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12 April 2010

Roussillon: Domaine des Schistes, Estagel

Domaine des Schistes (there is indeed quite a bit of schist in their vineyards), owned and run by Jacques and son Mickaël Sire, is made up of assorted parcels lying along the Corbières foothills (on the Roussillon / Fenouilledes side) between the villages of Estagel (where the winery is), Maury and Tautavel. Back in late November 2008, Jacques took me for a spin around some of them (not recommended in your average family saloon), which gives you a good feel for their differing terrain as the land undulates up and down & side to side. We stood on the top of a rocky/schisty ridge in one vineyard, or perhaps the line between two as, although planted with more or less the same varieties on both sides, that sloping variation in aspect can mean a few days or a week's difference in picking in this peaceful raw spot. We ended up at Mas de las Fredas, which nestles behind Maury and Tautavel (marked off the D117), where Mickaël lives and where they have two holiday gîtes constructed inside a chunky 14th-Century farmhouse (next door to Domaine des Soulanes actually – see below). There’s also a small barrel cellar underneath containing some of their ageing Vin Doux Naturel styles, such as Rivesaltes Solera or Rancio Sec (see notes below).

2007 Les Terrasses Blanches (mostly Grenache blanc 13.5%) - floral and peachy with light toast and creaminess, nice mineral character running underneath its otherwise quite chunky and powerful mouth-feel; well-handled subtle oak / yeast-lees texture with hazelnut, pear and apricot flavours on the finish, plus a fresh aniseed twist. 85-87
2007 Tradition Côtes du Roussillon Villages (Carignan Grenache Syrah 14.5%) - spicy non-oaked style showing fragrant cassis, blueberry and black cherry; nice liquorice v concentrated cassis richness, peppery with dry tannins and dark chocolate twist; closes up a bit yet it's quite elegant despite the obvious power. 87-89
2006 Les Terrasses Côtes du Roussillon Villages Tautavel (Syrah Carignan Grenache 14%) - a bit cold to start so that toasted oak character comes out first, but it opened up showing more black cherry aroma/flavour v dry grip and coating v dark fruit and coffee. Needs a couple of years, again quite elegant despite its weight and gripping tannins. 89-91
2005 La Coumeille Côtes du Roussillon Villages (80% Syrah 14.5%) - developing savoury nose v spicy dark cherries; very concentrated and robust although opening up and becoming rounded, lush liquorice v grip and bite on its powerful finish, along with well-integrated chocolate-oak tinged texture. 90-92
2006 La Coumeille - closed unrevealing nose; light chocolate oak notes v rich and concentrated, perhaps has more depth than the 05 with big tannins v attractive purity of fruit; stonking finish, chunky and grippy v lush texture. Needs 2+ years to open up, very promising. 92
1998 Tradition (13.5%) - savoury and mature nose with minty herbal undertones; fig, liquorice and leather on a dry v maturing finish. Nice now. 89
2006 Maury (muté sur grain 16%) - beginning to develop savoury leather notes underneath a lush, ripe fruit mouthful; pretty grippy and powerful at the moment leading to a hardly sweet finish, needs a little time to come together fully. 89+
Rivesaltes Solera (mostly Grenache gris 16%) - tawny orangey colour, complex oxidised nutty caramel notes; toasted pecan richness v freshness and bite, delicious classic style. 90-92
1995 Muscat de Rivesaltes (16%) - yes, that vintage is correct! Caramelised orange peel and brown sugar aromas/flavours, rich and nutty yet still grapey with nice cut. Weirdly alive, odd but I like it. 89+
Rancio sec - very nutty, tangy and lively with old oxidised complexity; very dry and crisp with super dried walnut flavours, great length and panache. Wow. Not for everyone but really different: try with anchovies or mature chesses.

2010 update: Jacques had the following new vintages up for tasting at the enigmatically named 'Salon du X' - it's not that much of a mystery, actually, a tasting organised by his agent Xavier Peyrot des Gachons with a dozen Languedoc & Roussillon winegrowers present (there were originally 10, I think) hence the X - in April at Domaine Gayda's impressive winery & restaurant complex between Limoux and Castelnaudary.
2008 Les Terrasses Blanches white - honeyed vs spicy toasty notes; rounded, weighty and oily vs crisp bite. 85+
2008 Les Terrasses red - attractive 'sweet' vs crunchy fruit; quite intense cassis and blueberry turning richer and darker on the finish, fragrant and herby too vs power and grip. 87-89
2006 La Coumeille red - smoky chocolate oaky nose; meaty and very firm with tight powerful length, underlying dark lush fruit then closes up. Needs time still. 89-91

Click here for more Schistes wines (6th Fenouillèdes wine fair).

1 Avenue Jean Lurçat, 66310 Estagel. Tel: 04 68 29 11 25 / 06 89 29 38 43.

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