Mas Llossanes with Solenn and Dominique Génot
Dominique Génot and I had met earlier in the year on zoom, so that he could tell me about his estate, just in time for it to be included in The wines of Roussillon. Samples later arrived in London, but there is nothing as good as visiting the vineyards and tasting with the winemaker. So back in the Languedoc, with a short visit to Roussillon planned, this was the ideal opportunity.
They had just started the harvest and so first we met Dominique's wife, Solenn up at their vineyards near Tarerach and close to the enchanting Prieuré de Marcevol. These are some of the highest vineyards of Roussillon. There are views over the surrounding countryside, with Força Réal in the distance, and closer, the Canigou with its peak in the clouds. The vineyards are surrounded by study wire fences as a deterrent for the wild boar. Theirs are the only vineyards in the vicinity, so if the vines were not protected, the boar could decimate the crop.
Solenn explained that 2021 was the first year that they were using their new cellar, the redundant cooperative building in the village of Marquixanes, down in the valley. They bought eleven hectares in 2016, in two main plots adjoining each other, divided by a lane. Altogether they have six different grape varieties. The team of pickers seemed very cheerful. Solenn explained that they do not have a sorting table, but with all the rain during the previous two weeks, after a summer drought, they needed the pickers to trie à la vigne and take care over what they pick and what they leave behind. The soil is mainly gneiss or decomposed granite. We walked through the vineyards and Solenn showed us the dolmen that gives its name to one of their wines.
Then we drove down into Marquixanes to find Dominique manning the press. The new cellar certainly makes things easier for them, rather then the small barn up in the hills by their vines. There water was an issue; in the village it is not a problem. And they have the luxury of space. Most of the old concrete vats have been removed, but some are being kept to make a small barrel room. Their walls are 60 cms thick and the space can easily be insulated. The cooperative building dates back to 1931, and the cooperative is now part of a large group of cooperatives, including Latour-de-France, Vinça and Tararach.
Dominique talked about starting the fermentation with a pied de cuve, from his own yeast. He favours remontage and wants a slow, steady fermentation, taking a minimum of two weeks, if not three, four or even five weeks. The temperature will reach 28C, or 30C as an absolute maximum. Red grapes are destemmed as the stems are always green and can make for rustic flavours. Elevage is in barrel, but not new; you can buy reliable secondhand barrels from the coopers, in this case Taransaud.
Dominique has an impressive CV of places where he worked while learning his winemaking, including Boisset in Burgundy, Zind-Humbrecht in Alsace, Saintsbury in California. Indevin in New Zealand, as well as Switzerland and St Emilion and then he and Solenn were at Caiarossa in Tuscany for about ten years.
Most of the wines are IGP Côtes Catalanes rather than an appellation. And there is a welcoming shop attached to the cellar which provides a useful showcase on the main road going through Marquixanes.
2020 Pur Cinsault, Rosé - 12.00€
A food rosé, with a note of salinity and a nicely round palate, with some weight and a dry finish. Some raspberry fruit.
2020 Là-Haut - 9.90€
Pure Carignan, No SO2. Good colour. Ripe dry fruit. Medium weight. Fresh, juicy red fruit, with a firm finish. Elevage in vat, with a shorter maceration.
2017 Au Dolmen - 14€
The blend is 65% Carignan, with 15% each of Syrah and Grenache and 5% Chenanson. Ripe fruit, with a hint of vanilla on the nose. The palate is ripe and rounded with some smokey notes, balanced with fresh acidity and a streak of tannin. Dominique assured me that the wine had not been in oak, but observed that the Chenanson can misleadingly make you think it has been in oak. Very confusing!
Dotrera - 19.50€
After the old place name, which became Llossanes in the 14th century. 30% each Carignan and Grenache, with 20% each of Syrah and Chenanson. Elevage in fut for 12 months, with the exact blend depending on the vintage. The assemblage takes place in November or December and then the wine spends about another four months in vat before bottling.
Good colour. Rounded ripe fruit. Very perfumed, very fragrant, with well-balanced structure. Lots of spice and nuances, with more concentration than Là-Haut. A firm tannic streak and a fresh finish.
2018 Pur Carignan - 38€
A wine that is not made very year. The first vintage of Pur Carignan was in 2017, and it was also made in 2019, but not in 2020. 20 months in wood.
Deep colour and an intense nose with very good fruit. Quite stylish, and showing that Carignan need not be rustic. Good fruit and tannin balanced with acidity and currently very youthful, with plenty of ageing potential. Dominique explained how their yields for Carignan can vary enormously within a very close area, from 70 hls/ha for Là-Haut to just 15 hls/ha for Pur Carignan. The plot that produces the average of 30 - 40 hl/ha goes into Au Dolmen and Dotrera
2018 Pur Syrah - 47€
This was their first vintage of this wine and it was made again in 2019, and there will probably be a 2020 depending on the development of the wine during élevage. 20 year old vines. Some appealing, peppery cassis on the nose and palate. Still very youthful, but ripe with good balancing acidity and a firm tannic streak, but supple tannins. Very nicely balanced, with enormous ageing potential.
Dominique talked about their soil, which drains well. He observed that there is very little clay, which would make for more sturdier tannins. And then he returned to grapes waiting for his attention in the cellar.