wa2.gif (4241 bytes)

abut9.gif (3095 bytes)

abut12.gif (3207 bytes)
abut10.gif (3636 bytes)

abut11.gif (4039 bytes)


The wines of Clot de l’Oum, Roussillon, France

The Roussillon is the new Languedoc, or possibly – bearing in mind its Catalan roots – the new Priorat. While Languedoc vineyard prices have gone through the roof in recent years, the Roussillon is still affordable, and with the success achieved by the likes of Domaine Gauby, new projects are popping out all over the place. The key to this revival is the high altitude terroirs of schist, granite and gneiss, together with some old vines.

One such Roussillon potential-rising-star is Eric Monné (right): he purchased vineyard land here in the 1990s, but it was 2001 that was his first proper vintage. Altogether he has a substantial 18 hectares of vines split up among 33 different parcelles in the communes of Maury and Belesta in the Agly valley, north of Perpignan. He works organically.

I tried four vines, one from debut vintage of 2001, and the three different cuvées from 2002. They’re striking impressive wines: a little impenetrable at this early stage but full of promise for the future. If anything, their intense savouriness reminded me a little of the wines of the south west of France. They are modern-styled in that there’s plenty of fruit, but they aren’t oaky monsters. It seems that the effect of the relatively high altitude the grapes are grown at has been to enhance the intensity of the fruit and retain acidity. It will be interesting to see how these dark, savoury wines evolve.

Prices are still sensible: I wouldn’t be surprised to see these increase as the winery establishes a reputation and track record. These wines are available from Grand Cru Wines (gcw@wanadoo.fr), and prices (including VAT and duty) are indicated in brackets.

Clot de l’Oum Numéro Uno 2001 Côtes du Roussillon Villages Caramany
A cuvée of the best Syrah (80%) and the best old vine Carignan (20%) form the St Bartélemy vineyard. Very deep colour. Firm, savoury herb and olive-laced nose. The palate is intense, chewy and spicy, quite smooth and with firm, dark fruits. Boldly flavoured and quite unusual. Very good/excellent 90/100 (not available)

Clot de l’Oum Numéro Uno 2002 Côtes du Roussillon Villages Caramany
Very deep colour. Intense savoury, roasted nose. The palate shows a huge concentration of herby, spicy, savoury fruit with a mineralic, firmly tannic structure. There’s a hint of bitter cherry on the finish. Bold, unusual and very intense. Very good/excellent 93/100  (£100 per 6)

Clot de l’Oum Saint Bart Vieilles Vignes 2002 Côtes du Roussillon Villages Caramany
A blend of Syrah, Grenache and Carignan. Deep coloured again. Savoury, intense nose. The palate is chunky and structured with firm tannins, powerful spicy fruit and lots of intensity. Almost impenetrable now. Lots of character and promise for the future. Very good/excellent 91/100 (£75 per 6)

Clot de l’Oum La Compagnie des Papillons 2002 Côtes du Roussillon Villages Caramany
Old vine Grenache and Carignan make this deep coloured, spicy wine. Roasted, spicy nose leads to a firm, chunky, savoury palate with solid, structured fruit. A bold, savoury style. Very good/excellent 90/100  

Wines tasted March 2004

Clot de l’Oum revisited

In February 2005, I had another chance to meet Eric Monné and taste his wines. I chatted some more with him, to get a feel for what he was up to, and where he is heading. If your vision is for becoming a winegrower, Eric says that the Roussillon is still a relatively cheap place to chase your dreams. ‘I was born in 1959, and the price of vineyards in the Roussillon is the same now as it was in 1959’, he states. The problem is, you can buy the land cheaply but you have to work hard to get things going. ‘Last year I planted 1 hectare of Syrah on granite’, he says, ‘and it cost me GBP£15 000.’ The right to plant a hectare costs around £1000, but you don’t need to buy planting rights because there are so many parcels. This year Eric tried to restructure his vineyard holdings, an operation that involved selling some parcels, but it proved tough to sell any.

What is he looking for in his wines? ‘I can sum it up in three words: minerality, freshness and fruit’. An admirable goal. He’s working organically to get the best effect of the terroir. The vineyards are between 400 and 600 metres high on granite-based soils. ‘Granite is unusual in France’, says Eric. But there’s another famous vineyard area with granite, apart from Eric’s Belesta, and that’s Hermitage. Wow! However, Eric admits that his first motive for buying back in 1995 was aesthetic – vineyards that looked nice – on advice from a friend in Minervois.

How do you achieve freshness? Altitude is a factor in a region like this, and another important influence is soil management. If it’s done well, you end up with deep roots, which maintain water availability through the hot summer. Another important effect of soil management is in maintaining acidity during ripening for longer. During phenolic maturation of grapes, alcohol tends to go up while acidity decreases. But the two aren’t necessarily pegged to each other. In 2004 Eric says he experienced and inversion between phenolic maturity and alcoholic maturity for the first time. All the organic domains experienced this inversion, he claims. As a result, he was able to harvest Syrah at 11 degrees alcohol with fantastic acidity, and still had phenolic maturity. That’s remarkable.

So is this a full time gig for the multitalented Eric? Not yet. He worked as an engineer in Holland with the European Patent Office. His wife lives in Perpignan, and he still works part-time to make ends meet as he establishes himself as the producer of some of the Roussillon’s finest wines.

Clot de l’Oum La Compagnie des Papillons 2003 Côtes de Roussillon Villages Caramay
Old vine Grenache and Carignan. Very intense purple colour. Intense, savoury spicy nose which is brooding, earthy and mineralic, with dark fruits evident. The palate is fruity and savoury, quite structured, and with an earthy spicy edge. Delicious stuff. Very good/excellent 90/100 (£9.95 Grand Cru Wines)

Clot de l’Oum La Compagnie des Papillons 2002 Côtes de Roussillon Villages Caramay
Earthy, spicy nose. The palate shows a nice density of savoury, spicy, mineralic fruit. A very nicely balanced ‘terroir’ wine. Very good/excellent 90/100 (£9.95 Grand Cru Wines)

Clot de l’Oum Saint Bart Vieilles Vignes 2003 Côtes de Roussillon Villages Caramay
Another deeply coloured wine. Ripe, forward spicy nose shows intense, liqueur-like fruit. The palate is concentrated and rich with lovely forward, spicy fruit. Dense and modern, yet with a nice minerally streak, too. Very good/excellent 92/100 (£14.50 Grand Cru Wines)

Clot de l’Oum Saint Bart Vieilles Vignes 2002 Côtes de Roussillon Villages Caramay
Spicy, savoury, fruity nose. The palate is quite elegant and has lovely, savoury, expressive fruit. Nice freshness and smoothness, but firm structure. Lovely. Very good/excellent 91/100 (£14.50 Grand Cru Wines)

Clot de l’Oum Numero Uno 2003 Côtes de Roussillon Villages Caramay
A very dark, inky wine. Sweet, intense nose of dark red and black fruits with a lovely liqueur-like edge. The palate is powerful, dense and spicy with integrated tannins and some structure. Bold and full with a nice spicy, mineralic twist. Very good/excellent 94/100 (£19.95 Grand Cru Wines)

see also: wines of the Languedoc-Roussillon

Back to top