October 8, 2010 La Pèira
La Pèira en Damaisèla Deusyls
viognier (65%), roussanne
The domaine takes its name from an old Occitan expression used by stone workers: ‘Plaçar una pèira en damaisela’, meaning ‘place the stone with its best face forward.’
Talk about a mercurial rise for a beginning winery. La Pèira has a press portfolio which would be the envy of any long-standing domaine. With wine critics clambering for superlatives, the wines have much to live up to. They seem well positioned to do so.
Started only in 2004, and neighbouring the exemplary estates of Grange des Pères and Daumas Gassac in Terrasses du Larzac (the area of Languedoc north of Montpellier which Andrew Jefford calls ‘one of the most exciting regions of the world for wine quality’), La Pèira has the terroir and seemingly the know-how to get the most from it. It produces just four wines — a white and three reds. It is the reds that have garnered the lion’s share of attention (as reds tend to do) but the focus today is on the white.
La Pèira en Damaisela Deusyls 2005
And what a stand-out it is. It is drunk with three other distinguished whites from southern France, and rises distinctly above them all. Golden glow in the glass leads the nose to decipher what we all finally agree is the scent of scotch. It allures, it hints, it doesn’t overtake the senses. It coats the mouth without being fleshy, but with an elusive richness that draws you back for more. The notes are floral and honey, and gentle acidic fruits, but it all adds up to mystery, an alluring mystery that has gripped you, and you love it. $$
Just who are the people behind this enterprise? For starters there’s UK music composer Rob Dougan (below right, and otherwise known as Rob D, and the man behind megahit “Clubbed to Death” from the Matrix soundtrack). He pulled himself out of the studio for a time and turned his attention to wine. Also on the scene is his partner, lawyer Karine Ahton, 30-year-old winemaker Jérémie Depierre (below left), and consulting oenologist Claude Gros. An unlikely crew perhaps. But one determined to put something great in their bottles. (And having more fun doing it than the pictures might suggest.)
Obviously, they are very fast learners. And of course they have their dozen hectares (on two adjacent parcels) of great terroir to work with. Its use as vineyards dates from the time of the Romans. Within sight are grazing sheep (of the Roquefort cheese variety), and wild scrubland with its sweep of garrigue, set against the limestone cliffs of Larzac. The vineyard soil consists of deep, gravelly limestone, alluvial fan deposits mixed with sand and clay, laid down on flat terraces. Porous and well drained, the gravel mixture seems to work wonders with the vines, cared for (as are a number of prominent estates in the region) organically and by hand.
Indeed the work with the vines is intense. Thinning, removing suckers and shoots, and leaves where necessary. Harvest is also manual, the fruit transported by air-conditioned van to the domaine’s brand new chai near the village of Jonquières. Vigilant sorting allows only perfectly ripe, de-stemmed, whole berries to be transported to the stainless-steel tanks to begin fermentation. Minimal intervention. Some wines aged up to two years in new oak barrels on fine lees. No filtering or fining.
It is a success story to be sure. But one with plenty of forethought and hard work behind it. And ahead, more of the same, since La Pèira appears determined to keep its best face forward.