Domaine Sainte Croix
Jon and Liz Bowen – Haute Corbières
21 years ago, a young English couple named Jon & Liz had a lifechanging 'belief at first sight'. They saw and tasted the geology and ‘climat’ in a valley just north of the Roussillon. Call it professional intuition, these nomadic winemakers relocated to settle. Belief in their mind as strong that the Tramontane winds.
‘Flavour is an address’ and their vision has come to life beautifully in the 14-hectare Domaine. Nestled in the rugged hills of Haute Corbières, it is surrounded by a confusion of geological diversity and mesoclimates where maritime winds mingle with hinterland heat. Jon's sharp scientific mind strives to make sense of the winemaking variables at play.
‘We set out to make wines with an address’ and there are many single blocks here with distinguishing terroir. The variety of soils; chalky limestone, purple-green schist, and blue parcels of ancient volcanic rock, create profound secondary flavours with the main grapes.
The wines are parcel-specific to encourage a clear understanding of what the terroir expresses through the grape. He's likely to pour a glass of Carignan grown in volcanic rock, next to Carignan from Limestone, vine neighbours on the same plot (see grey vs brown below), 'just taste these'...
For 20 harvests, nature's seasonal variations - sun, rain, wind - and winemakers' choices - the moment to harvest, extraction, ageing, etc - have not produced a variation in flavour as pronounced as soil-type.
Jon focusses on the finest and best adapted grapes, Grenache and Carignan, plus Syrah from Loire Valley. All his wines offer concentrated fruit, depth, elegance, and the mineral-herbaceous garrigue, the bush-scrub that dominates the Languedoc landscape and surrounds the vineyards.
The Domaine is situated at a cultural crossroads too – with the Occitan patois as defining as the ancient stone walls, fig and almond trees that line the vineyards. Logically, and since 2008, the Domaine is certified organic, not for PR; it’s their farming philosophy.
All wines are made with fruit, hand-picked into small crates, destemmed and fermented in small steel tanks, using wild yeasts, at temperatures that do not exceed 27°. Skin contacts vary from cuvée to cuvée, vintage to vintage, and extraction is always gentle, whether by infusion or pumpover. Ageing is carried out either in steel or French oak of 300-600l. In all cases, the winemaking aim it to create wines which reflect their origins, giving a balance of both freshness, drinkability, power and elegance. However, little in the cellar interferes with the nature’s address on the vine.
Throughout the years, the wines of Domaine Sainte Croix have consistently been at the forefront, both of techniques and styles, and also in terms of national and international press coverage. Journalists from Jancis Robinson to Jamie Goode, from Decanter to the Revue du Vins de France have repeatedly given some of the highest ratings in the region to their wines.
It’s amazing how far a little intuition, a lot of passion and a bit of equipment will take you...