Here’s a fittingly off-piste wine to mark my first review for The Morning Claret.
Domaine Sainte Croix was created in 2004 by an English couple, Jon and Elizabeth Bowen. Jon used to be a globe-trotting winemaker, Elizabeth an agricultural economist. They dreamed of making wine in Languedoc or Roussillon, and searched rather specifically for land with old Carignan and Grenache vines on limestone. They finally found the perfect 13ha estate in Hautes Corbières, just between the Languedoc and Roussillon borders. Both quit their jobs.
La Serre is the limestone hill that overlooks the Fraissé-des-Corbières village. The wine is made from 60% Grenache Blanc and 40% Grenache Gris. Both were co-planted in the 1960s at 200-250m, with a low yield of 22hl/ha. I suspect it’s the Grenache Gris that makes the wine so interesting and confusing at the same time. Grenache Gris is a pink mutation of Grenache Noir, just as Pinot Gris is related to Pinot Noir. I love that they opted to make white wine in a region known more for red grapes.
The grapes were hand-harvested during cool mornings in the first week of September 2015. Unlike their red wines, which are destemmed, the fruit is crushed whole-bunch to give the wine more structure. A six-week spontaneous fermentation with indigenous yeast in stainless steel tanks at 14-18°C is followed by 9 months on the lees with restrained bâtonnage before winter.
Taut and mineral, but with some sweaty meatiness and white pepper. A hit of nail-varnish volatile acidity, before some rose petals and plum enter towards the end. Reminded me more of a red, like a light Chianti.
Starts out like a light red, with fresh red fruit. The green apple acidity is at the core, and focuses the wine despite its 13.5% ABV. Some aromatic white-wine characteristics like grapefruit and white peach enter. Still, the old-vine savouriness creeps in mid palate, along with some smokiness, to give the wine an overall impression of a red. With air, the body becomes increasingly rich. The volatile acidity (similar to the winemaker’s reds) gives the wine enough character that makes it hard to forget.
Check out this dedicated page by Candid Wines, who import Domaine Sainte Croix to the US.
Within the EU, you can order La Serre from Vins Etonnants.
Domaine Sainte Croix’s red wines are imported to the UK by the Fine Wine Importers.