- Vineyard Area: 80 ha
- Soil Type: Rocky
- Varieties Cultivated: Grenache, Carignan and Syrah
- Country: France
- Winemaker: Jean & Nicolas Batlle
The Batlle family has been growing grapes for five generations in Maury, home to Roussillion’s famous vins doux naturels. Jean Batlle developed his love of the land at any early age, following his father in the vineyards, and today his son, Nicolas, has taken over as winemaker. The two purchased Domaine Las Fredas, a beautiful old farmhouse outside of Maury, in 1999 and renamed it Mas de Lavail. The domaine is superbly situated in the foothills of the Pyrenees at the foot of a Cathar castle in the upper Agly Valley. Their vineyards which sit on wild,and rocky terraces, are composed of black schist formed in patches between the white limestone cliffs that dominate the horizon. Surrounded by 80 hectares of vineyards planted to Grenache Noir, Grenache Blanc, Grenache Gris, as well as Syrah and Carignan, they make powerful, well-structured and deeply aromatic IGP Côtes Catalanes and Côtes du Roussillon Villages. Their intense Maurys are said to be among the best of the region.
The domaine is a very much family affair: Jean and Nicolas work together in the cellars. Jean’s Father-in-law, retired vigneron Pierre Destaville, also helps in the vineyards, and Nicolas’ cousin, Lionel Lavail of Domaine Cazes, is in charge of sales and works collaboratively with Nicolas during the vinifications. Their passion, drive and attention to detail allow them to create consistently spectacular cuvees year after year.
The family’s vineyard holdings consist of 50 hectares which surround their farmhouse in one large parcel and another 30 east of Maury near Tautavel. The old vines of black, gray or white Grenache, Carignan and Syrah (between 40 and 50 years old) bury their roots deep in clay and limestone and black shale, infusing the wines with a robust minerality. The hot and arid microclimate promotes full maturation of the grapes while also lending lovely balance to the grapes—ideal for AOC Maury’s vin doux. Between their old vines and quality standards, the vines produce incredibly low-yielding fruit of 25 to 30 hectoliters per hectare, half of what is permitted in the appellation! Such restraint invigorates the vine and allows the stony nature of the terroir to show in the finished wines. The vineyard team is very conscientious about the environment: they farm sustainably, plow regularly and farm without pesticides. The size of the mas, or farmhouse, allows the family to employ and house 35 harvesters, not only ensuring that the grapes are at their optimal maturity, but also by hand—a rarity given the size of the holdings. The whites are harvested in the morning to preserve their aromatics.
The grapes are immediately sorted upon arrival at the winery and the reds are entirely de-stemmed. The Batlle’s let the grapes undergo long, traditional macerations with native yeasts, each cuvee vinified separately. The whites are pressed gently for the best possible aromatic extraction; the reds macerate for four weeks before they are pressed. All fermentations occur in temperature-controlled tanks and last up to four weeks with gentle extractions. The dry wines, both white and red, age between tanks, barrels, and 800-L demi-muids for up to a year before bottling. Cuvee “Tradition,” a classic blend of Carignan and Syrah is aged in tank and offers a silky and spicy interpretation of the terroir. “Le Sud,” made from Grenache Blanc and Grenache Gris is aged in oak on fine lees. The “Terre d’Ardoise” wines are each made with 100 percent Carignan—Carignan Rouge for the red and the rare Carignan Blanc for the white—and are created to showcase the supple, perfumed and sun-kissed fruit of their terroirs. Composed of 100 percent Grenache, “Ego,” is composed of and is aged in demi-muids much like the refined wines of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. The Batlle’s award-winning cuvee, “La Desirade,” ages in barrels for 12 months and is released two years after the harvest. Their two celebrated cuvees of Maurys are made by the process of mutage, where fermentation is stopped by the addition of a neutral spirit to leave residual sugar in the wine. Both the Maury Rouge and Blanc are aged in barrel—the white on fine lees for eight months and the red for 12 months.