Domaine de l'Ausseil (Jacques de Chancel)
Latour-de-France / Roussillon
Jacques de Chancel has the softest of hearts. He also has some beautifully farmed, intensely light strewn really old vineyards. This duality shows in his wines which, on paper, should be pretty big fruit bombs. Instead, they are more delicate, savoury, sanguine and earthy, a nuanced dance of solar intensity, a perfect tango.
The Roussillon is France’s deep Catalan outpost. The place, the weather and the people are firmly influenced by The Pyrenees Mountains which frame this region. It’s rugged, with crisp snowy winters and hot dry summers. There is a very very long history of fortified wines here, and the majority of the vineyards were established with this in mind, to create bold, ripe, tannic, structured fruit. Today, there has been a major shift, and the cooler vineyard sites have been redirected towards making dry table wines.
The Roussillon has achieved relatively recent fame on the wine scene. This is not really surprising, as the region can offer some outstanding wines of genuine high quality, at pretty attractive prices. This, I believe, is because it is one of those few regions which was ignored by the hype of the late 20th century - when vineyards and wines became basically standardised. If the Roussillon had been on the radar in the 1970s, 80s and 90s, all of the beautiful old Carignan and Grenache vines would have been ripped out and replanted to Merlot and Chardonnay.
Domaine de l'Ausseil
Jacque’s Domaine de l’Ausseil is 10 hectares of organic vineyards around the village of Latour-de-France, about 2 hours north-west of Perpignan, at around 400m altitude. There is lots of different geology here in the foothills of the Pyrenees, but around the village of Latour, it is a dominance of Schiste and Gneiss.
Jacques makes his wines in an old winery, built at a time when gravity was the only machine. His whites are whole bunch pressed and aged in old oak or tanks, the reds are de-stemmed and receive fairly gentle macerations followed by long ageing in old oak. The resulting wines, as mentioned above, are a delicate dance between sun drenched ripe fruit and more earthy and savoury notes. There is often a lightness to the wines too, even in the ripest and darkest of his Carignans.
They are definitely satisfying on a winter’s day, as the sun slips away too soon leaving the chilly wind. But they are gentle enough to get through the changing seasons too.