Department 66 Grenache 2012
Critical AcclaimAll Vintages
In France, the "department" exists as an administrative division much like a county does in America. Deep in the Southwest corner of the country lies Department 66, which serves as the inspiration and namesake for our winery and vineyards in the town of Maury. Roughly two hours east of Barcelona, Spain and thirty minutes inland from the ancient Roman port city of Perpignan, old vine Grenache thrives along with Syrah and Carignan in the "Cotes Catalanes;" a sub-appellation of the Roussillon. We own and maintain 300 acres (120 hectares) of vineyards among the Pyrénées-Orientales mountain range, which were planted more than 60 years ago. The terroir is dominated by black schist, with small deposits of granite and limestone in red, rocky soils known as angile. Similar to the nearby growing region of Priorat in Spanish Catalonia, schist is a crystalline rock based soil that retains heat well but is poor in organic nutrients and nitrogens. Apart from lowland scrub, “garrigue,” and sparse tree plantings, very little agriculture survives here. The intense heat from the daytime sun is reflected back to the gnarled, head trained vines at night, increasing ripeness while maintaining acidity. The result is a very low yield (half ton per acre), but makes for a dark, concentrated, and finesse driven wine that embodies this singular region. General Manager Richard Case and Vineyard Manager & Cellarmaster Bob Doyle continue to make this dream a reality since 2008.
A northern point in France’s far southern Roussillon region, Maury is dominated by steep limestone cliffs and the castle of Queribus, which the French used as a defense outpost against the Spanish until 1659. Today it remains an important symbol of the presence of both cultures in the region.
Though Maury is famous for vins doux naturels (a style of fortified wine), Maury dry red wines are quickly becoming more in vogue and received their own appellation designation in 2011, called Maury Sec. As is the case in most of Roussillon, Grenache plays a key role here. The region’s schist-dominant vineyards, which climb up to 1,300 feet, are excellent for the production of Grenache of all styles.
For Maury dry red wines, Carignan, Mourvèdre and Syrah act as blending partners with Granche Noir. In the production of vins doux naturels, Grenache Gris and Blanc play a subsidiary role. The latter are characterized using the same terminology as that in Riveslates with those named as grenat or tuilé based on Grenache Noir and those described as ambré or blanc containing more Grenache Blanc and Grenache Gris.
Grenache thrives in any warm, Mediterranean climate where ample sunlight allows its clusters to achieve full phenolic ripeness. While Grenache's birthplace is Spain (there called Garnacha), today it is more recognized as the key player in the red blends of the Southern Rhône, namely Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Côtes du Rhône and its villages. Somm Secret—The Italian island of Sardinia produces bold, rustic, single varietal Grenache (there called Cannonau). California, Washington and Australia have achieved found success with Grenache, both flying solo and in blends.