Thursday, July 7, 2011
I got a field report from my friend Michael Culley (aka Michele Colline from his years in Italy) who visited Roussillon earlier this year, which he was kind enough to let me share with you. These notes and observations are from his visit to the village of Calce, home of Domaine Gauby and several other notable producers. I've added a few links. Take it away, Michael:
The best way I've thought to describe the hills leading up to Calce is like a huge, spread out 'bald'..few trees and tons of scrub and other low lying shrubs like heather, blueberries, and huckleberries (don't know for sure if they were or not). We were approaching from the west side. Tons of little vineyards set in the landscape as space allowed, planted in different directions and curves.
On the day of the tasting we elected to drive the 'main' road past and around through Baixas (pronounced Bay-sha) which, coming from the east, was much quicker and easier. The soil here is mostly red clay with limestone. But the color! I've seen a lot of soils in my time, but this kind of electric/transparent orange-pink has something magical about it...like it's really alive....soaking in all the solar rays and energy. The main (and only) road through the village snakes past three of the five famous caves, all located like little cantinas on the ground floors of the buildings. It is simple to walk to all of them in minutes. My kind of tasting...small, focused, and uncrowded. The weather was a bit cold and blustery, and grey. We got there at opening time so never had to deal with the probably more crowded afternoon.
Domaine d'Horizon had two wines, a red and a white that were both excellent, and, I guess, worth 30 euros each but we passed. Thomas Teibert is the young winemaker.
Domaine Padié was my favorite. We barrel sampled Jean-Philippe's white and tasted two reds (both excellent). You may remember that my quest was for carignan, carignan, carignan and he has one from old vines that he now mixed with a little syrah. It should be noted that each varietal comes from its own parcel because of the soil type. We brought back a bottle each of his reds. With just 2,000 cases a year he doesn't sell in the US...yet.
Gauby and Matassa were next a bit of a walk down the hill and side by side since Tom Lubbe, a young South African guy who owns Matassa married a Gauby...his wine were all good but his white from muscat and viognier (a Cotes des Catalanes) was pretty uniquely aromatic and since I have long been a viognier fan we are looking forward to uncorking it here in Bend this summer.
At Domaine Gauby we talked with a young woman there who was passionate, strongly opinionated, and very knowledgeable. To give you an idea, everyone has lots of small plots of vines of specific varieties depending on soils with Gauby having (I'm pretty sure) the most. Consequently, it is almost an insult to ask what the blends are because the soil is most important. It's like blending the soils is really what it's all about, and the grape varieties just happen to grow in them. Three whites, three reds..all good...even tasted the 'grand cru' white Muntada (accent on the first syllable). I told her I had sold the wines back when Kermit Lynch had them in the mid-nineties but she was unfazed and could only remember someone in NY buys a couple pallets a year in the US.
I found a tremendous carignan while in Roussillon but it was a "Vin de Pays de la Cité de Carcassonne", labeled Plo Roucarels 2008. It was made by a youngish couple (Julien Gil and Julia Hubrich) that bought a hectare and a half of old vine carignan in the village of Couffoulens, a few miles southwest of Carcassonne. It was amazing stuff: polished, plush, and complex, and delicious even at 14% alcohol. I figured the second day it would fall apart, but no—it tasted the same as the first day—unprecedented!
We also found, in a SuperU supermarché, a producer I recognized from some blog in the recent past so we bought it and gave it a go and it was excellent. It was a 2009 St. Chinian from Domaine des Soulies' that cost 4.95 euros.
We did drink one wine from Eric LaGuerre, the 2008 Le 20 that was pretty unique from what else we drank. It, at times, reminded me of pinot noir and was only 12.5% alcohol. It was the only wine we had under 13% the whole trip. We did taste some old Maury from the co-op there and wished we had room for the 750 ml (there were no 375s) as they were really inexpensive. So much wine there, and so much ground to cover....