I love vertical tastings, and when they finish with a jeroboam, that is even better. Le Soula is one of the estates that has helped create the reputation of the Agly valley. When the first wine made in 2001, the vin de pays, Côtes des Fenouillèdes still existed; sadly it has since been incorporated into the much larger and less distinctive Côtes Catalanes, which covers most of Roussillon. The name Fenouillèdes was particularly appropriate as wild fennel is a significant part of the vegetation of the garrigues, and it is no coincidence that many of the white wines have more than a hint of fennel and aniseed on the nose. The estate of Le Soula comprises 23 hectares, with the vineyards at an altitude of 350 – 600 metres. Le Soula is an Occitan term, meaning south, sun, or south facing slope, as the translator fancies. However, the nights are always cool at that altitude. The estate has been organic since the beginning and is now biodynamic, with the observation biodynamics help develop a resistance to oxidation in the wine.
It was Gérard Gauby who first discovered these abandoned vineyards back in the late 1990s and in 2001 he formed a partnership with his British importers Richards Walford to create a new estate. Gérard made the first wine, and then Thomas Lubbe took over, and since 2007, the winemaker has been Gerald Stanley.
I followed Mark Walford’s advice to taste the red wines first, kicking off with
2010 Le Soula
We were given very precise blends, which I will share with you. 71% Carignan, 25% Syrah and 4% Grenache Noir. Yield 13 hl/as. 20 months élevage in tank, new and old French 500 litre barrels. Medium colour. Quite a firm nose; with some garrigues and a touch of balsamic. The wine is still very youthful. A hint of oak. Some firm tannins and some acidity. Quite peppery; a certain rustic note, and a touch of elegance on the finish. The alcohol level is always around 13 – 13.5⁰.
67% Carignan, 30% Syrah and 3% Grenache Noir. 18 h/ha. Twenty months in tank, foudres and old French 500 litre barrels. Medium colour. I found a slightly viandé animal note on the nose which slightly disturbed me, and also on the palate. But there was also some red fruit and some supple tannins. Medium weight and an elegant finish.
55% Carignan, 35% Syrah 10% Grenache. 14 hl/ha 21 months ageing in tank, new and old 500 litre barrel. Medium colour. Quite a firm nose. Quite a tight knit firm palate. Some peppery spicy fruit. Quite structured with some tannin. Medium weight.
41% Syrah, 40% Carignan. 13% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Cabernet Sauvignon. Cabernet Sauvignon was in the original vineyard but has since been pulled up as it was considered too domineering in the blend, nor is it indigenous to Roussillon viticulture. 18 hl/ha. 21 months ageing in foudres and 500 litre French oak barrels. Medium colour. Quite firm fruit on the nose, while the palate has filled out. Quite sturdy, Medium weight, A fresh finish.
45% Carignan, 20% Grenache Noir, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Syrah. 17 hl/ha. Fourteen months in foudres and 500 litre French oak. Medium colour. Quite rounded ripe fruit on the nose ,and on the palate some nicely evolved ripe fruit, with some furry but soft tannins. Medium weight.
2002 in jeroboam. Mark explained. ‘This was our worst year ever, it rained heavily, but now the wine has come round from what initially seemed a very unpromising start. Quite a deep colour. Quite a solid dense furry confit nose. And on the palate quite solid and surprisingly tannic, but with some rounded ripe fruit, and some attractive evolution. In fact this served to illustrate how much more elegant the wines have become over the years.
And now for the whites:
2010 Le Soula
59% Macabeu, 18% Sauvignon blanc, 13% Grenache blanc, 6% Chardonnay, 3% Malvoisie du Roussillon (otherwise known as Torbato) and just 1% Vermentino. 21 hl/ha 21 months ageing in tank and new and old French 500 litre barrels. Light golden, quite rounded, quite herbal and leesy with a hint of fennel. On the palate quite textured and rounded with ripe fruit balanced with fresh acidity. Lots of nuances. Still very young.
54% Sauvignon blanc, 27% Macabeu, 10% Grenache 6% Chardonnay, 3% Grenache Gris, Vermentino, Marsanne and Roussanne. 20 hl/ha. Eight months in tank and new and old oak. Light golden, Elegant herbal and fennel notes. Quite rounded. Soft oaky notes. Quite textured and layered palate. Youthful.
38% Sauvignon, 35% Macabeu, 19% Vermentino 6% Grenache Blanc and Gris, 2% Marsanne, Roussanne, Malvoisie du Roussillon and Chardonnay. 15 hl/h. Fifteen months élevage. Light golden, quite a firm slightly resinous nose, and also on the palate, quite solidly so, with some oaky leesy notes, and quite a honeyed finish.
45% Sauvignon blanc, 15% Grenache blanc, 15% Marsanne and Roussanne 15% Macabeu, 5% Grenache Gris 5% Malvoisie. 20 hl/ha Fifteen months ageing in new and old French oak 500 litre barrels. Light golden colour. Quite perfumed, rich and oaky on the nose, and on the palate, quite rounded leesy. Ripe honeyed balanced with very good acidity. Quite textured.
30% Sauvignon blanc, 25% Grenache blanc, 25% Marsanne and Roussanne, 10% Macabeu and 10% Malvoisie. 19 hl/ha. Ten months in new and old French 500 litre barrels. In a magnum Quite golden. Quite a rich ripe nose. Characterful palate. Quite leesy and rich with firm acidity and quite a powerful finish.
No details of the blend. A very intriguing nose. Quite firm and fresh. Very slatey, mineral and tight knit palate. Very good acidity. Quite youthful, yet with a note of maturity. Very intriguing and absolutely delicious.
L10 : La macération du Soula, Terroir d’altitude, Vin des Fenouillèdes. A white wine, but with no details of the blend. The winemaking entailed two weeks on the skins, which gives it a bit of colour, making a lightly orange colour. Minimal use of sulphur. Very intriguing, with lots of nuances. An orange note on the nose. Quite perfumed, with firm acidity on the palate. An opportunity for Gerard to experiment. And a grand finale to the tasting.