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05 October 2010

Roussillon: Domaine des Soulanes, Tautavel

UPDATED summer 2013

The latest vintages (11 & 12 in fact) of Domaine Soulanes' 'table' wines sampled earlier this year (I didn't taste their usually very good Maury Vins Doux Naturels this time):
2011 Les Davaillières white (Grenache blanc & gris, Carignan blanc; barrel sample) - nutty and appley with dry 'mineral' palate vs rounded toasted hazelnut flavours too, subtle less revealing finish although not a finished wine.
2012 Kaya red (Carignan) - quite rich for a Carignan, perfumed blueberry with liquorice tones, spicy and fresh mouth-feel vs nice richness too, crunchy vs ripe fruit profile, tight elegant finish.
2011 Serrat del Mas (Grenache, Carignan, Syrah) - dark and peppery with black cherry and plum, closes up on the palate with nice 'chalky' tannins lending firm vs ripe profile, well balanced; should be good.
2011 Bastoul Laffite (Grenache) - a touch cold and closed up when I tried it, concentrated peppery palate with again a nice fresh 'chalky' side; needs a bit of time to open up, also well balanced.
2012 Les Davaillières red ("very old Carignan") - intense and concentrated, ripe blueberry and cassis, spicy tasty palate with elegant 'chalky' bite vs fair weight too, quite fine and long.
Terroir Languedoc, the UK based online shop, lists a couple of older vintages of the Bastoul and Serrat reds for £14.95. Weygandt Wines in DC in the US sells Kaya blanc and rouge for $20-$22.

Update October 2010
Cathy (pic. right, taken by Vi Erickson) was as hospitable as ever and did a nice tasting for us of all their latest vintages (some not yet bottled), followed by a picturesque spin around vineyards in their sturdy van; hubby Daniel was busy in the cellar next door up to his neck in fermenting musts, having finished picking a couple of days before. The estate, apparently named after the local word (Soulane) for a south-southeast facing hillside, is now 18 ha (= 45 acres, that's a lot of work since they do most of it themselves) in surface area including the odd isolated plot, perched up among wild scrubland on virtually inaccessible slopes. I'm pretty sure they're now certified organic too: didn't note it down but sure I spotted the AB logo (agriculture biologique) on their labels. Some of Soulanes' wines are imported into the US by Peter Weygandt-Metzler - there's a list of retailers etc. on his website as well as their own on-line shop with four of these wines ($19 to $42) - and sold by Terroir Languedoc in the UK (the ones they stock £9.95 to £13.95) among others.

2009 Kaya white (Grenache blanc & gris, Carignan blanc & gris 14%) - appley spicy aniseed nose; quite racy, "mineral" and spicy palate vs fuller finish. 85+
2009 Cuvée Jean Pull (Grenache, Carignan 14.5%) - nice juicy ripe cherry and liquorice fruit, rounded full mouth-feel vs a touch of light tannin and fresh acidity; tasty now actually. 87+
2009 Kaya red (100% Carignan) - quite rich and juicy for Carignan, attractive texture and tight length with lingering blue fruits. 87+
2009 Sarrat del Mas Côtes du Roussillon Villages (Grenache Carignan Syrah) - fairly chunky style vs ripe and lively dark cherry fruit, peppery touches too; more structured finish yet with nice rounded tannins, needs a year or two to open up. 89+
2009 Maury white (Grenache blanc & gris with 90g RS) - enticing "mineral" vs sweet profile, could be interesting after a bit of time in bottle.
2009 Maury red (Grenache) - lovely wild-fruit nose with blackberry and liquorice; good balance of sugar, dry tannins and cut of alcohol. 88+
Maury Hors d'Age (Grenache blend of wines from 1992, 1993 & 1994) - complex toffeed ageing notes on the nose with lush liquorice coating in the mouth; very long and caramelised vs lovely savoury richness. 90+

Cathy and Daniel Laffite's 15+ lost hectares (40 acres) in the stoney hilly back-lands between Tautavel and Maury, are composed mostly of Grenache noir with a little blanc and gris too ("best for aroma and complexity" according to Cathy), plus Carignan red and white. Daniel's step-father, who they bought the property from, farmed organically until 1993, when mass spraying was done in the area from the air to combat virus. "It's more philosophical than a marketing thing for us," he explained, "now we're as organic as possible... but certain plots are surrounded by other people spraying." They spend a lot of time working the 'soil' encouraging the vines to grow deep roots to reach water, as "we only get 400mm or so of rain here (about 16 inches)."
This must be back-breaking work. Walking around part of their vineyard, I said to myself "how does anything grow in this?!" It's nothing but hard dry stones and flaky schist, hence the inverted commas around 'soil'. Daniel quipped "I get through two pairs of climbing boots a year!" The domaine itself was only set up in 2001 and now sells around 3,000 cases per annum, most of it exported. Wines below tasted on 4/9/06 in context of a rather good lunch at the Auberge du Cellier in nearby Montner - also see Fenouillèdes wine fair report a few months earlier for more Soulanes wines.

2005 Cuvée Jean Pull vin de pays Côtes Catalanes (vat sample: 2/3 Carignan 1/3 Grenache) - attractively rich blackberry and spice with inky liquorice depth and peppery black cherry undertones, lush mouth-feel yet fresh and long; power v finesse to finish. 89-91
2004 Cuvée Jean Pull vin de pays Côtes Catalanes (2/3 Grenache 1/3 Carignan) - more developed and aromatic with floral peppery black cherry notes, has rustic richness yet some elegance too; less dense and complex than the 05 with more leathery maturity, very nice to drink now. 87-89Both vintages were surprisingly good with plump savoury gambas & goats' cheese with honey, usually a bad clash combo for big reds.
2004 Sarrat del Mas Côtes du Roussillon Villages (Grenache Carignan Syrah) - floral wild herbs combine with oak undertones, peppery rustic palate with soft fruit and texture v dry grip to finish; tight fine length: 90-92. Lovely with the rabbit dish.
2004 Maury (15% alc. 93 g/l residual sugar) - seductive liquorice and leather aromas, lightly oxidised tones v rich fruit, good balance of sweetness with dry grip and bite of alcohol; lingering leather and chocolate, quite elegant in fact. 88-90

Mas de Las Fredas, off the D69, 66720 Tautavel (although actually nearer Maury). 04 68 29 12 84 / 06 12 33 63 14, domaine-soulanes.com.

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Header image: Château de Flandry, Limoux, Languedoc. Background: Vineyard near Terrats in Les Aspres, Roussillon.