fruit languished in the background.
The 2012 Occultum Lapidem has a more rich and viscous quality. On the nose I found spices, cocoa and earthy aromas. The wine had flavors of stewed fruit, cherry, allspice and pepper. Not only is the blend on 2012 a bit different 60% Grenache, 35% Syrah and 5% Carignane but also the no barrel aging.
Both wines were excellent and have tremendous aging power but it was interesting to see that the 2012 presented more fruit than the 2013. Perhaps over time as the wine ages, the 2013 will open up and become a little fruitier.
Whether one chooses the 2012 or the 2013 Domaine De Bila- Haut Occultum Lapidem Côte du Roussillon Villages Latour de France each presents itself as a hidden gem with the magical power to influence your palate in the best possible way.