Puig Parahy, Roussillon
Georges Puig is renowned for having some of the very oldest Rivesaltes Rancio wines, probably some of the oldest wines of this style from anywhere. We were privileged to taste wines dating back to 1890 when we visited him and were completely blown away. They are certainly not cheap but the tiniest drop in the bottom of the glass lasts a very long time on the palate and gives the most amazing range of wonderful sensory experiences.
Georges comes from a long line of winemakers dating back to 1446 although the family has had its inevitable ups and downs during that time. Of the 240 hectares that had been cultivated prior to the 1878 destruction of the vineyard by phylloxera, 140 were replanted but Georges' grandfather worked hard to bring the estate back and won numerous medals in the great wine festivals of the day such as in 1893 and 1896 in Rouen and Paris. Some of the estate's vines still date back to 1878.
In 1980, Georges took over the Puig Parahy Castle together with tending the vines of Fort Saint Pierre and Sant Lluc and the Mas de Myseris. In recent years, a wide range of grape varieties has been planted, according to the soils. Fort Saint-Pierre is argilo-limestone, those of Sant Lluc are stonier whereas the grounds of the Myseris farmhouse on a schist solid mass, are planted with Grenache. Other varieties include Syrah, Carignan, Grenache Noir, Blanc and Gris, Muscatel of Alexandria, Macabeu, Mourvèdre and Muscat à petits grains.
Apart from the range of dry wines, Puig Parahy's reputation is founded on its red Rivesaltes wines dating back to the nineteenth century. We were lucky enough to arrive soon after David Schildknecht (Parker's man in the south) had visited; otherwise, I somehow doubt we would be shown so many fabulous wines. Georges has nearly 50 vintages of Rivesaltes in ancient barrels under the house (amazingly he invited us to see them after the tasting; I told my children not to breathe too close to the older ones which looked like they could fall apart quite soon).
The youngest Rivesaltes, from 2009, has excellent potential but I found far more complexity just by going back a few years to 2005, a wine which has some of the oxidized character necessary to reveal the magic of this style. Already, there are nuts and fig on the nose carrying through to the palate and lingering with chocolate coming in here. The longer these wines mature in the barrel, the more they oxidise and gain incredible complexity as well as ever smoother textures. The tiniest sip is all you need for the wine to make its mark and continue to do so for a long time.
Other vintages available:
(David Schildknecht Wine Advocate June 2011)
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