As part of my research for our upcoming #Winophiles focus on the white wines of Roussillon on July 18th (see invitation article here), I revisited a tasting of skin-contact, natural and rancio wines from Roussillon producer Marc Barriot and Clot de l’Origine. This is not your ordinary wine nor is Barriot your ordinary guy. Both are an acquired taste but once you indulge- tasting and conversation- you’ll be hooked.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Driving to Clot de l’Origine in Maury is full of twists and wrong turns then you arrive. The winery is as incognito as proprietor Marc Barriot himself, often called the icon of natural winemaking in Roussillon. Once the (barn?) door opens you enter controlled chaos: bubbling ferments, oxidative smells and bottles of super distinctive wines that, well, may blow your mind.
Clot de l’Origine is small, producing just 35,000 bottles on average each year. The operation was organic certified by ECOCert in 2009. Barriot utilizes biodynamic principles, making his own teas and plant extracts to treat vines.
Altogether he has ten hectares of vineyard plots in five Languedoc-Roussillon municipalities at altitudes between 400 and 1,475 feet (120 and 450 meters). They lie on a variety of colorful soils. (Note his vineyards are all in Roussillon. I explain the difference between Roussillon and Languedoc-Roussillon in a previous article here.)
With his grapes, Barriot makes primarily white wines, many using some or all red grapes. Yes, you read that correctly! In addition to making red wines, he vinifies red grapes in a manner for white wine. Wrap your head around Syrah blanc, it’s stunning!
He also works with Macabeu (Macabeo/Viura in Spain), the three Grenache (blanc, gris and noir), Muscat à Petit Grains, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot and Carignan.
Surprisingly he makes it all seem simple… simplicity is at the core of what he does including plowing by horse or mule, harvest by hand, ambient yeast fermentation, minute additions of sulfur, no fining or filtering, and bottling the wines himself. Hard work, yes but in a simplistic manner.
Meanwhile there is more work for Barriot with his upcoming project: the replanting of two hectares of Macabeu vines using massal selected plants. The cost of this project is 30,000€ per hectare. It will take approximately five years before he can use the grapes to make wine.
Mixed with all this simplicity, hard work and replanting is a bubbly, light-hearted guy who loves what he does and is rather impartial to what the outside world thinks. Rebel might be a strong word; he actually makes wine he likes to drink. He lets nature take its course then makes wines that reflect their terroir. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that approach, don’t you agree?!?
Barriot makes red wines however we tasted only those that end up white or orange/amber, each made in a natural style. Soif de Plaisir (first photo above) is one of his reds made with 50-50 Syrah and Carignan.
L’Original 2018 – Vin de France
Here, 80% white Macabeo is blended with 20% Merlot and vinified white.
Pouring a pale yellow color, it smells of apricot, pear, mixed citrus and slate. The flavors take a turn with a melage of browning apples, lime zest and slate sprinkled with preserved ginger. There was good acidity and a balanced body with gauzy feeling tannins on the palate. This is refreshing and light at just 12.5 abv. Cost: 17€ / $22-$25
Le Trouble Fait 2017 – Vin de France
Muscat à Petit Grains grapes were fermented spontaneously (with skins) for 21 days then aged 8 months on the lees. Both add texture and weight to the wine.
It pours coppery-amber and smells of hops, lemongrass and basil flowers. In the mouth it’s juicy fresh, quite bright with a cider like sour quality.
Researching this wine I note the blend changed in different vintages. The 2019 vintage is made with two thirds Syrah (vinified as a white wine) and one third Muscat of Alexandria. The 2018 abv is 12.5%. Cost: 18€ / $22-$26.
Grenache Gris and Blanc join Macabeu in this dry (sec) and oxidatively aged wine.
Fermentation took place in food grade tanks for 3 weeks using native yeasts, followed by aging outside for 5 years in older 225 liter, barrels on the lees.
This practice, sometimes in 25-liter glass carboys and other times older barrels, has been used in Madeira, Porto, Banyuls and Maury for hundreds of years. The result is a mix of savory aromas such as curry, fenugreek, licorice walnuts/nuts, cocoa, pine resin and more.
Rancio wines are an acquired taste like dry sherry, Armagnac or Cognac and typically served as an aperitif with salty items and tapas (remember it’s produced in French Catalonia!), or an after dinner sipper.
This is definitely an obscure wine that in 1989 was declared an endangered viticultural tradition by SlowFood International who in 2004 established the Roussillon Dry Rancio Wine Presidium. In 2011 Maury Sec became an official appellation. The Maury (doux) AOC was established in 1936.
Clot de l’Origine Maury Sec pours intense caramel-copper in color. Medium-plus intensity notes and flavors of fenugreek, pine resin, dried orange zest, walnuts and cocoa linger. The medium acidity and body are balanced by a lesser amount of tannins and a soft yet penetrating mouth feel. ABV: 15%. Cost: 18€ / 23.
We loved it with a mixed plate of anchovy filled green olives, roasted nuts and Serrano ham followed by Salad Caesar with high quality anchovies… not salty like the usual suspects at most stores.
Barriot also makes Maury Doux, a captivating sweet wine that is more complex and thought provoking than sweet. It is a medium-plus bodied wine loaded with notes of dried herbs, apricots and figs, licorice, leather and caramel with a fresh acidity to balance the complex flavors.
I’m giving a shout out here to both Maury Sec and Doux wines! They haven’t caught on (yet) as they’re an acquired taste similar to a dry sherry. However mixologists are starting to utilize them more in cocktails.
I’ll leave you with this- Mark and I really enjoy these wines. They’re complex enough for a good discussion or for simple sipping by oneself. This category isn’t for everyone but paired with the right foods, they might just blow your mind too.