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 food; and 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.
Sourced from clay-based soil over a limestone base provided by the Corbières mountain. Vines were planted in the 1960s. This vineyard is the last to be harvested and the resulting wines are rich, ripe and complex. This part of the vineyard is given over to 60+ year-old bush-trained Grenache Blanc vines, used for the winery’s distinctive fortified and oxidized wines.
Grenache Blanc is a high quality grape grown throughout southern France’s wine regions. It typically produces full, flavourful wines with a soft, round texture. Most widely grown in the Pyrenees, it is particularly suited for the oxidative style of Vin Doux Naturel.
Hand-harvested grapes from old vines are sorted and gently pressed. Upon completion of fermentation, the wines are aged in a Solera system similar to the sherries of Jerez, in neutral oak barrels. Only 10% is drawn off each year.
An umami-bomb! Savoury and mouth-tinglingly fresh. This aperitif-style fortified wine opens with notes of almond, fenugreek, anise and bruised pear. On the palate, the oxidative notes mingle with bracing lemon zest and white grapefruit, soy and almond. The levels of umami are off the charts here and this wine screams for some briny dishes, well-aged firm cheese, a bowl of olives or toasted almonds.