Marc Castan is from the Corbières Maritimes country and grew up between the sea and mountains. After graduating from high school, he decided to study winemaking and took over his grandfather’s vineyard. Initially worked for the local co-op, he started Domaine M?m?rutá in 2009.
The vineyard extends over 14 ha on the Aude littoral between the towns of La Palme, Roquefort-des-Corbières and Leucate within the AOC Fitou. The terroir is rich and fragmented ; from rolled pebbles located next to the La Palm pond to limestone cliffs by the Mediterranean Sea. 70% of the vines are trimmed in Gobelet and the rest are done in either Guyot simple or Cordon de Royat. Yields are very low; between 16hl / ha and 20hl / ha on average within the grape varieties of Carignan, Mourvèdre, Syrah, Grenache Noir and Gris, Macabeu and Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains.
The soils are gently worked with respect for life and biodiversity; biodynamic practices without certification are applied. Tree hedges are planted on the edge of the vineyard and the plots are maintained by hand. The treatments are simple and based on sulphur, green clay and decoctions of plants (chamomile, nettle, dandelion, lavender or rosemary). Marc Castan introduced a small herd of five Highlands cattle into the parcels of Domaine M?m?rutá in November 2013. They grazed peacefully within the vines, by the pond of La Palme. In order to reduce the environmental impact from mechanical works in the vineyards, Marc wanted a natural approach ; “I chose these cattles because they are a rustic breed that requires little maintenance, calm and clears the brush well.”
Today his herd is made up of several breeds: • Highland from the Highland region in Scotland, the cattle is characterized by long hair and long horns raising up. This very old breed can graze swampy areas better than any other breed. It is an excellent brush cutter which consume small shrubs and requires little care. The cattle is able to live in the harshest conditions: cold, snow, swamp… and can adapts to warm climates. • Jersey of Anglo-Norman origin, this small-scale milkmaid is known for her very rich milk highly esteemed for butter making. She is appreciated for her calving aptitude, hardiness and docility. Jersey cattles can show a lot of affection to their caring owners. • Aurochs from a selection of domestic cattle breeds, this mixture aims to recreate the wild type of the original aurochs, a species that disappeared during the 16th century.
Their natural compost and lawn mower skills (cf ‘Les Tondeuses’ label) are beneficial for the vines. During the dry season they graze in the moors and lagoon areas of the coast. Marc brings them a supplement of homemade fodder with mainly alfalfa. Calves are reared with the mother until they are 8 months old. Well adapted to the local climate, the rustic cattles of Domaine M?m?rutá have a weakness for the olive tree leaves they have discovered at the estate. And they also enjoy swimming in the pond when it gets too hot!
Manual harvest usually starts as early as mid-August to preserve natural acidity, only in the morning and in small boxes. In the winery, vinification happens naturally. Nothing is used to tamper the juice during fermentation, and carbonic maceration is often favoured. Light punchings of the cap and pumping-over are done for the full-bodied wines. Almost every wine is stored in old barrels during the winter. No fining nor sulphites are added except for some cuvee only when necessary.
Marc is therefore mindful of working ‘cleanly’ in order to produce the most natural wines possible.