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Conversations with the Winemaker │ James Kinglake

A chat with winemaker James Kinglake of Domaine Begude, producer of our 'Elegance' Chardonnay

Domaine Begude is an award winning, organic vineyard nestling high in the foothills of the Pyrenees, in the appellation of Limoux

The domaine has been under the same family ownership since 2003 when James and Catherine Kinglake moved there to fulfil a dream.

What do you enjoy most about being a winemaker?

The creative aspect of wine producing is incredibly interesting and rewarding. The whole process , from the initial decision as to which varietal and clone to plant right through to the final blending and bottling of each different wine, keeps us on our toes! Every year is different with challenges specific to each vintage and no day is ever the same!

Tell us why a keen wine drinker should visit your region?

Because, in the words of the inestimable Jancis Robinson, this area offers a bargain alternative to Burgundy for both Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. This is partly due to the long cool growing season here with great diurnal range in temperatures so that the fruit is consequently blessed with natural high acidity and freshness. It's also incredibly beautiful countryside and as we know, great views make great wines since the best vineyards are often at high altitude with commanding vistas over their region.

Is there anything that frustrates you about working in wine?

We are often dictated to by local authorities as to how to prune, grow and also how to harvest and vinify our wines; this can be immensely frustrating, and equalled by many of the customs issues and cost increases that we have encountered since Brexit.

Which environmental practices are most important to you?

We have been certified organic by Ecocert since 2010 so clearly we believe that this is the best way to try and protect our precious soils and look after the environment. The amount of wildlife on the vineyard is prolific and we were thrilled to have been singled out to participate in a governmental bio diversity study. From a health perspective, we also prefer to drink organic wines over those that are made with synthetic chemicals and pesticides both in the vineyard and winery.

Away from the vineyards and winery, how do you like to spend your spare time?

Skiing is a firm favourite in winter and we are lucky to have both the Pyrenees and the Alps within a 2 or 4 hour drive respectively. The light up those mountains banishes any winter blues! In the summer we are lucky enough to have some lovely unspoilt beaches about an hour from Begude with great local fish restaurants serving the day’s catch eaten at tables with our toes in the sand.

Which is your favourite season?

All the seasons are so dramatically different down here which is one of the true joys of living in this part of the world. There is always something new to look forward to just around the corner. However, if pushed, I must say that the autumn colours that we are spoilt with locally can be spectacular and the fact that these are coupled with the mushroom and truffle season means that autumn is a gastronomic dream!

What is your go-to type of music to unwind to?

Check out a fantastic musician called Fink; the track, 'Warm Shadow' is perfect to listen to when skiing. For hot summer nights under the stars here, we like a bit of Buena Vista Social Club, José González and dancing to The Killers of course.

What are you most looking forward to this year?

We are harvesting as I write and it’s always so exciting to work with the new vintage and see what the growing season has given us. As I mentioned earlier, the fact that every year reveals subtle differences means that we are never bored and there’s always something new and exciting that we can work with be it a single selected barrel fermented with only indigenous yeast or a new foray into Pet Nat!

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