Domaine des Schistes, one of the top domaines in its region, produces exceptional dry and sweet wines, regularly singled out for their quality by Revue de Vin de France and Gault&Millau. Located in the village of Estagel, the property belongs to Jacques Sires and is now run by his son Mickaël. Though the Sires have been farmers for many generations, it was only when Jacques started bottling the wines in 1989 that Domaine des Schistes was truly born. The estate now comprises 55 hectares – the vines were planted by Mickaël’s grandfather in the late forties, spread across 80 different parcels.
Mickaël is young but very experienced. He made wines in New Zealand before coming back to the home vineyard. He brings youthful energy and ideas, a willingness to change and improve while being solidly grounded in tradition. Jacques is still involved but is used more as a sounding-board than as a source of new ideas. This combination of personalities works well to produce some excellent wines.
Everyone knows about the Mistral, that strong, constant wind that literally gets sucked down through the Rhône Valley vineyards to the Mediterranean Sea. The Roussillon has its own strong wind and it is even more constant, blowing from the Northwest over 300 days per year. It is named the Tramontane (“across the mountain”). Speeds range from 35 to 80 miles per hour. It functions just like the Mistral, keeping the grapes clean and dry and in fact dehydrates the grapes a bit, intensifying flavors.
Schiste’s vineyards grow Grenache Noir, Grenache Blanc and Grenache Gris, Vermentino, Syrah and Macabeu, a white variety becoming more popular in this area (it is used extensively in white Rioja). Of all these varieties Syrah needs the most water, a challenge in this dry, hot area which has been hit by droughts in the last few years. For this reason they tend to plant the Syrah on north-facing hillsides to preserve the freshness of the fruit. The drought of the last few years has been impacting the yields of the vineyards, especially in 2007, in which the vines had half the number of flowers and thus half the crop. The vines are trained in the traditional gobelet method. The total production for the domaine is just under 100,000 bottles, spread between 12 cuvées. The rest is sold in bulk.
Farming practices: Certified Organic since 2015 vintage.