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21 April 2007

Roussillon: Domaine Gardiès, Espira-de-l'Agly

UPDATED 2012 - see below.

Jean Gardiès has come a long way since his first vintage in 1993. The newly built (I called by in April 2007), elegant wooden winery looks stunning lost in the beautiful wild vine-lands above Espira de l'Agly. In common with several leading estates, Gardiès' attention has turned more recently towards planting white varieties, as he believes there's a promising future for high quality Roussillon white wines (I tend to agree by and large). Having said that, most of the estate's 30-35 ha (75 acres) are planted with all the region's usual red suspects (see notes below); and Jean has had particular success with Mourvèdre in this neck of the woods, as well as Syrah, Carignan, Grenache from here and his other vineyards in Vingrau.
He's also mastered how to make really nice dry Muscat - not necessarily a given unless you grow it differently and vinify carefully - and still produces a fair bit of Rivesaltes VDN styles. "These sweet wines are a difficult sell outside of France, which is a pity as it's a unique tradition to the Roussillon." Jean's focus is export, although is happy to meet wine enthusiasts at the winery by appointment, increasingly finding "a knock-on effect: the more Roussillon wines there are out there, the greater the demand. But it's still hard persuading distributors to take on our wines." The domaine is in the process of organic certification, but Jean isn't especially interested in using this as the main thrust. "The wine still has to be good... just like whether it's appellation or vin de pays, you shouldn't need it on the bottle to sell it." Indeed, the proof is in the pudding as that quaintly bizarre English expression has it.

2006 Mas Las Cabes Muscat sec - nice Muscat freshness and grapey style, zingy mineral notes v creamier mouth-feel (he leaves it on its yeast-lees for 5 months); light elegant length v fatter fruit. 87
2005 Les Vieilles Vignes Côtes du Roussillon blanc (60% 70+ year old Grenache Blanc 35% Grenache Gris 5% Macabeu) - lovely apricot and white peach fruit with toasty edges, creamy v fruity; oak well done as it has freshness too. 88
2005 Les Millères Côtes du Roussillon Villages (40 Grenache 35 Syrah 20 Carignan 5 young Mourvèdre) - attractive ripe black cherry and liquorice fruit with herbal edges, soft and round v fresh dry bite. 87-89
2005 Vieilles Vignes Côtes du Roussillon Villages Tautavel (70% 60-80 year old Grenache and Carignan, 20 Syrah 10 Mourvèdre) - a bit more oak but not much, firmer with more bite v sweetness of fruit, closes up a bit on the finish; elegant, again subtle oak. 89-91
2005 La Torre Côtes du Roussillon Villages (70% Mourvèdre 20 Grenache 10 Carignan) - youthful fruit with quite spicy coco oak up-front, concentrated and powerful; firm and less open on the finish with underlying ripe rounded texture. 90
2005 Les Falaises Côtes du Roussillon Villages Tautavel (45% Syrah 40 Grenache 15 Carignan) - more perfumed and floral, quite a bit of chocolate oak but very concentrated sweet fruit underneath; powerful with coating of solid tannins, big finish. Needs 6-12 months to harmonize. 90-92
2005 Flor Muscat de Rivesaltes - still lively with floral honey, apricot notes and orange peel tang; nice bite v sweetness, the alcohol is well integrated. 87-89
1995 Rivesaltes Ambré (95% 70+ year old Grenache Blanc 5% Muscat) - gorgeous toasted hazelnut and toffee nose, concentrated and complex coffee and pecan flavours; the sweetness melts into its tangy aged fruit, lovely length and style. 90-92

2011 update here featuring Jean's 2009 Clos des Vignes white Cotes du Roussillon, now sold in the UK by H2Vin Ltd. for about £17.

2012 UPDATE - I finally caught up with Jean again and tasted his whole impressive range at this year's Millésime Bio organic wine show in Montpellier. I'm glad I did too, as this just confirmed that Gardiès really is up there among the top five to ten estates in the Roussillon. Jean seems to have a real knack of combining understanding and optimizing the terroir he has, as that old French cliché would have it, with first-rate winemaking skills. Result: some brilliant complex wines. He's now also fully certified organic across all 52 ha (130 acres) in the Espira and Vingrau areas (the latter vineyards are classified as Tautavel, confusingly, but there's no CdRV Vingrau. Nor Espira...)

2011 Las Cabès white (Espira) - quite exotic with peach / pineapple, moves on to a tighter fresher palate with zingy lees-y undercurrent. Good+
2011 Les Glaciaires white (Vingrau: Roussanne, Grenache blanc/gris, Macabeu) - toastier nose with rich exotic fruit, fairly powerful vs tight and elegant mouth-feel; very nice well-made wine.
2011 Malvoisie (= Tourbat) - delicious wild flower and honey aromas, creamier on the palate with lightly toasted edges, rich and concentrated vs lovely mineral bite, very long finish. Wow, serious white wine. Very good+
2010 Les Millères red (Vingrau: Grenache, Syrah, Carignan, Mourvèdre) - ripe dark cherry fruit, lovely warm spicy notes, fairly easy on the palate with a touch of grip and tasty 'sweet'/spicy fruit. Good+
2009 Clos des Vignes Côtes du Roussillon Villages Tautavel (Vingrau: a bit more Grenache, Syrah, Carignan and a bit more Mourvèdre) - peppery with coconut oak overtones, again it's concentrated and lush vs firmer fuller and punchier too, yet still has balance and class. Needs a few years to develop. Very good.
2009 Les Falaises (Côtes du Roussillon Villages Tautavel (Vingrau: a bit more Syrah, same of Grenache, Carignan) - minty herbal tones vs dark cherry and ripe cassis, intense lively and concentrated with punchy solid tight finish layered with tasty maturing fruit. Superb.
2009 La Torre Côtes du Roussillon Villages (Espira: mostly Mourvèdre with Grenache and Carignan) - wilder mintier nose vs delicious dark lush fruit edged with peppery savoury black olive aromas/flavours; very concentrated with firm grainy texture and stylish finish. Very good to excellent.

Chemin de Montpins, 66600 Espira-de-l'Agly.

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