Grenache Gris, Château de Saü
Established in 1846 in the heart of the Têt Valley, just outside Thuir, Chateau de Saü has always owned vineyards but didn’t begin bottling its wine until fourth-generation owner Hervé Passama and his wife Béatrice returned to the estate in 1986.
Grapes for both the Rivesaltes and Rancio sec are Grenache gris, harvested by hand from a small 1.9-hectare vineyard of 70-year old goblet vines. Following fermentation and a week-long maceration, elevage is undertaken in a former horse stable situated behind the chateau, a truly special place for the rearing of oxidative wines. The wines are kept in used 225-liter Bordelais fûts, stacked twos and threes, and year-by-year they concentrate and develop the rich texture and notable rancio character that is a hallmark of their elevage. With Hervé’s passing in 2014, Béatrice has retired and the vines have been rented, leaving these wines the last testament of one of the great terroirs for aged, oxidative wines.
One of the ‘big three’ fortified dessert wine appellations of the Roussillon, Rivesaltes focuses on white grapes, with grenache blanc and grenache gris playing vital roles. Pink and red Rivesaltes wines do exist but are less common. Occasionally, producers will allow for longer aging of white Rivesaltes without topping up the barrels, which brings oxidative flavors and a hint of mystery to the wines. In the case of the Domaine de Saü, long aging in the Passama family’s drafty horse barn has transformed their Rivesaltes into powerful, endlessly complex wines.