The tiny village of Maury in the heart of the Roussillon is most famous for it's sweet red wines made from the grenache noir grape - delicious with all things chocolate. The village sits under the brooding presence of the old Cathar castle of Queribus, perched high on the mountains that flank either side of the valley.
The valley is a hot and unforgiving place. The vines are short to protect themselves against the unrelenting winds - dry off the mountains which is good for the vines and humid off the Mediterranean which is not so good - and the black schist terrain makes for a dramatic landscape set against the bright green new vine growth at this time of year.
In the centre of the town, right on the main road, is a small house and garage where Corin and Jayne Fairchild make their wine under the Domaine Vella Frontera label.
They have only been at it for 5 years, with 2007 their first vintage which wasn't released until 2009. Last year most of their Syrah and some of their Grenache was wiped out by a hailstorm in late Spring resulting in only 10,000l of wine instead of their capacity of 24,000l - who'd be a winemaker with that much element of chance involved?
Clearly a huge amount of passion is required and Corin and Jayne haven't let that setback, or any of the other multitude of difficulties involved in getting good wine into a bottle and then sold, hold them back from their mission.
When I visited today I was able to taste 3 wines, but sadly not the white and rose which had just been bottled and needed a bit of time to recover from the shock of it all.
2008 Le Fetard Rouge is a blend aimed at the French market - 40% grenache noir, 40% carignan, 20% syrah.
slightly floral, raspberry and cherry nose - ideal for easy drinking, maybe slightly chilled, with a bbq or on it's own - good balance and good fruit. €7.50 ex cellar
2007 Le Fetard Rouge is a single varietal grenache noir aimed at the British market
punchy, smoky, black fruits with good depth - a food wine. €7.50 ex cellar
2008 Vella Frontera 100% Syrah - from a single vineyard and spends 18 months in oak - dry rich spicy black fruits with a hint of chocolate - will definitely keep well for a while - probably good with duck. €9.50 ex cellar
Sadly I wasn't able to taste Le Fleuron, made from 100% 110 year old vine carignan, because the whole production has been bought by one restaurant - which if you ask me is a bit selfish because there is nothing I like better than well made old vine carignan.
Corin & Jayne Fairchild, Domaine Vella Frontera, 91 Av Jean Jaures, 66460 Maury