Wilfried Garcia of Domaine Cotzé originally comes from the world of catering and has been in contact with beautiful local products of healthy origin, including wine, for over ten years. In the world of food, drinks and service he came across natural wines, which suddenly opened up a completely different world for him. The world of natural wines grabbed him right away and didn't let go.
Because Wilfried has always lived and worked in the Pyrenees, he did not want to leave the region. He therefore set out in search of land on the Cerdagne plateau in the eastern Pyrenees, which half extends into Spain. During Wilfried's search for land for vineyards, he was also restoring old fruit orchards, using the fruits to make natural juices. The search for land for vineyards was not easy, but eventually he came across a nice piece of land on a sunny hillside suitable for planting.
Because land, cultivation and planting new orchards cost a lot of time and money, Wilfried decided to make wine as a négociant with grapes of healthy origin from Roussillon. The first real vintage of his wines was 2019. Before this time, he did internships in 2017 and 2018 with Pierre Danoy from Domaine Amagat and Tom Lubbe from Domaine Matassa. Here he was impressed by light, refreshing and aromatic wines, which in style are at odds with what is produced according to the conventions in the region.
The piece of land that Wilfried has planted himself is located at the extreme altitude of 1300 meters above sea level. Because this can pass for mountain wine, he has planted varieties from the cool Jura, Alsace and Savoie, including Savagnin, Chardonnay, Sylvaner and Altesse for the white, and Gamay, Mondeuse and Pinot Noir for the red. Wilfried plans to expand one hectare of his own plantings by another hectare in 2022, and with similar varieties.
The Transhumància lines are wines from grapes that Wilfried picks himself in the north of the Roussillon in Opoul from befriended organic producers. These grapes come from about 150 meters above sea level, with mainly calcareous soil. 'Transhumance' is the term for moving livestock from one pasture to another, and since Cerdagne is mainly used for bovine livestock farming, 'transhumance' is also a spring usage. That is why Wilfried came up with the idea of calling the wines of the Northern Rousillon grapes 'Transhumància', as these grapes have also been moved from one place to another.
Wilfried told us about the extreme altitude where he planted grapes in Cerdagne, and he said that at such an altitude all parameters are different. The vineyard's cycle is completely different from normal height: it prunes extremely late in the season, to avoid cuttings freezing to death earlier. It is also more difficult for animals at this altitude to find food, so a vineyard in bloom is a buffet. Wilfried therefore has to use nets, which also protect the grapes against hail. The great advantage of planting at this altitude is the greatly reduced risk of diseases and the fact that the orchards are less affected by the warming climate, because the night always offers good cooling. This will benefit the wines in the future and in the longer term.
Also, the work in the basement is different than at a more normal height; temperatures can drop to near freezing, which could pose a risk of fermentation by the time harvesting takes place at this altitude. Wilfried would like to come up with a sustainable solution for this, which he is currently working on. For the Transhumància wines, this is not a big problem for the time being, as these will be harvested much earlier in the season than the 1300 meter grapes.
In the basement Wilfried works as cleanly as possible, since he wants to work completely without added SO2. Because the altitude has an influence on the fermentation, it keeps a very accurate record of many different values during the fermentation, including the temperature, to ensure that everything runs smoothly. 'Stress' on the wines during fermentation affects the wine for the rest of its life in the bottle and in the glass, so Wilfried tries to monitor as much as possible to avoid problems (in a natural way). . Bottling takes place in the spring, as soon as the temperatures rise and the malolactic fermentation has taken place.
For now, Wilfried will continue to plant apple and pear orchards little by little, so that the high orchards eventually exist in a polyculture form, and thus hopefully be more resilient to the changing climate and the associated problems. According to the cow farmers in the region Wilfried is crazy, but we can't wait for the further progress of this project!
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