The vineyards of Domaine of the Bee are located deep in Cathar country in southern France in a glorious wind-swept valley that leads from Perpignan to the Pyrenees. We have three plots of ancient vines close to the village of Maury, which is overlooked by Queribus, one of the most spectacular of the Cathar castles whose vertiginous 800 year-old walls defy belief.
Andrew Jefford writing in Decanter.com describes the area as having an, “…astonishing drama of its landscape. The Pyrenees, and the often snow-capped Canigou, lie to the south of the Agly valley, while the peaks of Corbières – and the haunting, ruined fortress of Quéribus – like to its north. Luminous, airy, wild, remote, this is a landscape to lift and cleanse the soul. No one will ever say that about the Médoc, Champagne or the Côte d’Or.”
The Maury Valley is essentially a fold in a sheet of limestone that was crumpled up when the Iberian peninsula crashed into France, creating the Pyrenees. The walls of the valley are limestone, and the floor of the valley is mostly a special kind of black schist, one of the most sought after soils for fine wines, being found in the Mosel, Douro Valley and Priorat.
La Coume de Roy
Size: approx 1.4 ha productive
Grapes: Mostly Grenache Noir, but with 15-20% Carignan, and some vines of Grenache Gris and the odd white variety
Age: When we bought this plot, we were told it was nearly 90 years old. Now it must be over 100.
Soil: The classic black schist of Maury
This is the first block that we fell in love with, and it really is an old one, with an uneconomically low yield, and the flavour of the grapes at harvest time is incredible. In the best years, we bottle a barrel or two as our single vineyard cuvée 'Les Genoux'
Bac de Genievres
Size: 1.2 ha
Grapes: Apart from one small corner, this is pretty much 100% Grenache Noir
Age: Over 60 years old
Soil: There is a rare seam of limestone running along the Bac de Genievres, which brings a touch of freshness and minerality to the wine.
Being in the main valley, it can get quite windy up here, and sometimes the Grenache flowers do not set properly, resulting in very few grapes.
Size: 1.0 ha
Grapes: 100% Carignan Noir
Age: Over 80 years old.
Soil: Grey schist and clay
A wonderful, isolated block, surrounded by garrigue – the wild thorny scrub full of rosemary bushes and wild fennel plants. We were delighted to find this a couple of years ago, as old Carignan vines are hard to come by, and they produce fantastic blackberry-laden, deep, richly fruity wines.
Please forgive the imprecision about the age of many of these blocks, but before a certain date when all of the vineyards were recorded on maps, most of the estimations of a vineyard’s age are based on the memories of ageing vignerons who can remember their grandfather planting them.