No Scores & No Hype: Neal Rosenthal’s Newest Discovery from the South of France’s New Wave

Posted on: 10/2/18 12:01 PM

 l’Horizon Côtes

Freshness, intense minerality and purity of fruit. Not necessarily something we associate with the South of France, where massive wines if overripe fruit and heady alcohol dominate. But not in Calce, in Roussilon’s Côtes Catalanes, where Thomas Teibert and his Domaine de l’Horizon craft wines of dizzying complexity, incredible length and tension, with impossible-to-deny minerality.

Neal Rosenthal has something special on his hands here and Tim and I were blown away by these beauties during our annual séance at the mothership in NY in August. In fact, I have become so obsessed with these wines they have become an annual purchase for me, and one I look to lay down for years to come.


2016 Domaine de l’Horizon Côtes Catalanes Blanc “L’Esprit de l’Horizon”

My Note: This reeks of stone, citrus and honey and there’s a certain resonance with Chablis, but the flavors are entirely its own. But what is most impressive is the palate: the intensity of the minerality demands attention, and gives the impression of tannin, in the length of its finish. Satisfyingly complex, and a wonder to behold, this is engaging wine defined.

2016 Domaine de l’Horizon Côtes Catalanes Rouge “L’Esprit de l’Horizon”

Neal Rosenthal: The purity of fruit here – crystalline and spherical at the same time – is what’s most impressive. Impressive too is the decidedly delicate footprint this wine leaves on the palate, where freshness is the touchstone, rather than power. Long and lingering on the finish, this is succulent and decidedly delicious. It’s easy to see a bottle of this go in one sitting. Perhaps two.

More about the Wines:

I like to reframe common debates in ways that problematize the debate itself. For example, one of my uncles works for NASA. He is keen on further space travel and exploration, and often talks of establishing a colony on Mars, or some other equally comforting and welcoming gaseous rock. In response, I often remind him that we haven’t even finished exploring this planet. I mean what’s really at the very bottom of the ocean? I had some of the National Geographic books when I was a child, and what we do know is there is pretty damned terrifying.

Building on this theme, it is not uncommon for explorers in the wine world to offer all manner of New World appellations and countries as the next great undiscovered terroir demanding our attention. Whether it’s Chile or South Africa or Australia or Washington, there’s a critic, wine writer, retailer, sommelier somewhere banging the gong for something new.

However, I’d like to remind these people that we haven’t even finished discovering France! There are myriad appellations that are only now coming to light, some of which are among the most complex, unusual and compelling not just in France but all the world of wine.

Take Calce, tucked away down in Southern France’s Roussillon, at the foot of the Pyrenées, 10 miles northwest of Perpignon in an appellation known as the Côtes Catalanes. There are 200 inhabitants of this tiny village, one of whom you may have heard of – Gerard Gauby of Domaine Gauby, the leader of the so-called Calce school.

Gauby was clearly a visionary in recognizing what was possible here, in the geologically diverse and complex area that combines altitude, old vines and a mixture of terroirs – granite, gravel and marls – often with little to no topsoil. However, Gauby’s wines, while complex, compelling and very interesting, often go the way of too much in my mind. Too much concentration, too much ripeness, too much power, and not enough room for Calce to come shining through. Enter Thomas Teibert of Domaine de l’Horizon.

Teibert is a fascinating character, with a long history in the wine world. After working for years as the winemaker at the very highly regarded Manincor in the Alto Adige, he sold and popularized the also highly regarded Austrian-made Stockinger barrels throughout Europe. He met Gerard Gauby in 2005 and immediately knew that he wanted to make wine in Calce, where the complexity and difficulty of the terroir, with unforgiving soils, steep slopes constantly buffeted by the intense Tramontane winds, offered what he saw as his greatest challenge.

The wines of Domaine de l’Horizon have a purity, intensity and, above all, minerality that positively sings throughout the range. What is notable is the freshness in everything. Despite being in France’s South, the wines often clock in at around 12% alcohol, with an intensity of flavor and expression that belies such modesty.

I really cannot recommend these wines enough, especially for the terroir obsessed among you. There are few wines as distinct, complex and delicious. Too much of the wine world is focused on status and wines that more and more are merely commodities for trading, rather than drinking. The wines of de l’Horizon remind me of why I drink wine at all. It is not the romanticism of imagining the wind-swept ruggedness of Calce and its living-on-the-edge difficulty of viticulture here that makes these wines great. They are indeed so. And you should find out why for yourself.

2016 Domaine de l’Horizon Côtes Catalanes Blanc “L’Esprit de l’Horizon”

Neal Rosenthal: Thomas’s “L’Esprit de l’Horizon” Blanc is a blend of 80% Macabeu (from 55-year-old vines) and 20% Muscat, vinified partially in concrete tank and partially in large oak (Stockinger, of course). Clocking in at a beautiful and digestible 12% alcohol, this is a wine of pure minerality—with bell-toll-clear, ringing notes of stones and powdered lime. The acidity is positively vivacious, and the finish is a long decrescendo of honey-tinged citrus fruits and deep rock. A sense of mineral-drenched extract lingers on the tongue for quite some time, almost mimicking tannin in its cling and resonance.

2016 Domaine de l’Horizon Côtes Catalanes Rouge “L’Esprit de l’Horizon”

Neal Rosenthal: The “L’Esprit” Rouge comprises 60% Carignan and 40% Syrah, from vines between 15 and 30 years of age, and the Syrah—planted by Gauby—is actually some of the oldest Syrah in the area. Thomas leaves about one-third whole clusters during the vinification in order to provide spice, structure, and complexity, and the wine spends one year in a blend of foudres and demi-muids—all used. As with all the red wines, pigeage is performed sparingly, and only by foot—and remontage is employed as the main means of extraction. The end result is arresting in its combination of complexity and light-footedness—a southern French wine of this succulent depth and herb-tinged complexity at only 12.5% alcohol? Well, believe it.

Posted in Daily Flash By Ian Halbert