The Sire family have been grape growers in Roussillon since 1906, as long standing members of the local cooperative. But it wasn’t until 1989 that they decided to vinify and bottle their prized fruit under the name,Domaine des Schistes. As the name suggests, their 50 hectares of vines are planted in predominantly schistous soils around the villages of Estagel and Tautavel. This unique soil-type is found in pockets throughout the region and provides the ideally poor, rocky foundation for quality viticulture in this corner of France. The winery is now under the stewardship of young, energetic Mickaël Sire, a part of France’s next generation of vignerons obsessed with quality and sustainability. Like many young winemakers, Mickaël travelled and worked extensively abroad before returning home to Roussillon to take over the family estate. He farms organically and adheres to the principles of low- intervention winemaking: native yeast ferments; minimal oak; no fining or filtering. These wines are loaded with Roussillon character.
Roussillon is all too often lumped together with its eastern neighbour, Languedoc. And while the two regions do share similarities—namely warm temperatures and common grapes—there are significant and important differentiators as well. From a cultural standpoint, Roussillon is more Catalan than French, located just over the Pyrenees mountains where the Mediterranean coast runs north before veering east. The climate here is harsh and severe, with extreme heat, minimal rain and a constant, fierce wind, known locally as the Tramontane. The soils are incredibly poor, with barely a trace of earth on top of a hard shale, schist and limestone base. All of these factors combine to naturally create incredibly low yields and, as a result, intense, characterful wines. Low yields and small estates also mean higher production costs. On average, the wines of Roussillon are more expensive than those from Languedoc. They are also a little more demanding for the drinker in terms of profile and style. They are most definitely wines that show best with foodand they usually reward patience, be it via decanter or time in the cellar. But they are some of the most expressive, complex and terroir-driven wines you will find.
Hand-picked from bush vines planted in poor, schist-based soils in the foothills of the Pyrenees, this wine is from the village of Estagel. Vineyard elevations and aspects vary. The old vines are selected for their ability to craft easy-drinking wines that are drinkable young. The vineyards are farmed organically and sustainably, with special care undertaken to preserve the natural surrounding fauna and flora.
A blend of Vermentino and Macabeo. Vermentino is grown mostly in Corsica and Sardegna and the Italian region of Liguria, but there are increasing plantings throughout France’s Mediterranean coast. It typically makes deeply-coloured, full and ripe wines. Macabeu, known across the Pyrenees as Macabeo, produces a relatively neutral profile when vinified. Its higher acidity makes it a useful partner in both blended white wines and as a base for sparkling wines.
Hand-harvested fruit is gently pressed, just once, to avoid any green, astringent or unripe flavours in the wine. The juice is immediately separated from the skins to prevent the pH from rising and to maintain acidity. After fermentation and stabilisation, the wines are stirred to “fatten” the palate, then placed in concrete for a brief aging period before being lightly fined with bentonite clay at bottling.
Aromatic and vibrant on the nose, with notes of quince, pink grapefruit, white flowers and almond. On the palate, there is a touch of weight, but good refreshing acid balance. The citrus comes through, as does apricot and honeydew, along with some wet stone minerality. This doesn’t have the opulence and richness of Mediterranean Vermentino, but the aromas are just as compelling. Macabeo here provides the acid lift. Enjoy as an aperitif, well chilled, or lightly chill and serve with sea bass in a lemon caper beurre blanc.