Cambridge Wine has one of the best lists of wines from the Languedoc and Roussillon of any independent wine merchant in the country. Their Languedoc-Roussillon buyer, Stewart Travers, has won the prize of Sud de France specialist, and their list includes many of my favourite estates, too numerous to list here.
Domaine des Soulanes is one of them, situated in the Agly valley just outside Maury, in the heart of Roussillon. Daniel Lafitte is a Maurynat, born and bred in the village of Maury. After a brief career as a Jaguar car mechanic, he worked for the previous owner of his vineyards, Jean Pull, learning from him as well as doing various stages. Jean was already farming organically in 1992, and when he retired in 2002, he sold 17 hectares of his 44 hectares to neighbouring Mas Amiel, and Daniel bought the rest, choosing the plots he particularly wanted to keep. Back in the 1990s, in common with all the wine growers of Roussillon, they made very little table wine or vin sec; the production was 90% fortified vin doux naturel, of which a large part was sold en vrac to Martini. These days the balance has completely shifted, to 90% vin sec. However, Daniel gleefully remarked that one of his proudest moments, was selling some Maury to a wine shop in Portugal!
2018 Kaya Blanc, Côtes Catalanes - £14.04
30% each of Grenache Gris and Blanc, with 20% each Carignan Gris and Blanc, fermented in oak. The Carignan adds acidity to the Grenache, and the schist of Maury also makes for a good level of acidity. Very pale colour. Youthful lemony notes on the nose, with fresh herbal fruit on the palate. Taut and lemony with juicy acidity, and a streak of oak.
2017 Kaya Blanc, Côtes Catalanes - £14.34
A slightly different blend with 50% each of Grenache, both Blanc and Gris, and 50% Carignan, again both Blanc and Gris. A little more colour. Firm stony mineral notes, and on the palate filling out, with long stony fruit, and a salty note, with a background streak of oak, which will disappear with bottle age. Daniel wants his white wines to have ageing potential, and this does.
2018 Cuvée Jean Pull, Côtes Catalanes - £10.92
Named after the previous owner. A blend of Grenache and Carignan, with a little Syrah and a hint of Mourvèdre, fermented in a concrete vat. A lovely perfumed nose, and on the palate, rounded and fresh with supple tannins. Cherry liqueur fruit, and ripe without being heavy. Perfect easy drinking.
2017 Kaya Rouge, Côtes Catalanes - £12.60
A pure Carignan, with fresh red berry fruit, balanced with a streak of tannin and a fresh finish. Beautifully balanced and harmonious. It does not have the rustic notes that you sometimes find in Carignan. A really lovely expression of the grape, showing just why the old vines are worth preserving, and why it deserves to be taken seriously.
2017 Maury Grenat - £18.90
Pure Grenache. Deep red colour. Ripe berry fruit on the nose, and palate, with a fresh finish. Ripe and intense without being heavy, with rich fruit and a streak of tannin. Daniel want the tannins to slip in behind the sugar, as he put it, so the wine is not too sweet. An extra 10 gms of sugar can mask the tannins. It is all a question of the balance between sugar and alcohol. And this is beautifully balanced. Just bring on the dark chocolate!