2020 Roc des Anges Côtes Catalanes Blanc “Iglesia Vella”
A whole new sort of wine making waves in the French foothills of the Pyrenees
There’s something happening in Roussillon these days that’s right on the brink of getting out. There’s a buzz in the air. Or is it the water? The soil? This is a part of France best known for hiking, for seaside resorts, and rose gardens. Roussillon wine is supposed to pour like molasses and taste like fig jam, so what’s all this crisp and complex wine we’re tasting? Who’s making all this ethereal juice and can we get their number?
Presenting Roc des Anges, a collaboration between Marjorie and Stéphane Gallet, who are helping to change the very nature of Roussillon’s wine.
About the Winery
Just outside the village of Montner, in the mountains above Perpignan and about 45 minutes drive from the Spanish border, there is a bright streak of quartz running through basalt soil. The vineyard planted on top of that quartz is called Angel’s Rock, and lends its name to the collaboration between Marjorie and Stéphane Gallet.
Marjorie grew up in Grenoble surrounded by the mountains of Savoie and the wines of the Rhone. Stéphane grew up in the countryside of Normandy working on local farms and in the garden with his father. Both of them grew up riding horses, and when they both went to Montpellier to study Agronomy, it was the local riding club that brought them together.
Upon graduation in 2000, they moved to Roussillon to pursue winemaking and look for an estate of their own. At the age of 23, Marjorie found the distinctive quartz soil site, densely packed schist soil with gnarled Carignan vines, that reminded her of the Côte Rôtie. The couple bought the Domaine, and for the first seven years, farming and winemaking at Roc des Anges fell mostly to Marjorie, while Stéphane continued working for Mas Amiel. In 2008, they felt secure enough that Stéphane could leave his job there and devote himself full time to the family vineyards. They converted to organic farming and added the Terres de Fagayra Maury to their roster to complement the mineral-laced red and white wines of Roc des Anges. They decided to farm biodynamically, a decision they came to mostly through tasting biodynamic wines, which they found had more energy, life, and textural spirit.
Everything at Roc des Anges is done with minerality in mind. The vineyards are picked earlier than most, and in the cellar, Stéphane says “For minerality to be perceptible in wine, everything that surrounds it needs its dial set to moderate.” Wines are gently pressed to control the amount of skin tannin, and temperatures during fermentation are left essentially to themselves, a technique that helps to preserve acidity. Every wine made at Roc des Anges is meant to be a pure expression of the hard, dry soil. Ethereal in structure and more prismatic than verbose in nature. Their alcohol and pH are more in line with wines from the Loire or the Mosel river than those from their region. Roc des Anges is not the wine anyone was expecting from Roussillon, and it has taken years for people to realize what this sort of wine means for the great potential of this region, for France, and for the wine world in general.
Appellation: Côtes Catalanes, a large, diverse region with very little subdivision, as it has traditionally been a source of undifferentiated bulk wine.
The Vineyard: A single plot of old vines planted in 1954 to pure schist near the site of the old village church, the Iglesia Villa. Planted to Grenache Gris, a mutation of Grenache with a rosy, coppery skin that is generally used for making white wines.
The Wine: This is the estatee’s finest white wine, and acts more like great Chenin Blanc or Riesling than Grenache. In the words of the winemakers: “It’s a wine for people who have time.” 12.5% ABVSuggested Pairings: This wine has deceptive power and mineral intensity that builds over time. It’s a wine to drink with slow cooked meals like Monkfish Bourride Sètoise or a white bean and sausage stew.