It isn’t every day that you stumble upon great tasting, well-made, clean and stable natural wines. In fact – and I’ll be castigated for saying this – a large amount of these wines is pretty poorly made. Worse, too much bad natural wine is bring imported for the sake of being natural and not necessarily quality. Before you get all upset, I didn’t say all natural wines were bad, just that too many still are. That said, I am very proud of the fact that the natural wines we decide to work with are stable and actually taste like wine.
A perfect case in point: Clos Massotte. While seeking out new producers in the Roussillon, in the far south of France (right by the border with Spain), I stumbled upon a small family-run winery making bright, slightly wild gorgeous wines.
Starting in 2004, Pierre-Nicolas took over his family’s ancestral estate to make the purest wines possible on their 9 hectares (22.24 acres) of lands in Trouillas. His great-grandfather planted some of the vines he works with, explaining how he finds himself with 100+ year old plantings whose roots go far down into their soils. At altitudes up to 140 meters (400 feet), the vineyards are planted primarily to arid clay and limestone, with outcrops of blue schist, loam and quartz. The Tramontane wind (a strong wind from the Northwest) blows nearly constantly, and when it dies down the sea winds kick in. Only traditional varieties are used here: Syrah, Cinsault, Carignan, Mourvedre, Grenache for the reds, and Grenache Gris, Grenache Blanc, Muscat d’Alexandrie and Muscat Petits Grains for the whites.
Pierre-Nicolas adheres and follows biodynamic principles, using approved preparations to treat the soils and vines. Everything is hand-harvested, grapes are destemmed, wild yeast fermented in cement or fiberglass, or, starting in 2016, amphorae, to retain their purity. Pigeage is done the old-fashioned way: by foot, but gently and at most 3 times per day during ferment, which go on for a long time.
The Clos Massotte Ondine is a blend of Grenache Blanc, Grenache Gris and Muscat d’Alexandrie. The grapes are hand-harvested, fermented with native yeasts in fiberglass and then transferred to clay amphora. The vines here are over 60 years old, grown on super dry clay and limestone soils. Unfined, unfiltered and unsulfured, it’s a gorgeously bright white from a region where most whites are fat and heavy.
Pierre-Nicolas’ Clos Massotte Vie is a 50/50 assemblage of Syrah and Cinsault. The Syrah is 20 years old, but the Cinsault is 80 years old, lending a surprising gravitas to the wine. Both are grown on arid clay and limestone soils and hand-harvested. Wild-yeast fermented in fiberglass then transferred to cement cuves to age a bit, this bright and complex wine is bottled unfined, unfiltered and unsulfured.
These wines are proof that well-made, carefully crafted natural wines are possible. More pictures are HERE.