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Region: France - Roussillon
Terroir: Les Aspres
Julien Ditté and Olivier Cazenave pooled their savings and acquired three picture-perfect but tiny parcels of vines in Tresserre just 10 miles (16km) north of the Spanish border in 2010. Proud Catalan Julien shared a vision with Bordelais Olivier, who makes great Bordeaux at the Château de Bel in Arveyres. That vision, thankfully, was of careful hand-made, chemical-free cultivation and natural, small-scale wine-making. Amistat (Catalan for 'friends') was born.
(View of Le Canigou - unofficial home of the Catalan spirit - from Tresserre)
Their first vintage (2011) produced 250 cases of delicious 100% Grenache red and 150 cases of equally stunning 40% Grenache Gris, 30% Grenache Blanc and 30% Macabeu white. Both are coaxed from the schist soils burnished by the strong sun of the Catalan, Mediterranean sun alleviated by the Tramontane winds.
The two Amistat wines immediately began to find fans, but with such limited production quantities, did not make their way very far from Perpignan. The fans have been telling their friends and word finally made it across the Channel and we were thrilled to be able to scoop Julien and Olivier up and import their wines. They've added a spectacular vin gris (rosé) now too.
Rather like telling people about your favourite restaurant, we feel a bit conflicted about this. In some ways we don't really want to tell everyone. It's amazing. It's delicious. It will, actually, change your life - for the better. However, there are only 200 cases made of the red and white, a mere 130 of the vin gris. Of course, prices of future vintages will increase because supply is so limited. So, buy it, drink it, enjoy it and just feel terribly, terribly pleased with yourself. But don't tell anyone.
Some commentators have discovered the delights of Amistat however:
‘When I tasted the two [now three] Amistat wines, I was transported to the place, the soil, the climate, the vignerons who made them. I’m telling you about them simply because they express so much of what I admire about wine: integrity, authenticity, purity, flavour, character.’
Tatsima Vin Gris 2015 'Great wine that's fab with food!'
Olly Smith, Three Wine Men
Amistat Blanc 2014 'A wine that falls into the "natural wine" category given that the grapes are grown without chemicals, only natural yeasts are used and a minimal of sulphur. It is also aged only in large, very lightly toasted barrels. It's a blend of Grenache and Macabeau, and has a haunting floral, straw and sweet earth nose, a light touch of almond or honey. In the mouth it has texture, body and richness - serve it not too cold because it has the layered complexity and some of the meaty character of a red wine. With excellent acidity and the fruit playing against those complex terroir flavours of the Roussillon and very old vines.'
Wines of the Month (April 2016), Tom Cannavan, wine-pages.com
Tatsima Vin Gris 2015 'Made from 60-year-old vines of Grenache Gris, fermented with wild yeasts and weighing in with an uncompromising 15% abv, this rosé marches to Amistat's excellent and incisive beat. Pale and peachy in colour, it is hugely intense on the palate, not oxidised, but earthy and concentrated with red berries, Grenache nuttiness and a huge punch of minerality and dry, orangy intensity to the acidity. A powerhouse rosé with a nip of tannin and distinctive indeed.' Wines of the Month (May 2016), Tom Cannavan, wine-pages.com