Andrew Guard

Roussillon (Vin de Pays des Côtes Catalanes)

After a wait I am excited to introduce one of the very finest producers of natural/biodynamic wines in France, Clos du Rouge Gorge.

The wines of the Clos du Rouge Gorge are elegant, balanced and full of character, alongside those from Maxime Magnon and Bruno Duchêne they represent the finest from the current generation of wine-makers in the Languedoc-Roussillon.

Not surprisingly, they are products of living soils, uniquely beautiful with pure silken fruit, moderate levels of alcohol and crisp acidity - they are serious and ageworthy yet delicious examples of the indigenous grapes of the Roussillon.

Cyril Fhal came to the Roussillon from the Loire Valley and found small parcels of north-facing hillside vineyards on gneiss, near the village of Latour-de-France, about 20 miles north-west of Perpignan, with the soil, exposure and altitude of the vines giving freshness and minerality to the wines. The vines have been tended by biodynamic farming from the start, with light plowing by hand, horse or rototiller. In many ways Cyril's commitment to farming is similar to the legendary Thierry Allemand of Cornas and the cornerstone to the quality of his wine.  

Natural composts and biodynamic treatments have revitalized the soil, and plants and flowers among the vines bring beneficial insects and a diverse fauna - the mountainside vineyards have a magical quality and seem to blend in with the surrounding sparse vegetation.

Cyril rejected the AOC regulations of the Roussillon some time ago as they require 30% Syrah or Mourvèdre, both not indigenous to the region, Cyril finds those grapes get too ripe and lack acidity, producing dull, flat wines, thus his reds are produced mainly from the local Carignan and Grenache are labelled as Vins de Pays Cote Catalanes. Not that it matters, qualitatively, the name Clos du Rouge Gorge on the label is what does.

Macabeu is the grape used for his white wine, according to Cyril it expresses the mineral character of the soil 'with a certain transparency'. Yields at Clos Rouge Gorge are miniscule, normally 10 to 20 hl/ha, harvesting is by hand into small baskets, light crushing by foot is followed by slow traditional fermentations (not carbonic maceration) with no excess extraction. Malolactic fermentation follows in seasoned barrels. The ensuing élevage is conducted slowly, in time with nature, nothing is rushed. 

These are stunning, rare wines of great purity and finesse that combine delicacy and power - they are some of the finest wines we offer.

Written by Andrew Guard — February 12, 2015