When you think of the Catalan coast, Spain probably comes to mind, but on the other side of the border in France, some of the most exciting wines from either country are being made.
The Roussillon has long been thought of as an extension of the Languedoc, and is mostly associated with the fortified vins doux naturel wines such as Banyuls. As both regions have strived for individual identity, the Languedoc has received more press as a whole but the Roussillon is proving to be more dynamic, with many up and coming natural producers leading the way, weaving in and out of the AOP system.
France in her vineyards
Vignoble Réveille is one such vigneron. I met the owner, France Crispeels, earlier this year in Angers at a Renaissance des Appellations tasting. Nicolas Joly, one of the most important and influential figures in the biodynamic movement, founded this organization. Created in 2001, its members pledge to follow a very strict charter of natural winemaking. Réveille has been a member since 2010.
France brings an eclectic background to winemaking. Originally from Belgium, she studied architecture and writing, and worked in the arts and business communications before turning her attention to the vine. In 2000, following the birth of her son, she enrolled in an enology school in Marseille. Afterward, she worked in Provence at Castel Pibarnon, in Bandol at Château Roquefort and several other spots over three years.
Vallée de l’Agly
She considered starting her own venture in the southern Rhône but several winemakers advised her to go to the Loire, which was a hotbed of natural winemaking at the time. But, the warmth of the Mediterranean called her back and when Cyril Fhal of Clos du Rouge Gorge introduced her to the Agly Valley, she knew she this was the place for her to embark on her dream.
“I was impressed by the wild and mountainous landscapes, he simple peasant atmosphere; this country of vineyards where it was possible to start a domaine.”
Located in Cassagnes, a town in the Pyrenees near Latour de France (see map below), the vineyards are 1100 – 1300 feet above sea level. While the nice weather drew France to the Roussillon, the dry heat and lack of water stresses out the vines, if not the winemaker, creating the perfect conditions for wine growing.
The soil is predominantly gneiss and schist, two types rarely seen on the Earth’s surface due to the way they are formed. Both fall under the category of metamorphic rock, meaning they are created by the fusion of other soils under extreme temperature and pressure, and then striated with minerals. Both stones lead to infertile soils with a low PH. All of this creates additional stress on the vine – ideal for Carignan, which can make thin, bitter wines if overcropped.
France made her first wines in 2006 using old vine parcels of Carignan and Grenache, some which were planted in the 19th century. She now makes wine from Syrah as well, and Grenache Gris and Malvasia are on the horizon. Her fruit is both biodynamic and organically grown. All harvesting is done by hand andonly indigenous yeasts are used during fermentation.
In French, Vignoble Réveille translates to ‘wake vineyard’ conveying the vitality of the wines and France’s desire to make wines that are pure, lively and express the soil from which they are born.
“I start now, after seven years of immersion to consider how to develop the area and integrate this with my work in the cellar, to give meaning, unity and clarity to my clients.”
Domaine Réveille “Franc Tireur”
IGP Cotes Catalanes 2011
100% Old Vine Carignan (two parcels planted in 1900 and 1954).
Fermented and aged in concrete tank for 14 months, the fruit and terroir dictate the character of this wine without any interference or influence from wood or metal. Made from century old Carignan vines, there is a distinct salty, mineral quality. The wine is vibrant and fresh, despite the age of the vines, with flavors of raspberries, red currants and black pepper. Its balance between fruit and spice make it a good match with Ahi tuna, duck confit or lentil salad.
Suggested Retail Price: $20