Marjorie Gallet doesn’t do small talk, nor does she wax lyrical about the wines she labours to craft in the rugged foothills of the Pyrenees. She will give you the facts and leave you to taste because her wines will give you everything you need … and more.
These are complex, challenging wines, a world away from the transparency of varietal brands. The names will confuse you – Segna de Cor, Llum, les Trabasseres, Fagayra – these are ancient Catalan names. Why? Because they offer the best expression of the terroir which is what she wants to reflect in her wines. And what a terroir: their 18 hectare vineyard lies on schist which dates back 570 million years. She and her husband Stephane have shared the goal of recreating the most natural wines possible from indigenous Catalan varieties, native to Roussillon.
I was lucky enough to catch up with Marjorie and her brother at Millesime Bio, the bi-annual organic wine fair which took place recently in Montpellier. The range of wines is mind boggling – it took all my concentration and my faculties to take in the nuances and details of such an original line-up! So let’s concentrate on the wines you can buy from us!
Effet Papillon – the Butterfly Effect
This accessible trio is a great introduction to Marjorie’s winemaking style. Although not grown on the estate, she oversees the viticulture and winemaking:
Effet Papillon Blanc 2012- £9.99 / £8.99 This is a 100% Grenache Blanc planted on red clay and rounded stone soils on vineyards quite close to the sea. The fruit is harvested quite early to retain freshness. It was matured in stainless steel vats and bottled early (February 2013), producing a taut, crisp wine. The wine should be served at 6°C to be at its best. Great for aperitifs or to accompany summer salads.
Effet Papillon Rouge 2012 - £9.99 / £8.99 This is a blend of Syrah, Grenache and Carignan planted on schist soils from the Agly valley. It is fermented and matured in stainsteel vats to retain freshness and fruit appeal. A great wine for barbecues and light lunches.
Effet Papillon Rose 2013 - £9.99 / £8.99 A wonderful accompaniment to salads or light fish dishes, it shows hints of strawberries with an intriguing mineral undertone - just spot on for sipping in the garden.
Llum 2013 (new to JN wine. Available Spring 2015)- the name is Catalan for “Light”. A blend of Grenache gris and Maccabeu. Minerally nose with notes of wild fennel. On the palate it is tense, nervous and firm, a serious wine with an air of noblesse. It will appeal to lovers of young white Burgundy. Very saline, harmonious and very long
Segna de Cor 2013 – £14.95 / £13.46 - The name means “blood of the heart” in Catalan. It is a blend of 50% Grenache, 30% Carignan and 20% Syrah. There is a wonderful purity to this wine. Fine cherry fruit and garrigue herbs with a firm acidic structure and an extremely long finish. Decant before drinking. Will keep another 5 – 8 years.
Reliefs (pronounced rel-ee-eff!) 2013 – £19.99 / £17.96
60% Carignan, 25% Grenache, 15% Syrah. This cuvee is made from some of the oldest vines on the estate. It starts gently on the front palate but builds to a crescendo of dense black fruit which Marjorie assures me will melt into the wine by Springtime.
1903 Carignan 2008 – £29.50 / £26.55
Made 100% from ancient Carignan, it is rich, chocolatey with loads of glycerine on the palate, harmonious, sumptuous with silky tannins and a long spicy finish. Drink now – 2017.
Vin doux naturels (sweet wines)
Fagayra Red 2012 - £29.50 / £26.55 This is a "Vin Doux Naturel" (translating as "naturally sweet") from the Maury area. Maury is on high inland schist at the northern limit of the Côtes du Roussillon-Villages area in the Agly valley. Vins doux naturels are made by artificially arresting the conversion of grape sugar to alcohol by adding spirit before fermentation is complete, thereby incapacitating yeasts with alcohol and making a particularly strong, sweet wine. At Roc des Anges, the alcohol is added at mid-fermentation to produce a fleshier wine with well integrated alcohol. Although the alcohol comes in at 16.5%, it is unobtrusive and the wine is round with soft tannins.
This wine is crafted from 60-year-old Grenache Noir vines and matured in small stainless steel tanks. After bottling it completes its maturation for a further 4 months. It will accompany a wide range of cheeses, especially well salted examples. It will also partner Asian cuisine and is the perfect foil to chocolate.
"Absolutely loaded with fruit, the 2012 Maury Grenat offers tons of blackberry jam and creamy licorice to go with a full-bodied, voluptuously textured feel on the palate. Pure, fresh and hard to resist, enjoy it over the coming 5-7 years. 90 pts." (Jeb Dunnock for Robert Parker)
Fagayra Blanc 2008 / 2010 – £29.99 / £26.99
This is a "Vin Doux Naturel" (translating as "naturally sweet") from the Maury area. 60-year-old Grenache Gris and Maccabeu grapes provide the raw materials for this sensational wine of which only 2600 bottles were produced. Only indigenous yeasts were used in fermentation after which the wine was aged in cuves (large vats). Suggested food matches include foie gras, cheeses and desserts based on white- or yellow-fleshed fruit.