When harvesting together with Alain Castex in 2017, Laurent Roger mentioned to me the idea of taking over his father’s vines in Rivesaltes. He didn’t yet seem quite convinced and we laughed, looking up at Le Canigou, thinking what a dream that was. He was happy in Paris, working as a sommelier at Le Verre Volé.
But how to say no to a perfectly imperfect 2ha parcel of old vines in the heart of the Roussillon? Just a year and a bit later, we found ourselves tasting through his very first vintage in Alain’s cellar on a cold January day. Just bottled, the aromatics of the wine were somewhat muted and the fruit was quiet, however fresh and balanced. I could tell that there was so much life and energy bottled up and waiting to shine.
The parcel is made up of Grenache and Merlot, the Grenache planted in the ’70s by his grandfather, and the Merlot, planted in the ’90s by his father when Bordeaux varieties were the rage. Laurent has access to a soupçon of muscat from a neighbor, and he and Melissa share half of a small cellar with a friend in the center of town. The soils are composed predominantly of clay and limestone, and the vines are planted next to the railroad tracks called Mataburro that connects Perpignan to the small towns of the Roussillon. Mataburro is a reference to the two donkeys that were hit on the train tracks on the first day of operation in 1910.
Laurent’s work in the vineyard is bringing the vine back to life, and in just a short time the wines are vibrant and balanced. He continues to work closely with Alain Castex and with the Danjou-Banessey brothers who are located in the adjacent town. In the cellar Laurent works with short carbonic macérations, looking for freshness and drinkability. He succeeds without losing the complexity of the fruit and a strong sense of place.
The first vintage arrived last summer in Montréal and have quickly become a coup de cœur at Alma. Catalan sun-kissed fruit, sweet spices, blood-orange laced acidity, just enough complexity to evoke thoughts and questions, just simple enough that the bottle disappears before you know it. We can’t get enough. Keep your eyes out, they are gold...and there is so much more to come from this project!