Got back an hour ago from a week-long visit to Barça and on the way back
I drove way up the french catalan hills near Perpignan, ended up going
past Maury to the legendary Preceptorie de Centernach, in the minuscule
town absurdly rebaptized by the post-revolutionary language police as
Saint Arnac (I did not make it up).

With Joseph Parcé (Marc's son) in the cellar and Silvio Marocchino in
the vines, plus Aurélie (whose name is featured on a great Maury) taking
care of business, this is a nice operation situated in a magical place
that feels as remote as Siberia, but is in fact within a half hour of
Perpignan. These steep hills are covered in very old vines with gigantic
rootstocks that have survived several decades of the tramontane wind,
the local answer to the Mistral.

At the Preceptorie, barriques and demi-muids are mostly kept in the
cement vats once used by the local cooperative and now transformed into
a cool cellar within the chai. Vats here are mostly resin, Joseph
explains that apart from costing less than stainless, they allow you to
see the grapes through the vat, and you can tell the level of the lees
and the thickness of the cap. They keep you in touch with the primordial

Tasted from the barrel (I shall taste these more calmly at home from

Several barrels that will end up in the 08 Côtes du Roussillon Coume
Marie white (North of Maury) and the 08 Terres Nouvelles white from the
higher western parcels planted on schists, including pure grenache
blanc, grenache gris.
For the Vin de Pays, a (not) surprisingly beautifully acid white
carignan (their answer to adding tartaric acid), and some macabeu,
another grape that, much like carignan, can be a high yielder, but when
cut back and kept under control can give nice fresh tangy wines.

Also tasted some.. Marsanne, Roussane and Vermentino, yes the
appellation has decreed that you need 20% of one of these in the bottle;
the Preceptorie grudgingly abides, and ends up making something very
fine with this combination of not-so-traditional grapes for the area.

For all the whites, these guys manage to get balanced wines with none of
the heaviness of most southern whites, one of the secrets is...
harvesting in mid august, 3-4 weeks before most other producers.

Tasted a couple of vats of rosé, the Coume Marie, grenache syrah
carignan with lots of structure and perfume, and the Zoe Vin de Pays,
with its ever so slight hint of candy, I would have never imagined that
flavour came from muscat, a grape I usually have a hard time with.

Maury Cuvée Aurélie 07 is superb, sharp grenache with some carignan from
schist terroir, tannins are much more present than sugar or alcohol,
very nice.

2007 was a year for the special Maury TH, only made in certain years,
pure grenache picked younger and with longer barrel aging, out of the
vat it seems very persistent and smooth. A nearby container of Weiss
chocolate tempted me, but my daughter Alessa opined that wine would
certainly ruin the chocolate... :-)

All these wines range from 11€ to 20€, so you are getting a real bargain
for some top flight wines. I filled the free spaces in the trunk of the
car with a few cases.

As I travel to Catalunya often, next on my list of visits are Clos des
Fées and Domaine de la Rectorie.



Mike Tommasi - Six Fours, France
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