Olivier Pithon: ‘We’re borrowing the earth from our children’

For Olivier Pithon, love for the earth can’t be separated from the vocation of being a vintner. This is a philosophy that comes through in his wines, the very reflection of the Pyrénées-Orientales terroir.

The passion for wine espoused by the Pithon family is nothing new to them. Olivier’s maternal grandfather, a winemaker from the Angevin region, didn’t hang around when it came to passing on all he knew about the craft, transmitting to his grandchildren a vocation to last a lifetime. Jo Pithon, Olivier’s older brother, ran a domain in his native region, one that has now been absorbed into the Domaine Belargus. Olivier, on the other hand, had his eyes on a further objective, and at the tender age of just 18 sought to establish himself elsewhere. Starting out in Bordeaux, he carried on learning, focussing on all things theoretical, before undergoing several vineyard placements to get some practice. These fundamental experiences took him to the more atypical wine region of the Jurançon and Beaujolais, less traditional but arguably more dynamic.

As the years went by, Olivier made more and more connections with passionate actors in the viticultural world. Thanks to this, he came to the important realisation that the work carried out in the vineyard, as well as the tasting experience, should translate his love for the earth. Idealistic and somewhat sentimental, Olivier took this mission to heart, applying himself to real precision in his winemaking to achieve perfect balance and enjoyable moments. The turn of the millennium set him off on a new path, since our vintner ceded to the charm of the Pyrénées Orientales region, landing soon afterwards in Calce, close to Perpignan, the Mediterranean, and renowned wine spots like Maury and Rivesaltes.

This venture began in 2001: Olivier, his cow, and his mare settled down on 8.5 hectares of old vines growing on slopes rich in schist, marl, clay, and limestone. At the basis of his approach was this: if Olivier put his heart and soul into the domain, the grapes would give all this back, so the hours and the effort dedicated to this exploit can’t really be quantified. And when it comes to the cuvées themselves, Olivier reckons that it’s impossible to truly get the best from a wine without having treated the parcels with the utmost respect.

Unsurprisingly, then, organic methods were applied, followed by the arrival of biodynamics, for which Olivier got his certification in 2010. With the help of Jacques Mell, biodynamics consultant, our wine maker got to know his vines, his soils, and his terroir much better, becoming highly sensitive to what each of these living elements requires. In concrete terms, the soil is worked sustainably, compost is used to stimulate it, and silica is applied in autumn and spring to strengthen the photosynthesis process. After over a decade of intense work, Olivier Pithon confirms that his white grapes (40% Maccabeu, 40% Grenache gris, 20% Grenache blanc) and red (50% Grenache noir, 40% Carignan, 10% Mourvèdre) have been reborn in a way, free from generations of chemical use.

Today, the domain covers no less than 22 hectares, producing 150,000 bottles a year with the environment held in the highest esteem. And one thing is sure for this Catalan vintner: “We don’t inherit the earth from our ancestors, we’re borrowing it from our children”.

You can find a range of cuvées by Olivier Pithon here