Solenn and Dominique Génot own and run the small biodynamic estate of Mas Llossanes. It’s about 40km / one hour west of Perpignan, in the Roussillon region of deepest Southern France. For over ten years they managed the Caiarossa Estate in Tuscany, whose superb biodynamic wines I have followed closely and written about here. Having decided to create a domain of their own, they bought the dozen hectare Mas Llossanes estate in 2016. The fruits of their labours are now on sale for the first time, about 30,000 bottles in total. Right off the bat, they’ve made exciting wines that show great potential. Given their pedigree, this is no surprise.
On their arrival, Solenn and Dominique put their winegrowing philosophy into place immediately. Organic and Biodynamic viticulture is now in use, with horses for ploughing and the grapes hand harvested. In the cellar, there is minimal winemaking intervention and a minimal sulphite regime. Fermentations start spontaneously with wild yeats in stainless steel tanks. Maturation is in a combination of stainless steel and older oak casks.
All this is to make great wines that are signatures of this land. In other words, authentic wines that taste great too.
The domaine is in the foothills of the Pyrenees, close to the Spanish border. It dates back to the 1940’s. Llossanes in Catalan means “Saint’s Place”, after an ancient megalithic Dolmen on the property. The vines grow here at high altitude, some 600 metres, the highest in the Roussillon.
On thin shale and granite soils, the typical French grape varieties here are Syrah, Grenache, Cinsault and Carignan. However, there are also two rarer French crossings, both suited to these hot and dry climes. These are the red Chenanson and the white Chasan. Chenanson is a crossing of Grenache Noir and Jurançon Noir. Chasan is a white crossing of Chardonnay and Listán. As an aside, Listán is the French name for the Palomino grape of Jerez in Spain, the basis of Sherry.
The first releases from Solenn and Dominique are two reds and a rosé. There is also a white Chanson wine, but with only 500 bottles available, this wasn’t available.
Rosé, IGP Côtes Catalanes. 2017. 13%
100% Cinsault from old vines. The grapes press in whole bunches, with fermentation and maturation in stainless steel tanks. There’s three months maturation on the lees to pick up more flavour and secondary malolactic fermentation to soften the acidity. Then there are a final three months of ageing before bottling, using a glass stopper and a clear glass bottle. 1,700 bottles.
Served chilled during a UK heatwave, this was delightful drinking. Provençal-styled, perhaps a couple of shades darker in colour. Strawberries, nectarine and a herbal garrigue note on the nose and palate. Refreshing, soft, slippery texture completes the package. Retail price €10 cellar-door.
Traditionalists with drink this as an apéritif, or with a simple crab salad or French onion soup. Instead, I had mine with lightly spiced Pakoras and Samosas!
Au Dolmen, old vines Rouge, IGP Côtes Catalanes. 2016. 13%
A blend of 73% Carignan, 15% Syrah and 12% Chenanson. Blended and then bottled under DIAM cork after 12 months maturation in steel tanks and old oak barrels. 16,500 bottles. The result is an intense garnet colour, maybe down to the Chenanson. The nose is all red berries initially; then violets appear as the wine opens up. Rich and spicy and with no overt oak or big tannins. Hence this is ready to drink now and over say the next 3-4 years.
There are a velvety texture and red berry fruit. Nicely balanced acidity, fruit and alcohol and a long lingering finish. Fresh acidity probably reflects the high altitude and diurnal temperature variation. Excellent wine with a retail price of €12 cellar-door.
This wine hit the spot with an aubergine and mushroom risotto with a little tapenade on the side.
Dotrera, old vines Rouge, IGP Côtes Catalanes. 2016 13%
Dotera is the flagship wine of the domaine, meaning “Gift of the Earth”. A blend of Carignan (40%), Grenache (30%), Syrah (14%) and Chenanson (16%). Macerated on the skins for three weeks, with a slow low-temperature fermentation in stainless steel. The Grenache matures in stainless steel. Old oak barrels suit the other varieties. These age for 12 months before blending. Finally, the wine receives another four months of ageing in bottle. Bottled under a natural cork, with 10,300 bottles and 300 magnums made.
Dotera is a young wine with ageing potential. There are aromas of red berries, interlaced with scents of violets and lilies. Mocha joins in once it opens up in the glass. The balanced palate offers up fine-grained tannins, brown spices and a long length with a mocha reprise. What I enjoyed was the wine’s balance; nothing over-extracted or over-alcoholic here. I’d wager a year’s keeping will allow the tannins to soften and more flavours to develop. Regardless, this wine is fine drinking now and say over the next five years. Retail price €18 cellar-door.
These are great wines that openly express their terroir, true Grand Vins of the Roussillon. Doubtless, they will get better still with each new vintage as Biodynamic practices take hold. Perhaps too, the blends might change with each harvest according to conditions of the year. That’s a method Dominique has long employed. It’s a domaine to watch!
Though the wines are not yet available in the UK, this the first review of them in the UK. I expect this Domaine to make waves and I hope that importers will beat a path to their door! Meanwhile, if you find yourself down in the Roussillon then check out them out!
Lieu-Dit Mas Llossanes
For more examples of the wines of the Côtes Catalans, check out my profile of Gérard Gauby.