Domaine de Trinités is breaking new ground. In the hills above Roquessels on a blue-skied but batteringly windy morning, Simon Coulshaw talked to Ali Ballantyne about their new vineyards.
“We’re buying this land to replace the fermage which we rented. It was flooded in the December storms and we lost a lot of vines. Some of the new land is abandoned vines and some of it needs clearing and re-planting. I’ve had my eye on it for years and the owner is selling because it delivers a low yield. But that’s fine with us. We’re only interested in quality.
All in all we’re talking 8 hectares but we’ll leave 2 of them as woodland and garrigue to keep an eco-system in place – birds and herbs and trees and wildlife. The wild boar and rabbits can be a pain but it’s important – it gives the wine that garrigue-y character. “
Clattering and clanking and carving through the land beside us is a huge, yellow, Caterpillar earth-mover driven at astonishing speed by a man with a wide smile. Like Simon he loves his work.
“This slope was a vineyard a long time ago. You can see, he’s taking out all the big stuff, the scrub oaks, and giving it a rip. Right now the land looks as if it’s covered in soil but the first rains will wash all that away and the surface will go back to rocky schiste – wonderfully free-draining. If it was granite below the vine roots would just hit it and stop, but here they’ll find their way down and down between layers of slatey rock. And for me, that’s what makes schiste the top terroir.
In total this particular block is 1.7 hectares, about 300 metres above sea level and south facing, it’ll get the sun all day. We’re going to plant it next year and it’s going to be entirely Syrah. And that new parcel over there is ours too – Carignan vines, gorgeous, about 45 years old.
When you start from scratch though, the great thing is that you get to choose. I’ve looked very hard at what I want to plant and I can hand-select the root stock specifically to give me quality not quantity. This schiste here for example has quite a low PH so I chose a root stock that would work in these conditions and the clone is from the Hermitage area in the Rhone.”
Domaine de Trinité’s new vineyards are in three parcels. The next one we visit is even higher, on top of Faugère’s famous La Serre dome. East-facing and fresh, it will be cleared and planted with Roussanne. The third plot is abandoned old Grenache vines, nearly 2 hectares worth. “It was last pruned 4 years ago “ says Simon, “ but we’ll bring it back. The locals say it’s low in quantity but super super good.” He rubs his hands. Below us the foothills of the Haut Languedoc settle into the Littoral and the Mediterranean glitters on the horizon. It is impossible to imagine that anything short of divine could grow in a place as beautiful as this.