The genesis of this small estate lies in the unlikely pairing of Australian dancer and oenology graduate Paul Old and English farmer Hugo Stewart, who fell in love with this wild and rugged region whilst visiting a friend in 2001. A particular propensity for wine tasting which had been nurtured by the then editor of Decanter magazine, David Rowe, encouraged Paul Old to return from London to Australia to retrain as a winemaker when his dancing days were drawing to a close, and in 2003 the pair started to seek out and purchase small, forgotten parcels of old and neglected vines (hence the name of the estate), initially in the Corbières Maritimes, then in the Hautes Corbières and the harsh, schistous slopes of the Agly Valley. The initial parcel of 1.5 hectares, bought in 2003, has now grown to 21 hectares in 32 parcels, with the most recent addition of 4.5 hectares belonging to former Arts PR Faith Wilson, who joined the business in 2012.
The aim here is simple – to nurse the vines and the soil to full health under a mixture of organic and biodynamic systems, improving the soil structure and encouraging biodiversity, and thus a true expression of these unique terroirs. The wine is vinified and raised in the little village of Peyriac de Mer, close to the original maritime vineyards that border the shallow salt etangs and which includes parcels of old Mourvèdre and 120 year old Carignane, the source of the Mir La Mer cuvée. 1.5 hectares on free-draining limestone and clay in three old walled ‘Clos’ in the Hautes Corbières provide the Grenache and Cinsault for the Prioundo cuvée, whilst 2 hectares of Lledoner Pelut and Syrah and some white Macabeo are found high up in the Agly valley close to Maury, where the vines eke out their existence on the harsh, by turns windswept and sunblasted grey schist slopes which are dominated by the forbidding Cathar castle of Queribus, and which give the two l’Extreme cuvées. Cuvée 171 comprises a blend of Carignan, Grenache and Mourvèdre, mainly from maritime fruit around the village, with some fruit from the Hautes Corbières to bring tension and freshness. It is deep, rich and not a little wild, a natural accompaniment to winter game stews, casseroles, daube de boeuf or duck confit. There are also two superb, complex whites, of which we currently keep the ever intriguing 2021 l’Année Blanc, a blend of Macabeu, Grenache Gris and a little Muscat. All of the vines are handpicked and sorted in the vineyard, and are vinified under their indigenous yeasts, with the gentlest handling of grapes, juice and wine throughout. They are bottled unfined, with a light filtration in the case of the whites. There is minimal use of SO2.
The wines are certified under the Ecocert and Demeter organic and biodynamic regimes. These are exemplary, fascinating, natural, truly handmade wines that develop intriguingly in both bottle and glass that show remarkable precision and focus, and are made with clear and obvious passion. They represent for us the epitome of true value and authenticity.
LES CLOS PERDUS Peyriac de Mer
|L’ANNÉE Cotes Catalanes Blanc
|CUVÉE 171 Corbières Rouge