Clot de l’Origins Soif de Plaisir 2011
Southwest of the Languedoc lies Roussillon, a region that has too often been reduced to mere suffix. Roussillon stretches from the river Aude in the north to the border of Catalonia in the South. In the West, the snow-capped Pyrenées rise above 2500m in places, with the jagged peaks of Pic du Canigou at 2,786m (9.140ft) above sea level. A sharp descent eastward brings you to back to the stifling heat of the Mediterranean coastline, where Vin Doux Naturels reign supreme. Roussillon is primarily known for these wines, which are made from partially-fermented grape juice that is fortified with alcohol before it fully becomes wine. Made from the most common regional varietal, Grenache (whether is be Noir, Gris, or Blanc) , these aperitif “wines” benefit from early ripening fruit in some of the hottest, driest vineyards in all of France. Overall Roussillon produces 90% of all French Vin Doux Naturel, the most famous of which is Banyuls, made in the southeasternmost corner of the region. In Banyuls-sur-Mer, Grenache grapes are grown on steeply-terraced schist slopes, allowed to shrivel on the vine, fermented, fortified, and aged in barrel for years at a time at which point they can achieve a depth comparable to vintage port.
The extremes of the Roussillon climate have long posed challenges for winemakers, and abundant sunshine and high temperatures have caused some natural producers to revert to old practices. Whole cluster fermentation, in which the the grapes are left with their stems during the fermentation process, combats over-ripeness and high acidity by adding a greener, fresher element to the wines. Particularly in Burgundy, where the conditions are more temperate, whole cluster fermentation has been frowned upon as being rustic and imprecise, but it has been a very useful tool for some Roussillon winemakers. Today, more and more quality red wines come from the Côtes du Roussillon-Villages appellation, where producers benefit from the distinctive black schist of the upper Agly Valley. With a focus on low yields and traditional methods of production, local winemakers have produced stunning results.
Over ten years ago, Marc Barriot fell in love with winemaking and began a journey that ultimately brought him to the Roussillon. Barriot trained at a college in Beaujolais and traveled to vineyards throughout Australia and the United States before making natural wines at a Château in Bandol, Provence. There, he was captivated by natural practices and committed himself to founding his own sustainable vineyard with terroir-driven wines using regional varietals. Barriot’s Clot de l’Origine is a collection of small parcel vineyards across five communes around Maury, in the upper Agly Valley. Practicing biodynamic since 2004 and certified organic since 2009, Barriot grows seven regional varietals (primarily Grenache, Syrah, and Carignan) and ferments them separately in whole cluster. All of the work is done by hand (harvesting, pruning, bottling, etc.) except for the steepest terraces that require a mule. Filtration is rarely used, sulfites are never added, and the results are captivating.
Soif de Plaisir, or “Thirst for Pleasure” as it is literally translated, is quite aptly named. Carignan, Grenache, and Syrah provide a high-toned, slightly funky bouquet that is distinct to natural wines. This wine is full-bodied and rich with voluptuous black currant and cherry fruit. Whole cluster fermentation yields a mouthfeel that is silken and seductive and notes of cloves and nutmeg add a depth of spice redolent of a hearty Côtes-du-Rhône. Soif de Plaisir is perfect for a chilly autumn evening with roasted squab or braised duck in red wine, root vegetables, and baked apples.
Rory Stamp is a classroom instructor, Wine Buyer, and cheese monger at Formaggio Kitchen Cambridge.
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