Gérard Gauby and his wife Ghislaine have literally transformed the fortunes of Roussillon wines which traditionally lagged behind those of the neighbouring Languedoc region. The Catalan borderland of the Roussillon between France and Spain, bathed in sunlight for much of the year, has the potential to produce wines of real interest and depth of flavour. It is thanks to the determination and character of Gérard Gauby that this area is now rightly on the wine-lover’s map.
When Gérard inherited his grandfather’s vines in 1985 he had just 5 hectares of land and the grapes were ‘disposed of’ at the local co-operative. Since then, the Gaubys have expanded to some 45 hectares and produce concentrated, elegant, long-lived wines, now with the involvement of their winemaker son, Lionel.. The Gauby formula is at once simple and complex: hard work, astute vineyard selection, biodynamic viticulture and intelligent winemaking. It is no surprise therefore that Gérard Gauby is often described as ‘the uncrowned king of the Roussillon.’ He is a man of deep convictions, at his most uncompromising when it comes to his vines. His son Lionel now works with him as winemaker.
The flagship wine of the estate is Muntada, a dense, complex red based on old-vine carignan and grenache with syrah. Well on its way to achieving cult status, it is regularly included in The Society’s en primeur offers. Moving from grand cru to premier cru, as Gérard likes to describe his hierarchy, are the Vieilles Vignes bottlings, blends based on maccabeu for the white and carignan for the red. The “village” wines of the estate are Les Calcinaires blends notionally of syrah, grenache and carignan for the reds and vermentino, chardonnay, muscat and maccabeu for the whites. Blends do vary, so the designation here is vin de pays des Côtes Catalanes, a large regional umbrella considered by many, including Gerard himself, to be too general, but at least usefully forgiving of his broad varietal palette. This is not a domaine suitable for box-analysis.
Gérard is also a partner, with specialist UK importer Richards Walford, in Le Soula, an outstanding plot high in the upper Agly valley, about an hour’s drive from the Gauby property in Calce. Le Soula loosely translated from Catalan means ‘sunny site’ and refers to the situation of the vines in a clever sun-trap which allows the grapes to ripen in spite of the very high altitude. The wines produced here are unique. The red is a blend of syrah, cabernet, carignan and grenache and has the potential to gain much complexity with bottle age. The white is a fine, mineral, complex and long-lived blend of several varieties including roussane and grenache gris. Both of these appellation-defiers are sold as Vin de Pays des Côtes Catalanes, having previously enjoyed the more niche designation of Vin de Pays des Coteaux des Fenouillèdes, a name some attribute romantically to wild fennel, and others more practically to the local variant of foin, or hay, for this is traditionally grazing land. This designation was scrapped after the 2003 vintage, in a well-meaning attempt by the INAO to simplify the Roussillon for consumers.