It is interesting how authors, actors, artists and musicians can arrive on the scene by breaking barriers and pushing people out of their comfort zone one day and then, in what seems like no time at all, they are perceived as National Treasures who are fondly regarded by one and all. What challenges the established order one day can soon become part of it if people relate to what they are doing or saying, and it changes the received mindset. This can happen with wine makers too - where some bold optimist blazes a trail others follow and it soon becomes a well-trodden path.
When disillusioned fonctionnaire Bruno Ribière and questing young co-operateur Dennis Ferrer first collaborated back in 1993 they had to borrow every bean they could muster in order to establish their modest 4 hectare vine-holdings, but they had bags of attitude and the supreme confidence of those with no reputation to lose. They were working in the then deeply unfashionable ‘badlands’ of the Roussillon just south-west of Perpignan, with tiny parcels of anachronistic grape varieties and a hippy-ish non-interventionist outlook and penchant for following the lunar calendar. Most of the locals regarded them (at best) as ill-informed eccentrics who wouldn’t go the distance. Today, 18 years later, with 44 hectares under vine, Bruno and Dennis enjoy an international reputation for their highly characterful wines that are totally in-keeping with the 21st century zeitgeist for crafting more natural wines from traditional grape varieties. They are living proof that you should follow your dreams and not the herd, and although it is very gratifying to see them garner plaudits they’re still more concerned about what going on in the vineyard and cellar than how their wines are received by the media.
The highly idiosyncratic Ferrer-Ribière, Vin de Pays Catalan: Grenache Blanc is a wine that would chill the blood of most commercial wine buyers as it is deliberately oxidative with wonderful sherry-like scents and tastes underscored by a mineral-edged acidity. Unsurprisingly, it works well with Catalonian cuisine – olives, anchovies, peppers and home-cured saussicon sec spring to mind. A sibling Carignan, which hails from vines that are over 130 years-old, has an enticing bouquet of black berries and cherries and a juicy palate infused with garrigue fruit flavours. The duo also produce 2 different cuvées of Côtes de Roussillon wines: The ‘Tradition’, which is made from a blend of Syrah, Grenache and Carignan, is a versatile, supple, mid-weight red with a couch of dark, plummy fruit and spicy undertones. Dennis and Bruno’s flagship ‘Cuvée Cana’, made from Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre, merits at least 3 years bottle-age to reveal its uncompromising personality. It has diverse spice, leather and sous-bois aromas and a complex palate of berries, mushrooms, game and earth. It is a wine of the soil, a wine of passion and a wine that you will never ever find as a ‘BOGOF’ on the galley end of a supermarket shelf.