Domaine Denois spreads across 55 hectares with 36 planted in 57 parcels around the villages of Roquetaillade, Magrie and Caudies de Fenouillet. It's not one big property with tree-lined path down the middle leading to a posh château. Instead, good vines and variety were the priority, allowing you to play with different exposure, altitude and soil types for more intricate wines.
High density plantation is another quality factor. Vines have been planted at 5000 per hectare since 2000, i.e one vine for 2 m²; and trellising height has been increased to about 2 m, giving ideal leaf canopy (the vine's engine room) for producing quality grapes, unheard of in the Languedoc Roussillon.
Jean-Louis Denois has painstakingly part-replanted every plot since he took over, i.e replaced missing vines rather than rip them out and replant with new ones. This is about quality choices not productivity!
Vine roots need to grow deep down into the soil to really find what the earth has to offer. Over the year, tilling helps aerate the earth and stimulate the microbe world. In winter, earth is piled up around the vines.
All tasks in the vineyard are done throughout the growing season purely for quality reasons: pruning, strict debudding, careful trellising, leaf removal on the least exposed side, green harvest if required and removing leaves on the other side before picking.
Picking dates are carefully set according to fruit ripeness, which should be optimal for reds and to retain freshness for whites. Depending on weather variations, it sometimes takes a few days to change fruit balance.
With quality firmly in mind, a first 'green' harvest (i.e before ripening) is done if required to limit yields, aiming for about 40 to 45 hl/ha max, and just 20 to 30 hl/ha for the old Syrah vines!
The first visual sorting in the vineyard is vital for preparing and making it easier for the next tasks in the winery.
Picking has been done by hand for 25 years, into little crates to keep the grapes whole until they get to the winery.
Whites are loaded straight into the press by gravity. The reds are destemmed and the berries pass over a vibrating then air-blown sorting table twice to eliminate shrivelled and damaged grapes and pieces of stem, and loaded by gravity into vats without pressing for whole-berry fermentation, which extracts less tannin. This sorting equipment introduced in 2011 has contributed to improved roundness and silky tannins in the last few vintages of reds.