John Schmitt has five hectares of vines in some of the harshest, most exposed and rugged vineyard area I have ever seen.
John's domaine, as the crow flies, is relatively close to Pierre Rousse's domaine Le Pelut. The countryside, however, could scarcely be any different. To reach John's property, and several small parcels, you take a small road south from the main auto-route that connects Narbonne and Carcassone. The country along the main auto-route here is clearly windswept though otherwise only very gently undulating. The change though, after heading south for twenty minutes is very dramatic. This is countryside that makes you mutter to yourself under your breath the first time you see it. It is very beautiful.
John is a great guy. He is very welcoming and very serious about farming. I find it fascinating to speak to growers like him and to get the notion that this is someone for whom work and life are the same thing. For whom farming and making wine is not a job but a culture........a total, total, all consuming passion.
His wines are energetic and delicious and truly reflective of the extraordinary terroir in which they're grown. And this truly is extraordinary terroir.
During my first visit to see John we tasted through the very young wine and juice of 2015, which was exceptionally good quality, and then drove with the team to see each of John's parcels. We visited his celebrated and very pretty site 'Mamette' first which, as it happens, is the most protected and gently sloping of all of them. The parcels then became progressively more steep and dramatic. We all spoke at length about the conditions in this part of Corbieres and John made a point stressing that this place is always extreme. The wind, the sun, the heat in summer, the cold in winter and, especially, the soil. After visiting the fourth vineyard John drove down to a cutting to fully illustrate the incredibly individual terroir.
This is pure schist.
We stood at the wall of rock, pictured below, and I could barely drag myself away. This is the most pure and vivid example of schist I have ever seen, in any vineyard. As you can see, there is a mere one or two of inches of poor topsoil leading to pure, friable rock. It is very, very interesting.
Schist is very important from a farming perspective. It provides a very tangible sense of freshness and minerality to wine when grown in warm areas. John Schmitt's wines, made predominantly with old vine Grenache and Carignan, have this as a defining imprint....ripeness coupled with a terrific sense of drinkability and balance.
All of John's wines are free from any sort of additives and are never fined or filtered. They are sensational in the true sense of the word.
I really can't wait for these to be tasted in Australia.