WineWriting.com & French Mediterranean Wine
Richard Mark James' wine and travel blog

26 March 2013

Roussillon: Le Scarabée, Sorède



This bijou-scale vineyard lies a couple of kilometres from the sea in different spots along the sometimes brooding sometimes radiant Albères hills, which draw the Fauviste border with Spain in the southeastern chunk of the Pyrénées Orientales. Treated organically since the beginning of her adventure in 2007, which owner-grower-winemaker Isabelle Frère admits is time-consuming “intensive” work, since certain of her plots of mostly old vines were “virtually abandoned” and “knew only (synthetic) herbicides and fertilisers for almost all of their life.” This is why she's made a “difficult choice” to focus on one parcel each year to “do the full works on,” as it's very labour-intensive. Good to see there are some EU grants available though to encourage growers to go the extra kilometre required to convert to organics, around 350 Euros per hectare apparently, even if this “doesn't help much.”
As for varieties planted, two-thirds of the Carignan in Le Scarabée (a kind of beetle by the way), or about 2000 vines, is 80 years old, which is tilled by horse and Isabelle says she has “a bit of a soft spot for.” This is used for the Murmûre label, while the other 0.5 hectares, 20 to 70 years old, tops up Volubile, Le P’tit Scarabée red and Sur un nuage. These are found near the village of St André between Argelès and Sorède, where the cellar is. There's also 1 ha (2.47 acres incidentally) of 10 year-old Grenache rubbing trunks with the Carignan here, as well as a small 40 year-old parcel to the west near Laroque–des-Albères, “on loan from a retired grower... this has always been ploughed.” This helps beef up Isabelle's Sur un nuage and Murmûre cuvées.
You'll find about 1 hectare of the 'grey' Grenache variety too, some of it mixed in with the Carignan (that's how they originally planted in the old VDN field-blend days), which livens up Le P’tit Scarabée rosé. There's a small amount more 70 year-old gris in the sandy St André area, which goes into red P’tit Scarabée and La folie Juvénile, as well as some 40 year-old found just west of here near St. Genis des Fontaines, which lurks around in a little Macabeu vineyard destined for Isabelle's Pied’nez white wine.
The Syrah is similarly parcelled into three plots in the St. André zone: one is the source for P’tit scarabée rosé and red, another - also 20 years old but "less vigorous" - for Volubile and Murmûre; and the third, and largest, a "big problem" parcel of young vines that "came with the lot", which Isabelle green-harvests severely to make La Folie Juvénile, although she hopes it will eventually produce very good grapes. I didn't like all her wines though, but that's life I guess. Les Caves de Pyrène (London area) sells this range for about £10 to £20 a bottle; the wines are available in Canada (Quebec) too hence the CA$ prices. And Isabelle is a friendly person to call in on if you're touring this area: Moli d’en Cassanyes, 66690 Sorède. Mobile 06 14 73 34 80, isabellefrere@hotmail.fr, www.laremise.fr (photo taken from there).

2010 Le Petit Scarabée – nice and easy fruity style with funky smoky and liquorice notes, soft palate with just a hint of dry grip. CA$22
2010 Sur un Nuage – similar profile although shows more depth with lusher vs firmer palate and still has attractive tannins though. CA$25
2011 Murmure – pretty intense, grippy with crunchy blueberry vs lusher darker fruit, savoury rustic edges with nice length though. €16 (France)
2010 Murmure – more developed savoury smoky notes vs concentrated lush cherry fruit underneath, firm and tight mouth-feel still; more closed up than the 11 actually, powerful with good depth and attractive rounded tannins.

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