It was a very windy, cloudy April morning that I found myself taking the wiggly, windy route to the village of Calce in the Fenouillèdes. I have long appreciated the fine wines of Olivier Pithon, in fact I still have the odd bottle of one of his first vintages, 2002, in my cellar. So I was looking forward to tasting his latest selection.

Olivier is originally from Anjou in the Loire Valley, he grew up in a winemaking family and has worked in the vines since he was 14. He left the Loire at 18 to study oenology in Bordeaux, which initiated a voyage of discovery into a world of wines different from that of his native homeland. Under the tutelage of Stéphane Derenoncourt, Olivier learnt how to make fine wines with elegance, that encapsulate the uniqueness of the land and the grape variety whilst respecting and working in harmony with nature.

Domaine Olivier Pithon

Thanks to a chance phone call with his brother’s friend Gérard Gauby, Olivier was introduced to the small village of Calce in the Pyrénées-Orientales. After which there was no looking back and in 2001 he bought his first vines and created Domaine Olivier Pithon. From the start Olivier worked organically, but then in 2010 he obtained biodynamic certification. Today Olivier has 23ha, his vines are at 300m above sea level, (although climbing up the hillside from Estagel gives one the impression that we are much higher up). There are now five biodynamic producers in this village which is perfect for biodynamic production with plenty of sun, wind, cool nights and a schistous soil. Olivier finds that treatments are rarely necessary and his usage of copper and sulphur is at a minimum. The harvest here starts early and finishes early. Each year is different but last year (2018) they kicked off on the 20th of August and had already completed by early September. Drought, as in a lot of the Roussillon and the Corbières, can be a problem.

Olivier makes eight wines; four whites and four reds. The entry level red and white are made using organic grapes that he has sourced from vignerons in the area. The idea behind this was to be able to offer “un vin glouglou” (easy drinking style) but because Olivier does not currently have enough grapes to be able to propose this, the solution was to buy in quality, organic grapes from the neighbouring Aspres vineyards. All the other wines are made from grapes grown from his own biodynamic vineyards.

Olivier Pithon-la maison du rire

Their Wines

Mon P’tit Pithon Blanc 2018

IGP Côtes de Catalanes certified organic

Made from a third each of Macabeu, Grenache Gris and Grenache Blanc.

A pale lemon wine with a fruity, floral nose. Creamy with hints of fresh almonds and stone fruits. Made in stainless tanks, the palate is clean and lightly aromatic.


Cuvée Laïs 2017

IGP Côtes de Catalanes certified biodynamic

A blend of Macabeu 60%, Grenache Gris 20% and Grenache Blanc 20% with six months spent in barrique. Named after their biodynamic Jersey cow! Very low yields of 18hl/ha. The wine is a deep lemon colour, with a steely smokey nose that leads onto a palate packed with honey, baked pear and mineral tones with a slightly oily finish. 2017 was a very good year in Calce and a year where the wines have a pronounced freshness. This is a delicious combination of steely mineral notes and ripe white fruits. A wine that could benefit from some ageing and will develop in bottle for between five and 10 years. I shall try this with some accras de morue, the slightly spicy salt cod fishballs that are so moreish.


D18 2017

IGP Côtes de Catalanes certified biodynamic

60% Grenache Gris and 40% Grenache Blanc, aged for 12 months in wooden tuns (foudre), a minuscule yield of 11hl/ha is collected for this blend. Named after the road that winds itself through Calce I was particularly keen to try this old favourite again and it didn’t disappoint. This wine benefits from decanting and serving at around 12°C, a complex nose comprising honeyed apricots, with herbs of the garrigue and acacia that lead onto a dry, very mineral and citrus (lime and pomelos) honeyed palate with an elegant long, very long finish. One to savour and come back to. I shall do a comparative tasting with the 2002 and report back!


Macabeu 2017

IGP Côtes de Catalanes certified biodynamic.

Grown on a schistous soil from 40 year old Macabeu vines, aged in barrels.

A deeper tone here with a more prominent oak character on the nose. Creamy and buttery, floral and smokey with plenty of ripe stone fruits and a bitter grapefruit finish.

I think I would enjoy this with an aged Comté or the Italian recipe of arrosto di maiale al latte, (pork poached in milk)


Mon P’tit Pithon 2018

IGP Côtes de Catalanes – this year does not qualify for organic status as a small percentage of the grapes used were from vineyards in conversion.

One third each of Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre, fermented in concrete tanks. A vibrant purple colour with an aromatic nose packed with summer berry fruits and crushed black pepper. Grown on marl and limestone terroirs the wine has a pleasing approachable fruitiness.

I would serve slightly chilled with a plate of charcuterie and a young goats cheese.


Cuvée Laïs 2017

AOP Côtes du Roussillon (incidentally the only AOP the domaine produces) certified biodynamic.

A Carignan based wine, blended with Grenache and Mourvèdre. Grown on a combination of schist, marl and limestone and aged in large wooden vats of 20 – 40hl. This wine has a softer, fruiter nose than the P’tit Pithon. A combination of black fruits and fraise des bois. Mineral tannins and a keen freshness, the fruits were lighter and fresher on the palate than expected from the nose. Elegant and perfumed with a slightly graphite finish.


Pilou 2015

IGP Côtes de Catalanes certified biodynamic. Named after the vineyard plot that the grapes are harvested from. This is 100% Carignan from 100 year old vines, grown on a limestone plateau. An interesting nose, slightly gamey with an aromatic hit of mixed peppercorns and wood smoke. The wine spent 12 months in oak vats. On the palate the gamey character disappears and the tannins are silky and soft, the wine is a heady combination of dark fruits, a fresh elegance, smokey and perfumed, with a great length, complex and evolving. I would decant this and don’t be put off by that Carignan gamey character on the nose, this is a beautiful wine. I shall enjoy this with roast duck or a wild boar ragout.


Le Colt d’en Olby 2015

IGP Côtes de Catalanes certified biodynamic

The catalan name for this wine means “the forgotten vineyard”, it is the name of the plot where the grapes are grown. This wine is a complete opposite in style to the Pilou, made from 100% Grenache Noir aged for 12 months in large oak vats. The wine is much paler and the gentle elegant nose has aromas of perfumed, red berries. The tannins are drying and give way to a light, mineral mouthfeel with a gentle spice and restrained finesse. It was a lovely wine but I would have been tempted to serve it before the Pilou. There was no 2016 produced and so when the 2015 finishes they will pass directly onto the 2017. I recently enjoyed an organic Wagyu steak from the Limousin region of France, I think that this wine would match very well with such a fine cut of beef.


Where to buy:

For more information on stockists or to arrange a visit contact Anaïs Chantepie (French, English and Spanish spoken)