The Côtes du Roussillon Villages Lesquerde
- By Jacky Blisson MW
- 26 Nov 2020
- 5 MIN
- Level 101
Côtes du Roussillon Villages AOP is the designation used for superior quality red wines, produced in a hilly area of the northern Roussillon. Within this zone, five growing areas have the right to append their name to the Côtes du Roussillon Villages designation. Lesquerde is one of these singular vineyards.
The Quick Facts
Lesquerde is located just five km south of Maury, in the Fenouillèdes district of the Catalan Pyrénées-Orientales department. A mere 70 hectares of vines are planted here, producing just over 2,000 hectolitres of wine annually.
Next year will mark the 25th anniversary of the Lesquerde territory receiving its distinct status among the elite of Côtes du Roussillon Villages sub-zones. But just what is it that makes this tiny vineyard area worthy of such a distinction?
A Unique Terroir
The vineyards of Lesquerde are situated on a sprawling hilltop plateau at an altitude of 320 metres above sea level. This is among the highest vineyard plantings in the area. Air pressure decreases as altitude increases, and for every 100 metre rise in altitude, temperature decreases by roughly 1°C. In such a hot, dry Mediterranean climate, this temperature differential is significant, allowing for sufficient acid retention to balance the bold, ripe fruited palate profile of the region’s wines.
These plateau vineyards feature sandy granitic soils with high proportions of iron and gypsum. This soil composition encourages deep vine rooting resulting in lower yields and wines of greater concentration. The region’s producers believe that the soils are, at least in part, responsible for a firmness of structure and distinctive stony mineral quality common in Lesquerde wines.
Many of the vineyard parcels face north. This, coupled with the altitude and the soil composition, makes Lesquerde a late-ripening area, with harvest dates stretching well into October in certain vintages.
Red Wine Country
According to AOC regulations, the only grapes authorized to carry the Côtes du Roussillon Villages Lesquerde appellation are Grenache Noir, Carignan Noir, Syrah, and Lledoner Pelut - a little-known Catalan cultivar thought to be a mutation of Grenache Noir.
Wines from Lesquerde must be composed of at least two of the above varieties, with no one grape accounting for more than 80% of the blend. Each grape variety has its own specific regulations: Grenache can make up a maximum of 70%, Carignan up to 60%, Syrah a range of 30 to 70%, with Lledoner Pelut as a minor blending element.
Winemaking & Tasting Notes
As is the case with many southern French Carignan producing vineyards, the carbonic maceration technique is still frequently used to soften the purported rusticity and tannic nature of the grape. Many producers are moving away from this practice however, in efforts to preserve the attractive savoury, spiced character of low-yielding, older vine Carignan.
Appellation rules require Lesquerde wines to be matured at the winery until at least the 31st of January in the year following harvest. However, most premium bottlings are aged for a minimum of six to eight months before bottling.
The Conseil Interprofessionnel des Vins du Roussillon, the region’s marketing body, describes Lesquerde wines as being “very sophisticated…marked by notes of minerals, graphite, spices, and flowers”. The mineral nature of Lesquerde wines is frequently mentioned by wine critics. A Wine Advocate tasting note for the 2016 vintage of Domaine Bila-Haut Côtes du Roussillon Villages Lesquerde “L’Esquerda” cuvée refers to “... a northern Rhône-like minerality”.
These dense, full-bodied red wines pair well with hearty, wintry fare like stews and meat pies. They should be served slightly chilled (16 - 18°C) and show best when decanted for a half an hour or more before drinking.
Domaine Bila-Haut (M. CHAPOUTIER)
Les Vignerons des Côtes d'Agly