Rié and Hiro are Japanese but they met at the wine school in Beaune. She went on to work for Fred Mugnier, among others; he, for five years at Domaine de Chassorney. They are passionate about vineyard work. So, when it came time to make their own wine, they had to look outside Burgundy for affordable vineyards. They tried with no luck in the north. Eventually, they found Collioure, and a retiring vigneron who sold them his vines. “And Collioure was free of other Japanese winemakers,” Hiro quips.
The name of their domaine is Pedres Blanques, “White Rocks” in Catalan. In Collioure, the vines are “on” the sea. With their incredible steepness and thousands of terraces, they are some the most spectacular French vineyards we have seen. Rié and Hiro’s 3.5 hectares are in the most remote part of the appellation and at the top of the world. The view is stunning, the energy is amazing, but the climate often violent. The Tramontane wind is fierce and the place is arid. There is a flip side: no frost and almost no disease. Because of this, Rié and Hiro farm organically and do not need to use copper. (But they do have to do everything by hand or with a rototiller.)
The couple’s first vintage consists of one wine, a Grenache grown on schist. It is vinified and aged in Banyuls in a facility they share with 9 other winemakers. It has a beautiful, whole cluster, floral and clove nose, and it’s not ‘first degree.’ You keep on coming back and back and back, for umami, for tapenade, for black and blue fruit. On the palate the fruit is both rich —with that southern, candied Grenache— and surprisingly buoyant. Where the wine departs from your usual vin de soif is with structure. Though this is an infused and unsulfured wine, with all the silkiness that comes from that, there is also verticality. Not old-school structure, mind you, but simply reminiscent of the vines: clinging to that schist with a mix of great will and fragility.