Le Roc des Anges is an estate of approximately 22 hectares in the village of Montner in the Agly valley (Pyrénées-Orientales, South of France, close to Spain), on the north exposed side of Força Réal mountain. Montner derives from Monte Negro (Montagne Noir) is so named because of the dark schists. The soil is composed of old rotten schists (which are the best sort of schists) and traditional grape varieties dominate the cépages. These decomposed flaky schists allow excellent drainage but encourage the vines to form deep root systems.
The domaine comprises old vines of Carignan (50% of the red vines) and Grenache Gris (80% of the white vines), then Grenache noir, Syrah and Maccabeu. The vineyards are a mosaic of 43 tiny parcels of land arranged in a variety of expositions on the north shoulder of the Força Real. The first vines were planted in 1903 and 55% are between 40 and 90 years old. Densities of 4000-plants/hectare on the old vines and 7,000-10,000 on the young vines encourage competition, thereby reducing vigour.
Everything done in the vineyard is traditional from the use of
local stone to create low walls to divide the parcels of land, all bound up in the notion of respect for the cultural heritage of the region. This is extended further into viticulture where respect for the environment is paramount. All work is based on seeking equilibrium for the vine and allowing it to find its “autonomie” (defined by vigour, yield, nutrition and natural defence), an essential factor in the expression of terroir. Other than leaf thinning and pruning of the vine to encourage the microclimate, operations in the vineyards are strictly non-interventionist. It is the light permeable soils themselves from where the wines obtain their unique texture and vibrancy. This is a work in progress, according to the vigneron; only a truly living soil will be able to liberate the essence of the terroir.
In the cellar simplicity and authenticity are the watchwords. A traditional press is used, exerting the mildest of pressure, extracting limpid juice. Vinification is in concrete tanks ranging between 24 and 50hl, and the shape of the tanks and the level of the fill determine the appropriately gentle extraction. Ageing takes place in two types of containers; concrete – which exalts the aromatic purity and freshness of the wine – and wood (for
about 10% of the elevage) in the form of one-to-three year old barrels.