Côtes du Roussillon Wine
In 1993, Denis Ferrer and Bruno Ribière created their winery from a standing start - wanting to take advantage of small parcels of mature rootstock, diverse soils of quartz, schist, clay and limestone and a sunny ripening season - to produce characterful wines with minimal intervention. Today, their Domaine Ferrer-Ribière extends to 44 hectares of vines which are all farmed organically and vinified at their headquarters in Terrats, 15 kilometres south-west of Perpignan. Their wines are the antithesis of mass-produced bottlings made for bulk distribution and have a strong sense of terroir and a magnificent affinity for the local cuisine rich in garlic, peppers, wild herbs, seafood and olive oil.
Denis and Bruno produce an excellent Côtes du Roussillon 'Tradition' from a blend of Syrah, Grenache Noir, Mourvèdre and Carignan. With a briary bouquet of autumnal berries and a smoothly-textured palate of dark plums and kirsch supported by supple tannins, it pairs well with small game and wild mushrooms.
Internationally-renowned winemakers Ron Laughton and Michel Chapoutier decided to follow up on their successful Australian Syrah-cultivating experiment, 'La Pleiade' with a European sibling in the Agly river valley north-west of Perpignan. Deploying organically-cultivated Syrah (on north facing soils of gneiss) and Grenache Noir (on south facing schist), their 'Agly Brothers' adventure began in 2002 and has since garnered a loyal following and critical acclaim. With diverse scents of blackberries and blueberries and a complex palate of cassis, dark cherries and black pepper with a framework of fine-grained tannins and fresh acidity, it drinks well in youth and will mature gracefully for (at least) a decade.
Hervé Bizeul is a former sommelier who recognised the potential of parcels of old vines grown at altitude near Vingrau in the Agly river valley of the Côtes de Roussillon. He produced his first wines in 1998 from small volumes of grapes vinified in the back of a cellar lent to him by a friend. What he lacked in experience, he made up with tenacious effort and a firm belief in the terroir he selected. Today, his vine holdings extend over 50 hectares in numerous plots that he has judiciously acquired over successive vintages.
Hervé's principal wines - in terms of volume produced - are called 'Les Sorcières' and are made to be enjoyable from release and are consequently (and perhaps unsurprisingly) popular with restaurants and hotels. The white is made from a blend of Grenache Blanc, Vermentino, Roussanne and Macabeo and has uplifting citrus scents and a zesty palate of bright orchard fruit with a crisp, clean finish. Its red sibling is blended from 50% Syrah, 30% Grenache Noir and 20% Carignan and is raised on its fine lees in vat for 8 months prior to bottling. The finished wine has a bouquet of ripe garrigue berries and a wealth of juicy red and black fruit supported by supple tannins.
Not to be overlooked are Hervé's 'Vieilles Vignes' bottlings made from ancient, low-yielding rootstock grown on elevated limestone slopes. The red is made from Grenache Noir, Lladoner Pelut, Carignan and Syrah that are aged in vats and barrels before blending and bottling. It has dark cherry and wild herb scents and a complex palate of autumnal fruit and black pepper and enough tannic structure to support 10 years bottle age. It makes a fine accompaniment to slow-cooked daubes and casseroles.