This chain of mountains nearly 500 km long, separates France from Spain, and is named after Pyrene, a Mediterranean Princess found dead there by Hercules. Torn by grief and remorse, he commanded everything around him to mourn, and “struck by Herculean voice, the mountaintops shudder at the ridges; he kept crying out with a sorrowful noise ‘Pyrene!’ and all the rock-cliffs and wild-beast haunts echo back ‘Pyrene!’ …”
This is indeed another world. A world of wild rhododendrons, glowing gorse, forests of pine and profusions of raspberries, blackberries, wild herbs spilling over crystalline, proverbially bubbling brooks, gentian and wild carnations, and remarkable endemic flora and fauna existing no where else but here: meadows of lilies, iris, and orchids, with wide-winged golden eagles, lammergeiers and griffons wheeling lazily overhead.
A google search is more likely to come up with the vineyard than the peak of that name, but we know Rives Blanques exists; we know, because we climbed it in 2010, to celebrate the tenth vintage at Rives-Blanques (see our Diary of a Vineyard).
We were not the first to go that way. Bronze age shepherds, Celts, Iberians, Vandals, Visigoths, Romans … even Hannibal may have passed by in 218 BC on his way to the Alps.
Older than the Alps, this part of the Pyrenees has mineral deposits of coal, iron and lignite, and is made up mostly of granite and gneiss – stones we find in our vineyard, brought there from the mountain tops by glaciers carving out the river Aude. The peak Rives Blanques looms over our horizon, often sending icy winds and violent storms shrieking ‘Pyrene!’ our way – but mostly it is a benevolent guardian, both protecting and forming our micro-climate: the true hallmark of Rives-Blanques wines.
Latitide 42° 28′ 33.2″ (42.4759°) north
Longitude 2° 15′ 33.2″ (2.2592°) east