Situated 40 miles due east of the city of Bordeaux, the Côtes de Duras is something of an in-between appellation: closely aligned with Bordeaux in its dominant grape varieties and general soil composition, its steeper slopes and more extreme seasons are reminiscent of zones in the Sud-Ouest (South-West France) further south and closer to the Pyrenees. Effectively, the Côtes de Duras constitutes the northwest corner of the Sud-Ouest, flanked by the Dordogne River to the north and the Garonne River to the south, and this hilly maritime AOC has been officially recognized since 1937—much earlier than most appellations in the region.
We contacted Corine Mauro at the urging of our friend Christophe Pueyo—a man who knows a thing or two himself about producing standout wines in nonglamorous appellations (his “Tellus Vinea” Bordeaux Rouge is among the greatest values in our portfolio), and who deeply understands our guiding aesthetic. Corine and her partner Didier own 30 hectares of vines on slopes overlooking the town of Duras, 18 of which are Bordeaux AOC and 12 of which are classified as Côtes de Duras. On our first visit, we were startled: expecting something like the ultra-gentle rolling landscape of Bordeaux proper, we instead encountered hills of notable gradient—“une petite Toscane” (“a little Tuscany”), as Corine remarked. Her vineyards glowed with health, rosebushes flanking each row and trees interspersed regularly; the domaine obtained organic certification in 2011 and biodynamic certification in 2020, and it shows.
In fact, Corine herself glows with health as well, a classic exemplar of Neal’s beloved axiom: If you know the person, you know the wines. Small in stature but visibly strong, and sporting a deep tan won through hours of farming, she speaks about her approach with detail and clarity—qualities that manifest themselves in her wines. The domaine’s vineyards are planted on south- and southwest-facing slopes at around 115 meters altitude in limestone-clay soils, and comprising grape varieties typical of the area: for the whites, Sauvignon Blanc and Sauvignon Gris, plus tiny plantings of Gros Manseng, Ugni Blanc, and Chenin Blanc; and predominantly Merlot for the reds, with Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc in smaller proportions, as well as a few miniscule plots of Malbec.
Corine’s approach in the cellar is low-intervention but meticulous, a combination we also prize in that of Christophe Pueyo, whose endorsement made great sense as we progressed through our first visit to Mauro Guicheney. Harvest is 100% manual, and the fruit ferments on its own without any added yeasts—mostly in stainless steel, but mixed with a few clay amphorae with which Corine is currently experimenting. Malolactic fermentation is neither blocked nor induced for the white wines, taking place slowly and rarely completing before the end of the March following the harvest. Furthermore, Corine’s sulfur use is spare in the extreme—a touch at bottling for the whites and none whatsoever for the reds—but the wines are impeccably balanced and clean, their “naturalness” manifesting as vibrancy and trueness of texture rather than in a particular flavor profile.
The Côtes de Duras appellation is relatively unheralded in terms of prestige. As with many areas known more for value than for cellar trophies, a chicken-or-egg situation exists in which growers tend not to go the extra mile for quality, knowing their wares will be undervalued in the market. It was eye-popping, then, to discover Corine Mauro and her deeply felt, beautifully rendered wines. As with all our greatest growers, she is a thoughtful steward of a unique place who has mastered the alchemy of turning that place’s fruit into something distinctive and delicious.
Côtes de Duras Blanc “À l’abri du Monde” : Corine’s “À l’abri du Monde” Blanc, which translates to “Shelter from the World,” blends 70% Sauvignon Blanc and 30% Sauvignon Gris from upper-hill parcels of poor limestone-heavy soil. Spontaneously fermented, it is both vinified and aged in stainless steel, spending the better part of a year on its fine lees; it undergoes a slow and natural malolactic fermentation, and is bottled with no additions except a touch of sulfur. Precise, clean, and chiseled, it leads with minerality rather than fruit, and its texture is simultaneously generous and refined.
Côtes de Duras Rouge “À l’abri du Monde” : Corine’s “À l’abri du Monde” Rouge is roughly two-thirds Merlot, with the balance comprising Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, plus a tiny splash of Malbec. Vinified and aged in steel with no added sulfur at any point, including at bottling, it offers black, plummy fruit of vividness and clarity on a dry yet supple frame. A sense of balance suffuses the wine, whose elements are interwoven deftly, and it finishes with a gentle swell of tannins but remains firmly on the side of friendly drinkability.