“The Sea Breeze” may seem a strange name for a wine. But, in the case of Château La Négly’s La Brise Marine (to give the wine its French title), it’s not just a piece of marketing, there is definitely a reason behind it. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that, without the cooling effect on the vines of the winds from the sea, this wine could never have been made – certainly not in the lovely aromatic, crisp style we found when we opened a bottle recently (available from Corks or Grape and Grind, around £16).
Let me explain. La Brise Marine is from vineyards near Narbonne in the Languedoc, that delightful, sun-drenched part of southern France. However, summer temperatures here can top 40°C (104°F); indeed, a couple of years ago, a new French record high of 46°C (close to 115°F) was set in a village not far to the east of La Négly’s vineyards. At these temperatures, vines struggle and often shut down completely to protect themselves. The one saving factor is often a cooling sea breeze so, having vineyards in the Appellation of La Clape, less than 10 miles from the Mediterranean, allows La Brise Marine to be produced and the unusual naming reflects this.
La Clape is an unusual limestone outcrop that was once an island (in fact, as recently as Roman times) and is quite distinct from the area surrounding. Unsurprisingly with the climate, most of the wines from here are reds – Grenache and Syrah dominating – but La Brise Marine is a white made from a blend of an ancient local grape variety, Bourboulenc, together with 2 imports from the southern Rhône Valley, Roussanne and Clairette.
Together they make a satisfying, quite full-bodied dry white with ripe pear and peach flavours and perhaps even a slightly saline tang – or am I just dreaming of the sea?