Oliver Pithon knows how to step up the World Stage for Wine! He has managed to create a wine where you really can pick out all three varietals, from the initial hit of pure red fruit from the Grenache, to the slow rise of the dark, peppery Mourvèdre, and into the opulent, structured finish provided by the Carignan. It is a long journey on the palate and a very enjoyable one at that!
Born into a family of vignerons from Anjou in the Loire Valley, Olivier’s maternal Grandfather was a winemaker and many of his earliest memories take place in the hillside vineyards of Layon and in the cellar of his older brother, Jo Pithon. At 18 Olivier left his native Anjou to continue his training and to study oenology in Bordeaux. Internships in Beaujolais and Jurançon also provided him the opportunity to explore other regions and to work with new grapes and diverse terroirs.
At the completion of his studies, Olivier remained in Bordeaux, working for several years in Saint Émilion. It was during this time that Olivier met Stéphane Derenoncourt, the Bordeaux winemaker and consultant, famous for his exceptional understanding of terroir. Stéphane’s teachings where hugely influential on the young vigneron and under his tutelage, Olivier learned the importance of working in harmony with nature and reflecting the uniqueness of the land and the grapes in his wines. These were not things Olivier was taught in school, and it was as if a whole new world of wine had been opened to him. A new philosophy was born, one rooted in pleasure and balance. It was not just about the pleasure of drinking wine, but the pleasure of hard work in the vines and seeing that translated into the glass. It was more than the balance one experiences in a great bottle of wine, but the balance of nature felt in vineyards that have been farmed properly and without the use of herbicides or pesticides.
Near the end of 2000, after five years working with the Bordelais, Olivier began searching for a place to start his own Domaine and apply this philosophy. Thanks to a chance phone call with his brother’s friend Gérard Gauby, Olivier traveled to the village of Calce located at the eastern end of the Agly Valley to meet with him. Olivier knew immediately that the combination of altitude, near constant wind form the Tramontane and complex soils would allow him to produce authentic wines of subtlety and finesse. Here in a quiet village nestled between the Pyrenees, Corbières and the Mediterranean Sea, were the raw materials he had been searching for. He essentially never left. A little over a month after first visiting, Olivier was able to purchase 8.5 hectares of old vines on the slopes of Calce.
Today the Domaine has grown to 25 hectares of meticulously farmed vines on the complex schist, marl and calcareous-clay soils of Calce. From the beginning Olivier worked organically in the vines. The Domaine was certified Organic in 2002 and fully Biodynamic by 2010. In the cellar, vinification is as non-interventionist as possible, as Olivier believes firmly that great wine is made in the vineyard.
“I’ve had only one desire: to give everything to my vines so that then they give it back in their grapes and in my wine. You must be proud and put your guts, your sweat, your love, your desires, your joy and your dreams into your wine.”
This spirit, along with the other special elements of Olivier’s methodology, translate into wines with a purity of fruit, extraordinary balance and a distinct sense of place. These are truly some of the most complex and exciting wines coming out of the Roussillon, if not the whole of France today.
Winery/Producer: Domaine Olivier Pithon
Grape(s): 40% Carignan Noir, 40% Grenache Noir, 20% Mourvedre
Style: Red, dry
Origin: Calce, Côtes du Roussillon, Roussillon, Languedoc-Roussillon, France
Vinification: Organic and biodynamic farming. The grapes are hand harvested and vinified separately by soil type using a blend of whole cluster, whole berry and crushed grapes in concrete and stainless steel tanks. Spontaneous fermentation with indigenous yeasts. Varieties are blended after malolactic fermentation. Minimal SO2 at bottling.
Aging: Aged 6-10 months in a combination of concrete and large neutral oak barrels.
% ABV: 13.5%