Calce is a small village close to the Agly valley, on the way to nowhere. You take a winding narrow road out of the village of Baixas, and if you carry on through Calce, you will eventually reach Estagel. In short nobody takes the D18 unless they want to go to Calce, and there are plenty of reasons to go there – several very good wine growers for a start, and also a sympa village restaurant, le Presbytère So last Saturday we set off with a firm sense of purpose. The vignerons were hosting their annual tasting with open cellars – an event they cheekily call Les Caves Se Rebiffent – the cellars fight back. And they had each invited a wine grower from another region or country, so not only were there delicious wines from the Fenouillèdes to taste, but also Sancerre, Priorat and Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence. The wines from Calce are either Côtes Catalanes or Côtes du Roussillon Villages, or maybe Vin de France. I am afraid I failed to note that detail, but it is of course the name of the wine grower that counts. And they are all organic or biodynamic.
We began with Domaine Lafforgue, which was the new name for me, and proved to be a good discovery. Noel Lafforgue has 22 hectares in the villages of Calce and also Corneilla. He is the fourth generation, and took over the estate from his uncle in 2001.
2011 K-ré Rosé - 6.00€
From old Grenache. Light colour. Ripe and rounded, for easy drinking, with an elegant finish.
2011 Syrah Rosé, Côtes Catalanes – 6.00€
Deeper, brighter colour, following some skin contact. Ripe and rounded, and more vinous, with more body and texture. I preferred the elegance of the K-ré.
2010 Les Feches Blanc, - 11.00€
A blend of Grenache and Macabeo. Feches means terraces, of which there are a lot in the vineyards of Calce. The fermentation begins in vat and then the wine is transferred into 400 litre barrels for nine months. Quite solidly oak y on both nose and palate, but a lot of body balanced by good acidity under the oak. Should develop very well.
2010 Muscat Sec – 6.00€
Very perfumed, very grapey; pithy orange fruit. A mineral note and a rich impact of flavour. Very characterful.
2010 Vieux Porche – 6.00€
Grenache and Syrah, élevage in vat. Ripe raisiny nose. Rounded ripe palate. Generous and ripe with a streak of tannin. The warmth of Roussillon. The wines have markedly different texture compared to the Faugères we were drinking the previous evening.
2010 Quatre Vents – 8.00€
Grenache and Syrah; the Syrah is kept in wood. Deep colour. Initially closed nose, with a ripe palate, and a streak of supple tannin. Good balance and quite mouth filling.
2009 Autres Terres – 10.00€
80% Carignan with 20% Syrah. Good colour. Quite a rich nose, with some oak. Quite a sturdy palate. The oak is beginning to integrate – the French would say fondre or melt, which seems very apt, and there is some good fruit underneath the oak.
2010 Autres Terres – 10.00€
For the 2010 vintage the wine is half and half Carignan and Grenache. Deep colour. Quite a dense nose. Quite a solid ripe palate, with some oak. Quite sturdy, with good body. Depth and good balance.
Later in the afternoon we returned for the vins doux:
2011 Muscat de Rivesaltes – 8.50€
Some wonderfully intense perfume. Very ripe spicy oranges on the palate. Ripe and smooth with the typical slightly bitter finish of Muscat.
2010 Rivesaltes, Grenat. – 10.00€
Deep colour, ripe spicy nose. Lots of cherry spice on the palate, and lovely intensity; chocolaty notes and also a fresh cherry finish.
2004 Rivesaltes, Ambré – 15.00€
Amber colour. Quite dry nutty fruit on nose, not unlike a sherry. Lovely nutty and elegant fruit on the palate, with a rich finish. Quite delicious.
2011 Fleur de Cailloux, Côtes Catalanes - 14.50€
A blend of Grenache blanc, Macabeo and Grenache blanc, grown mainly on limestone. 80 year old vines. Two thirds aged in old 300 litre barrels; one third in stainless steel, on the lees, but with no bâtonnage. No débourbage either. No sulphur, except for a tiny amount at bottling.
Light colour; quite textured and mineral. Very good acidity. Tight knit, fresh mineral and stony. Great potential.
2011 Ad Libitum – 9.50€
Mourvèdre on schist and Carignan on red clay. Aged in demi-muids. Light orange red colour. Quite a leesy nose, with a vinous palate and an edge of acidity. Quite intriguing but I’m not sure I really appreciated it.
2011 Calice – 9.50€
40 year old Carignan. Quite a deep colour. Youthful closed nose, but with a more expressive palate. The berry fruit of Carignan, with a tannic streak. Youthful and fresh and very expressive of the grape variety.
2010 Petit Taureau – 13.00
The name comes from a Claude Nougaro song. And iJean-Philippe described it as a wine of extremes, with young Syrah grown on schist, and 100 year old Carignan grown on limestone. One year in concrete and 6 months in wood. Medium colour. Quite a firm leathery nose. Lovely ripe fruit, with spice on the palate, and a leathery tannin streak. Medium weight. Possibly slightly drying on the finish.
2007 Ciel Liquide – 21.00€
A selection of the best plots of Grenache and Carignan, ten plots altogether, with four years élevage, two years in old demi-muids, one year in vat and one year in bottle, before sale. Jean-Philippe has 14 hectares altogether, in 40 different parcelles. Quite a deep colour. Quite solid dense and concentrated on both nose and palate. A youthful dense palate, with some furry tannins. Still very young. And poured out of a carafe that was the shape of a teapot, but made of glass!
OLIVIER PITHON was further down the street. He has 15 hectares.
2011 Mon P’tit Pithon – 8.20€
A blend of Grenache blanc and Macabeo. Quite soft nose. Rounded soft easy fruit, with some ripe herbal notes and a streak of acidity.
2011 Cuvée Laïs blanc, Côtes Catalanes – 15.50€
Macabeo and Grenache Blanc, élevage in oak. Some herbal oaky notes on the palate. Very good structure on the palate. Tight knit. The oak is very well integrated with a steak of tannin. Firm mineral stony fruit from the schist.
2011 Mon P’tit Pithon rouge – 8.20€
A blend of Syrah and Grenache. Some spicy fruit. Quite ripe rounded supple palate. Easy drinking.
2010 Cuvée Laïs rouge – 15.50€
40% each of Carignan and Grenache and 10% each of Syrah and Mourvèdre. Aged in concrete vats. Young colour. Firm youthful ripe nose, and on the palate. A touch raisiny with a dense finish.
2009 Le Pilou – 32.00
Old Carignan grown on clay and limestone. 18 months in foudres. Attractive perfume on the nose. Quite ripe and rounded on the palate, with supple tannins. A ripe leathery note and good depth of flavour. Very appealing. A lovely example of the grape variety.
2010 white – 24.00€
70% Grenache Gris and 30% Macabeo; 20 months in old oak. Unfiltered and unfined. Some fermentation notes on the nose. Quite firm acidity on the palate. Layered and textured with some firm minerality. How will it age?
2010 El Sarrat, Vin de France – 20€
Pure Mourvèdre. Quite rounded perfumed fruit. Some spicy ripe flavours on the palate. Hints of orange. A rounded finish.
2009 El Sarrat – 20€
Young colour. Young fruit on nose. Fresh fruit; ripe flavours balanced with a streak of acidity and some supple tannins. Good balance.
2009 Matassa Rouge – 24€
Tom described this as ‘impure Carignan’. It is Carignan, but there is some Grenache mixed up with it in the vineyard – in fact he said there are about ten different varieties altogether in the vineyard, and the wine is given 20 months of élevage. Quite supple ripe fruit on nose and palate, with some smoky leathery notes on the palate. Medium weight, but quite a ripe finish. Very satisfying.
And Tom had invited a newcomer to the village, to pour his wines alongside him. So I got to meet James Eden – despite the name, he is a Frenchman, but he grew up in Birmingham. He’s a qualified engineer, and worked in the coop in Gignac, what he called a wine factory, and learnt what not to do. And fate brought him to Calce, where he has bought a vineyard – initially just 80 ares. 2011 was the first vintage of Clos Eden. And he will have four hectares for the 2012 vintage.
2011 Nostromo – 13€ There are just 600 bottles of this. You’ve got to start somewhere
Half Grenache, half Syrah. Just bottled. Eight months in barrique. Minimal intervention and minimal so2 And he used a Burgundian basket press dating from 1905. Deep colour. Perfumed orange fruit. Supple with a tannic streak. Medium weight.
2011 Perfide Albion – 10.00€
James made just 300 bottles of this. 25% each Grenache and Syrah, and 50% Carignan. 8 months in wood. Again some orange notes on the nose, with a certain freshness and a stony finish. Medium weight and youthful.
And for 2013 James is promising a white and two new reds.
As you might expect, Domaine Gauby was a very popular stand, with a dense crowd in front of it. So we were very grateful to be invited into the cellar for some more solid sustenance, and a calmer tasting – it was a bit like going into the royal enclosure at Ascot, which I did once, thanks to a friend who moves in rather more elevated circles than me. I think Lionel Gauby understood the concept when I tried to explain.
2011 Calcinaires blanc– 14.00€ - 12˚ - which is lighter in alcohol than most.
Minimal intervention. Bottled a month ago. Lemony freshness on nose and palate. Very mineral very firm acidity and delicate fruit. Lots of potential.
2010 Vieilles vignes – 30.00€ - 12.5˚
19 months élevage. Lovely stony mineral fruit on nose and palate. Length, minerality and complexity.
2009 Coume Gineste
Grenache Gris and Blanc – 13.5˚ - 2009 was a hot year. Lionel explained that a long élevage reduces the heat. This had 26 months élevage. And the wine did taste very fresh. Quite rounded with lots of nuances; fresh and complex.
2011 la Roque
Muscat with a very long maceration, so more subtle than a conventional Muscat. Just bottled. Orange colour from some skin maceration, and orange notes on the nose. Very fresh acidity. Tight knit and intriguing.
2011 Calcinaires Rouge – 14.00
Mainly Syrah and Mourvèdre, with a little Carignan and Grenache. Deep colour. Lovely fruit on nose.
Fresh fruit on the palate, balanced with acidity and tannin. Medium weight. Depth, length, freshness and potential.
2010 Vieilles Vignes
Bright colour. Quite solid leathery notes with ripe fruit on the nose. Quite firm fruit on the palate. Some well integrated tannins. Fresh fruit, with a youthful edge. Nice depth. Long finish.
2010 Muntada. A blend of Carignan and Grenache, grown on schist, marnes and limestone. Solid and leathery on nose. Good concentration on the palate, but not heavy. An orange note. Quite firm tannins. Very youthful and masses of potential.
And last but not least was the Château de Calce, the village coop with 40 members running 220 hectares. We tasted with Valerie Balmigere, who explained that Calce has one of the smaller coops of the region. It was founded in 1932.
2011 Côtes du Roussillon blanc – 4.20
A blend of Macabeo and Grenache. Light and fresh, with a touch of Muscat.
2011 Calcidoine, Côtes du Roussillon blanc -15.00€
Aged in oak. Old vines, Grenache and Macabeo. Quite solidy oak – too much for me.
2011 Muscat Sec - 4.00€
Quite fresh, pithy orange and acidity, a fresh finish.
2011 Côtes du Roussillon rosé – 4.20€
Light nose, light fresh fruit and nice acidity. Quite delicate
2006 Côtes du Roussillon red. – 3.95€
Quite rounded and easy, but no depth.
2008 Côtes du Roussillon Villages - 5.00 €
Quite rounded, leathery raisiny fruit. Quite concentrated.
Calcidoine, Cotes du Roussillon Villages - 15.00€
Calcidoine, Cotes du Roussillon Villages - 15.00€
Élevage in vat. Solid rounded; quite dense and raisiny, with some oak.
And then came the Vin Doux:
And then came the Vin Doux:
2010 Muscat de Rivesaltes – 7.00€
Ripe concentrated, spicy Muscat fruit. Nice acidity balance
Ambré Hors d’Age – 12.00€
Grenache blanc, Gris and Macabeo. 2 years in wood, in 10 year old barrels
Amber golden colour. Quite soft nose; some acidity, biscuity fruit.
2006 Tuilé – 5.00€
Tuilé requires more ageing than Grenat. Light red; quite ripe rounded berry fruit. Medium weight. A tannic streak. Quite fresh, with cherry and chocolaty notes. Quite delicious. A lovely finish to the day.
There were some delicious wines too, to be enjoyed from the visiting domaines. Domaine Alphonse Mellot, chez Gauby, was pouring a 2007 Sancerre les Romains en magnum, with some beautifully mature Sauvignon fruit. Lovely minerality and acidity.
Peter Fischer from Château Revelette in the Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence was the guest of Jean-Philippe Padié. I prefer Peter’s unoaked entry level white wine to his Grand Vin made from Chardonnay.
Pur blanc, PUR standing for Produit uniquement des raisins ! A blend of 90% Ugni Blanc with some Sauvignon was delicate fresh and understated with a nice balance.
Pur red is 100% Grenache, with rounded ripe fruit, spicy fruits confits on both nose and palate, with a touch of acidity on the finish. And his Château de Revelette pink was delicate and fresh, with an elegant finish.
2010 Grand Rouge is a blend of 40% Syrah, and Cabernet Sauvignon with 15% Grenache and 5% Carignan. Deep colour. Rounded rich and concentrated with ripe cassis and spice on the palate. A tannin streak and a firm finish.
I also enjoyed Pierre Michelland’s wines from Domaine de la Realtière, also in the Coteaux d’Aix.
2011 Blanc Publique, from Ugni blanc had a delicate nose, with a touch of fruit. Nicely understated.
Pastel rosé - a light colour and touch of raspberry on the nose. Rounded delicate fruit on the palate. A blend of Grenache, Cinsaut and Cabernet Sauvignon.
2011 Cul-Sec – 90% Carignan with some Syrah. Deep colour frim young fruit. Still quite tannin and a bit adolescent – to develop.
2008 Juliette A blend of Carignan, Syrah, Grenache and Cabernet Sauvignon. Quite deep colour. Quite a fleshy nose, with a ripe youthful palate and a touch of cassis.
The Château de Calce had invited Domaine J. Laurens from Limoux – see an earlier posting – and how lovely to have a refreshing glass of bubbles after some serious red wines. Tom Lubbe’s guest was a Priorat, Terroir al Limit and Chateau Lehoul from the Graves was in Noel Lafforgue’s cellar.