Showing posts with label marsanne. Show all posts
Showing posts with label marsanne. Show all posts

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  • Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Rhône Wine Tour 2018 - Lirac & Tavel (Day 4)



Tavel Round Pebbles
The of our wine tour through the southern Rhône Valley took us through Lirac and Tavel AOCs. This day followed visits to Luberon and Ventoux, Cairanne, and Costières de Nîmes earlier in the week.

Tavel is located on the right bank of Rhône River. It achieved AOC status since 1937 and was actually the second to establish Cru status, right after the famous Châteauneuf-du-Pape. This southern Rhône Valley Cru is also unique in that it is the only Cru where all appellation wines must be rosé wine.

Vines have been cultivated in Tavel since the 5th century BC, first planted by the Greeks and then expanded by the Romans. The name "Villa Tavellis" first appeared in 13th century writings, eventually becoming Tavel. From 1737, a royal edict made it illegal to add foreign wines to those from Tavel and winemakers were also required to mark their barrels with "C.d.R." (Côte du Rhône), thus setting the precedent for what would become the AOC. In 1902, Tavel vineyard owners and winemakers formed a union to build the reputation of their rose wines. This eventually led to winemakers from Tavel petitioning the Gard to officially define the production area and become an AOC in 1937.

The soils in Tavel are mainly composed of alluvial, sandy, marly limestone, and crystalline & gravelly limestone, while the climate is Mediterranean where the sun and mistral winds are dominant. Nine grapes are permitted in Tavel, and no more than 60% of one varietal can be included in the final blend. Thus, all Tavel wines are blends, with Grenache often being the base. Traditionally, Tavel wines typically have a darker red colour due to the longer maceration times, where the grape skins have more contact with the must and creating wines that are more powerful and even somewhat tannic. However, there is a trend currently towards lighter rosés from Tavel due to the success of the lighter styles from Provence.

The introduction to Tavel actually began , during a lovely dinner at the Michelin-starred Entre Vigne & Garrigue with Thomas Giubbi of Vignobles & Compagnie, and Guillaume Demoulin of Château Trinquevedel. We tasted some of their latest Tavel wines, as well as got to try a 2014 Tavel that showed how well Tavel wines can age.

Entre Vigne & Garrigue Dinner
Vignobles & Compagnie was formed in 1963 when the growers of the department of the Gard came together with the aim of promoting Rhône Valley wines. The cellar, which was strategically located near the Pont du Gard, was also created at this time, is still in use today, and recently gained Heritage Status. The company has changed hands over the years, with Jean-Marie Berteau taking over the reins in 1972 and remaining in charge for 34 years. It was during this period that site underwent modernization and experienced major economic growth. In 1990, the Taillan Group took over activities and formed partnerships with local winegrowers. In 2011, Thomas Giubbi became the Managing Director at Vignobles & Compagnie and worked on grape supply to improve the quality of the wines, a task he continues to work on as he forges partnerships with many vineyards across the southern Rhône Valley. Vignobles & Compagnie is committed to working alongside its partner winegrowers to support, develop, and secure the future of these family estates by providing assistance in the vineyard, vinification, and the ageing process. The also help these estates market their wines. Thomas and his team are working towards exporting their wines to Ontario.

New Tavel Coat of Arms
Guillaume Demoulin is the 4th generation of his family to farm the vineyards at Château Trinquevedel. His great-grandfather, Eugène, founded the 13th century estate in 1936 and began to the revive the site that was overrun with wild weeds. By 1960, the grapes were finally producing wine worthy of bottling. Today, there are 32 hectares of estate vineyards located in the hills Montagne Noire and planted to varietals such as Grenache, Cinsault, and Clairette. Soils consist primarily of sand and quartzite rounded stones. Wines are crafted to show typicity and quality of the Cru while using traditional and innovative wine growing techniques, while also respecting the environment.

In addition to the roles at their respective company's, Thomas and Guillaume are also co-presidents of the Syndicat Viticole de l’Appellation Tavel winemakers association. Among their more recent activities is the introduction of a new, modernized coat of arms that will be embossed on the neck of Tavel wines. This was a 2-year project that will finally be realized beginning with the 2018 vintage.

Entre Vigne & Garrigue is a small, family-owned bed & breakfast and restaurant created in a charming 17th century stone farmhouse located in the Rhône Valley countryside. The surroundings were quite serene and peaceful. The gourmet dinner was lovely and included a cheese cart like I've never seen before!

Entre Vigne & Garrigue - Cheese Plate with Tavel

Entre Vigne & Garrigue - Cheese CartEntre Vigne & Garrigue - Dessert

Vincent de Bez, Château d’Aqueria
After a restful night, it was another early start, with more wet weather as we toured Tavel and Lirac. The first stop of the day was at the historic Tavel producer Château d’Aqueria. The fascinating history of Château d’Aqueria begins in 1595, when Louis Joseph d’Aqueria purchased the area of Tavel known as "Puy Sablonneux" from the monks at the Abbey in Villeneuve les Avignon. His son, Robert d'Aqueria, built a home that was transformed in the 18th century into the Château as it stands today. The estate has changed hands many times since the 18th century, all the while maintaining winegrowing activities because the terroir is very suitable for winegrowing. The estate has been in the same family for three generations now, when Jean Olivier purchased the estate 1919, and his son-in-law Paul de Bez began managing the estate in 1943, followed by his grandsons Bruno and Vincent de Bez, who today continue to run the estate.

Château d’Aqueria Tanks

Today, there are 60+ ha of vineyards surrounding the Château with light, sandy-clayey soils that are ideal for the production of rose's, while the limestone scree soils on their property just east of the Château in Lirac help produce white wines with outstanding fruit and depth. Château d’Aqueria practices organic fertilization and is High Environmental Value (HVE) certified, a system that promotes biodiversity and an environmentally-friendly agricultural approach involving pesticides, fertilization and water resource management. We met up with Vincent who gave us a tour of the facility, followed by a tasting of some of their latest wines. More wet weather lingered in the area, so we did not get a tour of the vineyards. However, Vincent told us we could drive to one of their nearby vineyards and it was amazingly littered with thousands (!) of rounded pebbles that allow the vines to grow in the best possible conditions thanks to the natural soil filter.

Domaine Coudoulis
The next stop was at Domaine Coudoulis, a winery in Lirac located on a terrace overlooking the village of Saint-Laurent-des-Arbres. The family-owned and -operated estate winery was purchased by Bernard Callet in 1996 because he knew the site had fabulous soil. After 10 years of observing and learning about the site, Bernard called upon Patrick Hilaire, a man who had worked on some of the most famous vineyards, to create terroir-driven wines worthy of the Domaine. As Bernard explained, the vineyards have existed on this site since the 1960's on old terroir with its alluvial terraces that are rich in round pebbles - similar to Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Since that time, the building was rebuilt in 2011 into a modern facility with large concrete vats for fermentation and ageing, all the while transitioning their 25 hectares of vineyards to organic winemaking. Unfortunately, they do not make any rosés - as the rosé wines from this site are too dark compared to the current trend of light coloured rosés. They also currently do not make any white wines. However, there are plans to make some white wines as they planted some Grenache Blanc in 2017. Thus, after tasting their fine selection of red wines we took a tour of their modern winemaking facility and barrel cellar. We'll have to check back in a few years to see how Domaine Coudoulis fared with their Grenache Blanc.

Domaine Coudoulis Tanks

Domaine Coudoulis Production Area

Lunch was in the heart of Saint-Laurent-des-Arbres at Restaurant Le Papet and we were joined by Edouard Guerin, Director of Wines and Vineyards at Ogier, and Stéphane Soulier, Sales Manager at Les Vignerons de Tavel.

Edouard Guerin, Ogier
The story of Ogier begins with Ogier the Dane, an eccentric man who went off to fight in Basque country around 800 A.D. and on his way back home stopped in Massif Central. His stop became permanent and the Ogier name spread throughout the Rhône Valley. Antoine Ogier is a distant descendant of Ogier the Dane and he acquired an old cooperage in 1859. The main winery is in Chateauneu-du-Pape, where an old cooperage was converted into maturation cellars and is the largest in the Rhône Valley with its walls bearing witness to a history dating back to the Middle Ages. In 1995 with the arrival of Didier Couturier, the winery undergoes renewal, establishing relationships with winegrowers, and giving rise to the Ogier style - purity of fruit, freshness, and depth. During this time, a precision approach from vine to winemaking with a minimal interventionalist approach becomes the Ogier hallmark. Edouard was personable, friendly and showed plenty of passion for wine during lunch. I hope our paths cross again someday as the wines from Ogier were lovely. The Lirac Blanc and Tavel wines, one of each, we tasted from Ogier during lunch were fresh and delicious, especially the unreleased-at-the-time Lirac Blanc that ended up being one of my favourite wines of the day.

Lunch at Restaurant Le Papet, Saint-Laurent-des-Arbres

The cooperative cellar Les Vignerons de Tavel was founded in 1937, one year after the birth of AOP Tavel, when a few winemakers from decided to unite. France's first cooperative was inaugurated by the President of France, Albert Lebrun, in 1938 and was declared to be part of France's national heritage in 2013. Just weeks after my visit to Rhône, the cooperatives Les Vignerons de Tavel merged with the Cave des Vins de Cru in Lirac to become Cave des Vignerons de Tavel and Lirac that now represents 90 vine growers, 880 hectares of vines, and 35,000 hectolitres of production within AOC Tavel and Lirac, and other southern Rhône Valley appellations.

Rodolphe de Pins, Château de Montfaucon
After lunch, we navigated the narrow streets of the village of Montfaucon, on the right bank of the Rhône River in Lirac, to visit the historic Château de Montfaucon. The first inhabitants of the exceptional Montfaucon rocky hill located across Châteauneuf-du-Pape can be traced back to the pre-historic era. In the 11th century, the castle's first watchtower was built as the Rhône River was a border between the French Kingdom and the Holy Roman German Empire. After the castle was extended in the Middle Ages, the King of France gave title to the first Baron of Montfaucon to the powerful Laudun family in 1420. 100 years later, a winery is built at the bottom of the Château and wine was made here until 1936, when it was converted to a barrel cellar for ageing. Between 1936 and 1995, even though the family cultivated the vines, the grapes were sold to a cooperative.

Current owner, Rodolphe de Pins, took over the family estate in 1995, rebuilt the winery, and began producing wine. His ancestors, the de Pertuis family, acquired the castle in 1766 and Joseph Gabriel de Pertuis became the Baron de Montfaucon. Joseph's son, Eugene, had a son named Louis who would become Baron Louis de Montfaucon. As they discovered with old wine labels with the name "1829 Vin de Monsieur le Baron de Montfaucon", they found that both Eugene and Louis were amateurs in wine. Baron Louis restored the Château and left the estate upon his death in 1910 to his young niece, Madeleine, since he never married or had children. When Madeleine married, she became Comtesse de Pins. She is also Rodolphe's grandmother.

Château de Montfaucon
Today, Château de Montfaucon has more than 60 ha of vines, including a recent purchase of a 7 ha Cru Lirac vineyard that has a plot containing 140-year-old Clairette vines. The vineyards of Château de Montfaucon have a diversity of soils - calcareous pebbelstone on silty sandy soil, soil with clay, and sandy soil - and exposures. Rodolphe has a natural approach to winemaking with minimal intervention, allowing the fruit to express its flavours. He also likes to make wines that have elegance, finesse, and complexity, while also being enjoyable and easy to drink.

White wines make up 10% of the production at Château de Montfaucon and all of the wines we tasted in the 500 year old cellar with Rodolphe were delicious, including a lovely back-vintage 2012 Clairette and 2011 Lirac white cuvée. Unfortunately, once again due to the rain, we were not able to see any of the vineyards. Rodolphe also invited us for a quick visit to his home - the Château (i.e. the real castle) located some minutes walking distance from the Domaine that was perched atop the village of Montfaucon, but the rains and lack of time would not allow it. All in all, this was a very fine visit that I would highly recommend to anyone visiting Lirac.

Lirac is located just north of Tavel and sits across the river from Châteauneuf-du-Pape, sharing many of the same characteristics as its famous neighbour. The area is very Mediterranean with plenty of sunshine and Mistral winds. Moreover, many of the vineyards in Lirac are laid out in terraces on hillsides among garrigue scrubland. There are three main soil types - limestone plateaus that covered with red clay and pebbles, ancient alluvial terraces made up of quartz pebbles and red clay atop a bed of sand, and sand laced with small pebbles. Due to soil diversity, many different grapes thrive here. Lirac achieved Cru status in 1947, making it the third oldest Rhône Valley Cru. At the time, it was known for producing easy drinking rose. Today, however, only 3% of the appellation's production is devoted to rosé (and 10% to white wines.)

The history of winemaking in Lirac goes back more than two thousand years. The small, nearby town of Roquemaure and its port became quite prosperous and powerful as it exported the wines of Cote du Rhône to Paris, England, and Holland. In the 16th century, the wines from Lirac gained a reputation for high quality wines that were served in the royal courts of France and abroad. In 1727, Lirac wines were the first from Rhône to be branded as C.d.R. to certify their origin, thus making Lirac Cru the original appellation. As mentioned earlier, the C.d.R. branding was applied to Tavel in 1737, and was later given to all wines from Côtes du Rhône.

Domaine Lafond Roc-Epine
The final winery visit of the day was in the heart of Tavel at Domaine Lafond Roc-Epine. The Lafond family has a rather long history of wine growing that began in 1780 with Pascal Odoyer, the governor of Tavel, was one of the first wine growers in his village and also the great-uncle of Jean-Pierre Lafond. In 1948, Valéry Taulier, the grandfather of current owner Pascal Lafond built the first private cellar of Tavel and contributed greatly to the growth of the Tavel appellation. In 1970, Jean-Pierre Lafond, Valéry Taulier’s son-in-law and a lover of race horses names his wine estate "Roc-Epine" in memory of the famous race horse, and Domaine Lafond Roc-Epine was born. In 1978, Pascal and his father Jean-Pierre Lafond begin bottling their own wines. Fast forward to 2009, they begin organic certification and eliminate the use of pesticides, herbicides and other chemical products, while only using copper and sulphite to protect the vineyards from the disease. In 2012, they received their organic certification and an emphasis to produce wine in the vineyard was strengthened. In 2015, the next generation of the Lafond family begins work at the winery with the arrival of Jean-Baptiste Lafond, Pascal's son, after he completed his BTS Viticulture-Oenology studies in Beaune. In addition to Tavel wines, they also produce Lirac appellation wines. In total, 3 hectares of vines are devoted white grape varieties, while 23 hectares are planted with red varietals, with soils consisting of mainly white rocks, sandy soil, and pebbles (alluvial soil). In terms of whites and rosé wines, they had a Lirac Blanc and two Tavel Rosés, and all three were delicious.

Frédéric Grasset, Château de Ségriès
A fine day of wine tasting in Lirac and Tavel concluded at Entre Vigne & Garrigue, where Frédéric Grasset of Château de Ségriès joined us for dinner and to present his wines. Frédéric is the son-in-law of owner Henri de Lanzac. In 1994, Henri purchased the domain that included a partly ruined mansion from the 17th century that belonged to the noble Regis de Gatimel family since 1804. This makes Château de Ségriès one of the oldest estates in Lirac. Three generations of the family work at the Château, including the 75-year-old Henri. His son, Laurent, is the viticulturist and winemaker, while his daughter Anna, wife of Frédéric, also works at the winery. Together, they manage 58 ha of old vines averaging 80 years of age on mainly clay-limestone soils. Only a small portion of this acreage is devoted to AOP Lirac white wines, while 11 ha in a single vineyard in Tavel. Château de Ségriès only makes one Lirac Blanc and one Tavel wine, so it was nice to try the two most recent vintages of each wine during dinner.

Château de Ségriès

Entre Vigne & Garrigue - Appetizer

Looking back on this day, Tavel was everything I expected it to be - traditionally deeply coloured, fruity and dry, high quality rose wines, with some having slightly tannic and structured characters that some might even call light red wines, while others were made in the more trendier Provençal style that is pale coloured and fresh. Tavel can be enjoyed on its own or paired with salad, poultry, or hearty fish.

Lirac, on the other hand, was an eye-opener for me. It is one of the least known Crus, and even I didn't know much about it before arriving. Lirac appellation white wines are made primarily with varietals such as Grenache Blanc, Clairette, Roussanne, and Bourboulenc, and sometimes includes Marsanne, Viognier, or Picpoul. The white wines were fresh and clean, with some minerality and structure, and could be aged for a number of years. All-in-all, I was very impressed with the white wines from Lirac.

Overall, I was very happy with my visit to the Southern Rhône Valley. I learned many new things over the four days while also meeting some fine individuals who are shaping the future of the wines from Luberon, Ventoux, Cairanne, Costières de Nîmes, Tavel, and Lirac.

Tasting Notes:

VIGNOBLES & COMPAGNIE DOMAINE MÉJAN LES MUSES TAVEL 2017 - AC, Rhône, France (XD)
Blend of 70% Grenache, 20% Cinsault, 5% Mourvedre, 3% Syrah, and 2% Clairette from sandy soil, clay, and rolled pebbles, alluvial deposits. Medium+ intensity nose offers red fruit, red cherry, strawberry, and herbal aromas. The medium+ bodied palate is spicy with fresh acids and pleasing red berried aroma replays. Lightly tannic, dry, with some structure, and very good finish length. Score: 88 pts

Vignobles & Compagnie Domaine Méjan Les Muses Tavel 2017 (88 pts)Vignobles & Compagnie Réserve des Chastelles Tavel 2017 (89 pts)

VIGNOBLES & COMPAGNIE RÉSERVE DES CHASTELLES TAVEL 2017 - AC, Rhône, France (XD) - 12 €
Grenache and Syrah blend from gravel, clay and quartz pebbles soils. Medium-high intensity nose with plenty of red fruits - currant, strawberry, cherry and some red pepper nuances. It is full-bodied, dry and structured on the palate with candied red berry flavours. There's some tannic structure and the finish length is very good. Score: 89 pts

Agent: N/A

CHÂTEAU TRINQUEVEDEL TAVEL 2017 - AC, Rhône, France (#729947) (XD) - 12.5 €
Blend of Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault, Clairette, Bourboulenc, and Mourvèdre, this has fruity medium+ intensity aromas of rhubarb and strawberry. It is medium-full bodied, dry and spicy on the palate with fresh acids and nice aroma replays joined by hints of orange. Structured with some tannins. Very good finish length. Score: 89 pts

Château Trinquevedel Tavel 2017 (89 pts)Château Trinquevedel Les Vignes d'Eugène Tavel 2014 (89+ pts)

CHÂTEAU TRINQUEVEDEL LES VIGNES D'EUGÈNE TAVEL 2014 - AC, Rhône, France (XD) - 15 €
Blend of Grenache, Clairette and Syrah from 80-85 year old vines and one-third oak aged, this has a subtle orange, red berry and spice nose with touches of floral. It is medium-full bodied and nicely integrated on the palate with balanced acids, and pretty rose floral and cherry characters. Somewhat structured and the finish length is very good. Holding up quite well at this age. Score: 89+ pts

Agent: Barrel Select (ON)

CHÂTEAU D'AQUERIA LIRAC BLANC 2017 - AC, Rhône, France (XD) - 12 €
40% Grenache Blanc, 25% Bourboulenc, 16% Clairette, 12% Roussanne, and 7% Viognier from limestone scree soils. Open, fragrant and fresh with herbally, lemony, and anise aromas. Medium-bodied with a slightly oily texture. Nice aroma replays on the palate plus notable anise, fennel, and pear notes. There's some structure a nice chalky mineral mid-palate. Shows finesse on the finish, with excellent length. Score: 89 pts

Château d'Aqueria Lirac Blanc 2017 (89 pts)Château d'Aqueria Tavel 2017 (89 pts)

CHÂTEAU D'AQUERIA TAVEL 2017 - AP, Rhône, France (#319368) (XD) - $23.95
45% Grenache, 20% Clairette, 15% Cinsault, 8% Mourvèdre, 6% Syrah, 4% Bourboulenc, and 2% Picpoul from sandy clayey hillsides. The subtle nose is fruity and a touch candied, offering red berry, cherry, currant, and citrus aromas. It's medium-full bodied with nicely balanced citrusy aroma replays. Acids are very good. The long finish is crisp and spicy with a fine mineral note. Score: 89 pts

Agent: Noble Estates Wine & Spirits (ON), LBV International (QC)

Domaine Coudoulis Evidence Lirac 2016 (89 pts)

DOMAINE COUDOULIS EVIDENCE LIRAC 2016 - AP, Rhône, France (XD) - 9 €
Blend of Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre (15%), Carignan, and Cinsault. Medium-high intensity nose is meaty with floral, dark cherry, blackberry, licorice, and black spice aromas. The spicy medium+ bodied palate has nice dark cherry/berry and oak spice notes. Well-structured with refined tannins. Nicely balanced overall with good acidity. Finish length is very good. Score: 89 pts

Agent: Azureau Wines & Spirits (ON)

OGIER LOU CAMINÉ LIRAC BLANC 2017 - AC, Rhône, France (XD)
First vintage of this wine. Blend of Clairette and Grenache Blanc from 5 to 80 year-old vines that was barrel-fermented and barrel-aged. It has medium-high intensity aromas that are clean and elegant with mineral, lemon/lime, herbs and anise notes, all of which come through on the medium+ bodied palate with hints of saline minerality. Acids are fresh and the finish length is excellent. Score: 90 pts

Ogier Lou Caminé Lirac Blanc 2017 (90 pts)Ogier Etamines Tavel 2017 (88 pts)

OGIER ETAMINES TAVEL 2017 - AC, Rhône, France (XD)
Pretty, medium-high intensity nose of strawberry, spice, currant, and cherry aromas. It is medium-full bodied with spicy aroma replays on the palate, fresh acids, and very good finish length. Score: 88 pts

Agent: Select Wines (ON), Sélect Vins AdVini (QC)

Domaine du Vieil Aven Tavel 2017 (88 pts)

DOMAINE DU VIEIL AVEN TAVEL 2017 - AC, Rhône, France (XD) - $18.70
Medium+ intensity nose is spicy with red currant, cherry, and strawberry aromas. The palate is full-ish with gentle tannins and juicy acids that support the nicely dry aroma replays. Very good finish length. Score: 88 pts

Agent: Louis Roche (QC)

Domaine des Carteresses Tavel Rosé 2017 (88 pts)

DOMAINE DES CARTERESSES TAVEL ROSÉ 2017 - AC, Rhône, France (#739474) (XD) - $18.95
The medium-high intensity nose is fresh has ripe aromas of strawberry, cherry, and rhubarb. It's medium-full bodied on the palate with a rounded mouthfeel. Touch candied cherry flavour, plus aroma replays on the flavour profile. Juicy acids, smooth tannins, and very good length on the finish. Score: 88 pts

Agent: Dionysus Wines & Spirits (ON), Vin Conseil (QC)

CHÂTEAU DE MONTFAUCON COMTESSE MADELEINE LIRAC BLANC 2017 - AC, Rhône, France (XD) - 13.5 €
Just bottled. Blend of Marsanne (40%), Clairette, Grenache Blanc, Picpoul, and Viognier. Medium-high intensity aromas are fresh and ripe with white and yellow florals, and key lime pie. On the medium-bodied palate, it has nice, ripe aroma replays supported by bright and lively acids. Anise, herbs, and lime notes linger on the long finish. Barrel-fermented and aged, yet oak is very subtle. Should drink well for at least half a dozen years. Score: 89 pts

Château de Montfaucon Comtesse Madeleine Lirac Blanc 2016 (89 pts)Château de Montfaucon Vin de Madame La Comtesse Lirac Blanc 2012 (91 pts)

CHÂTEAU DE MONTFAUCON VIN DE MADAME LA COMTESSE LIRAC BLANC 2012 - AP, Rhône, France (XD)
Limited production. 100% Clairette barrel-fermented from a small 1.3 acre vineyard first planted in 1870 - one of the oldest in Rhône Valley. Complex, medium-high intensity nose is exotic and a touch oxidative with nutty, pear and fennel aromas. Spicy palate is still showing freshness with very nice aroma replays and some mineral notes adding complexity. Shows finesse on the long, intense finish. 2012 was the first vintage of this wine. Score: 91 pts

Agent: Nicholas Pearce Wines (ON)

DOMAINE LAFOND ROC-ÉPINE LIRAC BLANC 2017 - AP, Rhône, France (XD) - 10 €
This blend of 50% Grenache Blanc, 30% Roussanne, and 20% Viognier that has medium+ intensity aromas of fennel, anise, lemony citrus, and herbs. Acids are fresh and bright on the medium-bodied palate with nice aroma replays on the flavour profile. Clean and crisp with hints of mineral on the long finish. Score: 88+ pts

Domaine Lafond Roc-Épine Lirac Blanc 2017 (88+ pts)Domaine Lafond Roc-Épine Tavel 2017 (88 pts)

DOMAINE LAFOND ROC-ÉPINE TAVEL 2017 - AP, Rhône, France (#950709) (XD) - 10 €
60% Grenache with equal parts Syrah and Cinsault. Medium-high intensity nose is pretty with freshly picked, ripe strawberry, rhubarb, and cherry aromas. The medium+ bodied palate is fleshy, a touch candied, but dry, with nice aroma replays. It has juicy acids, a spicy mid-palate, and very good finish length. Score: 88 pts

Agent: Hobbs & Co. (ON)

CHÂTEAU SÉGRIÈS LIRAC BLANC 2015 - AC, Rhône, France (XD) - 12 €
A blend of 50% Clairette, 30% Ugni Blanc, 10% Roussanne, 5% Bourboulenc, and 5% Picpoul that is 30% barrel-fermented. Subtle herbs, fennel, and lemon aromas. It is medium-full bodied and creamy with nice pear and herbals flavours. Crunchy fruit with fresh acidity. Finish length is very good. Score: 89 pts

Château Ségriès Lirac Blanc 2015 (89 pts)Château Ségriès Tavel 2016 (89 pts)

CHÂTEAU SÉGRIÈS TAVEL 2016 - AC, Rhône, France (XD) - 12 €
Blend of 50% Grenache, 30% Cinsault, 10% Syrah, and 10% Clairette. Medium+ intensity nose offers cherry, strawberry, and currant aromas, with much of the same on the spicy, full-bodied palate. It has some tannic structure, while acids and finish length are both very good. Score: 89 pts

Agent: N/A


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  • Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Rhône Wine Tour 2018 - Cairanne (Day 2)

Cairanne, Rhône, France

After a fine day tasting the white and rose wines from Luberon and Ventoux, our focused on Cairanne, the newest Southern Rhône Valley Cru. Cairanne was granted Côtes du Rhône status in 1953 and became a Côtes du Rhône Villages appellation in 1967. In 2008, an application was filed to the INAO to grant Cru status to Cairanne. Denis Alary, a man who I had lunch with later in the day, was a major driving force behind the push to have Cairanne elevated to Cru status. After more than 15 years of hard work, Cairanne was finally granted Cru status in 2016, beginning with the 2015 vintage.

Frédéric Alary, Domaine Oratoire Saint-Martin
It was another early start on Tuesday morning. After about half an hour of driving we arrived at our first winery of the day - Domaine Oratoire Saint-Martin. I was excited to visit this Domaine as I had done some research prior and discovered that they had some quality wines, some of which had previously been available in Ontario and Québec. The vineyards on this land have been cultivated by grape growers for 10 generations over 300 years. Today, this organic and biodynamic winery is owned by two brothers, Frédéric and François Alary.

We met Frédéric, who was unfortunately nursing a broken arm, and got a brief tour of the small production facility. It was interesting to see many different types of fermentation tanks for such a small winery - they definitely like to experiment and try different things to best express their wines and terroir. They have 25 hectares of vineyards, with 20% planted to white wine varietals - a fairly high percentage given that the average per producer is only 5%. After tasting through their wines, I can see why they produce more white wines than the average Cairanne winery. The whites showed elegance, freshness, and richness, with an ability to age well, as we discovered when we tasted the 2008 Haut Coustias Blanc (91 pts). The term "Coustias" translates into "bad earth", but for wine, this is very much a good thing. Domaine Oratoire Saint-Martin stopped producing rosé wines in 2009, as they were too heavy, so we only tasted white wines. and a few other surprise wines including a lovely 2000 Cuvée Séraphine Blanc dessert wine that was made with late harvest & dried grapes.

Domaine Oratoire Saint-Martin cellar

The second stop of the day was a short drive to Domaine Boisson, another small, family-owned and -operated winery. It was founded by current owner Bruno Boisson's great grandfather in the middle of the 19th century from 6-8 hectares of vines. In 1957, Bruno's grandfather, René, expanded the winery to 28 ha, of which 15 ha are in Cairanne. They began producing their own wines under the Domaine Boisson label in 1986. While Bruno and his father Régis Boisson produce wines using their own vision, training, and experience, vinification is supervised by highly-acclaimed oenologist Philippe Cambie. Cairanne appellation rules specify that white wines must contain at least 2 of Grenache Blanc, Clairette, Marsanne, Roussanne, Bourboulenc and Viognier, and rosés must be a blend of a minimum 50% Grenache Noir and at least 20% Syrah and/or Mourvèdre. This suits Domaine Boisson perfectly as their Cairanne vineyards have various types of soils and exposures, allowing them to create a variety of blends.

Bruno Boisson, Domaine BoissonDomaine Boisson

Domaine Boisson has 3 main types of terroir on their properties: Les Sablières - a covering of clay and sand of varying thicknesses dating from the Miocene period, supported by a subsoil of grey sand; Les Garrigues - scrublands with shallow soil of ancient flat terraces from the Quaternary period; Les Côteaux - beds of stony soil of varying thicknesses, alternating with layers of calcareous clay coloured light yellow, grey and white, and mostly south-facing. Since the weather was nice, Bruno was kind enough to take us to one of his hilltop vineyards, as well as a castle where we got a lovely view of Cairanne and the Rhône Valley. All of the wines are fermented using natural yeasts and the winery is in the process of converting to certified organic. Of their total production, 12% is white wine and 6% rosé, and we tasted everything available - 3 whites and 1 rosé.

Lunch was a short drive away at Côteaux et Fourchettes, a nicely appointed restaurant situated on the country side in Cairanne. It was a fine, hot and sunny day, so we sat outside on the patio and were joined by winemaker Caroline Moro and the one and only Denis Alary.

Denis Alary, Domaine Alary
The Alary family's involvement in viticulture and wine production dates back to 1692, during the reign of Louis XIV. Amazingly, the first agricultural land-register of Cairanne dates back to 1414, when there were 100 parcels of vineyards. Tradition and passion are key elements to tendering and maturing wines within the Alary family, with experience being passed on from one generation to the next - now spanning 10 generations. Over the years, they have learned to understand their terroir in Cairanne. Most of the vines at Domaine Alary are south-facing, with terroir consisting of white and blue clay soils on the slopes, 'Garrigues' on the lower terraces, cobbles covering underlying white and red clay on the high plateau, along with the richer soils close to the Plan de Dieu. They have been making white wines for over 150 years and currently have a total of 5 ha planted to five varietals that are always vinified separately before blending. Today, Denis Alary represents the 10th generation of the Alary family and personally manages all aspects of the Domaine with the assistance of two employees.

Mr. Alary is also an idealist who dreams of improving things and people, and is the reason why he pushed himself to accept the management position of the Cairanne Trade Union more than 20 years ago. He was a very important piece in the pursuit of Cairanne achieving Cru status and is always looking to improve. As leader of the Trade Union, he searches until he finds consensus. Thus, the rules governing Cairanne appellation white wines which specified that Clairette, Grenache Blanc, and Roussanne must make up at least 70% of the final blend will be grandfathered in until 2023 to allow grape growers the time to establish the necessary yields. Over the course of lunch, I also learned that only 5% of all wine production in Cairanne is currently devoted to white wines, but Mr. Alary expects it to increase to 10% within the next five years. Listening to Mr. Alary speak, I sensed that he is a determined man that is also patient and considerate of others. As we tasted only a few delicious wines from the Alary portfolio, a visit to the Domaine in the future would surely be a special treat.

Lunch at Côteaux et FourchettesCaroline Moro, Les Grandes Serres

Caroline Moro is the winemaker at Les Grandes Serres, a negociant firm that was founded in the Southern Rhône Valley in 1977 by Michel Picard who is an owner that is also associated with producing wine in Burgundy. The winery is based in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, but they also have vineyards in Gigondas and Cairanne. Additionally, they have formed strong ties and partnerships with key players in each appellation, including a Cairanne winery and numerous wine domains in order to secure the best possible grapes.

Laure (left) and Corinne, Domaine Rabasse Charavin
After lunch, we visited Domaine Rabasse Charavin, another family-owned and -operated winery that has been passed on from generation to generation. The history begins in 1890, when Edmond Rabasse, the great grandfather of current owner Corinne Couturier, purchased a cottage and the 3 ha of land surrounding it. Around 1925, his son Marcel Rabasse took over the land and added 5 ha of vineyards and olive groves. In 1950, Jeanine Rabasse (Corinne's mother) married Abel Charavin, and together they gave this small estate a new focus on winemaking. Corinne took over the reins in 1984, and was joined by her daughter Laure in 1993. Together, they form a unique mother-daughter winemaking team that tends to 40 ha of vines, all of which are handpicked. Domaine Rabasse Charavin practices organic & sustainable winemaking, and all of the wines are vegan-friendly. 5% of their production is devoted to white wines, most of which come from Cairanne. I wasn't too familiar with the Bourboulenc varietal, but I found it interesting to learn here that this grape is more oval-shaped (instead of round), tends to spread out when it grows, and also lowers the alcohol in wine blends due to the grape's low sugar content. We didn't visit the vineyards here, but after tasting through the wines with Laure and Corinne, we stepped out onto the veranda for a lovely view of the Cairanne landscape.

Domaine Rabasse Charavin

Laurent Brusset, Domaine Brusset
The last winery visit of the day was Domaine Brusset, a family estate that was established in 1947 by the late André Brusset. Prior to founding Domaine Brusset, André had grown grapes since 1929 and was a founding member of the cooperative of Cairanne. Together with his son Daniel, and his grandson Laurent, they formed three generations of winegrowers and winemakers. The three generations combine traditional winemaking with new techniques that were introduced by each generation of winemaker. Today, the Domaine Brusset estate covers 70 ha of vines across 5 appellations, nearly 40% of which are in Cairanne. Not surprisingly, their headquarters and main production facility is also in Cairanne in the heart of the southern Côtes du Rhône valley vineyards. Less than 10% of their production is devoted to white and rosé wines. We tasted the single rosé, which represented 2% of their entire production, and both whites that were available for tasting with Laurent.

Domaine Brusset

We travelled about 1 hour to Nîmes and checked-in to Appart'City Nîmes Arènes - Appart Hôtel - a fine, modern hotel located across the vibrant Esplanade Charles-de-Gaulle and steps from the imposing Arènes de Nîmes (Roman amphitheatre). After freshening up, we were picked up by Henri-Claude Amadieu and headed out for dinner at Bistr'AU - a casual (yet, quite fine) dining spot that was located just outside the city centre.

Henri-Claude Amadieu, Pierre Amadieu
Henri-Claude is the Head of Sales at the family-owned and -operated Pierre Amadieu, a winery based in Gigondas. He is also the cousin of Pierre Amadieu and one of a number of relatives that are involved in this family winemaking business. Pierre is the grandchild of Pierre Sr. and is the head of the company. He is also a winemaker and joined by his winemaker cousin Jean-Marie, uncle Claude who runs the vineyard, and Henri-Claude's sister (Marie) who is in charge of private customers and the cellar door.

The history of this important estate began with Pierre's grandfather, the original Pierre Amadieu, as a wine grower of 7 ha of vineyards in Gigondas in 1929. They pursue the long-established family tradition of respect for the soil, landscape, and vines in order to produce wines that reflect their unique terroir. Pierre Sr. was a pioneer in the region. In 1945, he built an underground cellar two levels deep to ensure constant temperature and hygrometry, and ten years later, he purchased an old railway tunnel near Pierrelongue (Drôme) that allowed for exceptional ageing. Henri-Claude informed us that the underground cellar is now closed, but suggested that if we were to visit the winery, we might be able to get a look at the impressive cellar. In the 1950's and 60's, Pierre Sr. also practised sustainable farming with up to 1200 sheep that provided natural manure for soil fertilization and also manage cover crops. Today, Pierre seeks to improve the wines with each vintage, looking for elegance and freshness, while also working the vineyards as naturally as possible. While Pierre Amadieu is mostly known for their estate-owned wines from Gigondas, they also work with growers throughout Southern Rhône and produce fine wines from Cairanne, Ventoux, and Tavel, some of which we got to taste at this dinner. Henri-Claude brought many wines to taste, including some exciting back vintage wines that were tasting great! Wine reviews of a couple of my favourite white wines are provided below.

Lobster Chowder at Bistr'AU

After dinner, Henri-Claude was kind enough to give us a quick driving tour through the city centre of Nîmes. I was pleasantly surprised by the many historical structures found in Nîmes and I can definitely foresee myself visiting the city and spending some time here again, perhaps as a stepping stone to visiting Pierre Amadieu, an hour's drive northeast from here.

After two days of tasting white and rosé wines from Luberon, Ventoux, and Cairanne, I was very impressed with the the appellation wines. The rosé wines from Cairanne producers were pleasing, however, they were not labelled as Cairanne because they did not conform to appellation rules for rosé wines, thus, they were labelled as generic Côtes du Rhône bottles. My view of traditional whites from Southern Rhône prior to this trip consisted of blends made with Marsanne, Roussanne, and Viognier. However, this view was being completely shattered as Clairette and Grenache Blanc were playing very significant roles in the final blends. The quality is good, and the prices are quite affordable. I was very much looking forward to tasting the wines of Costières de Nîmes on day three.

Tasting Notes:

DOMAINE ORATOIRE SAINT-MARTIN RESERVE DE SEIGNEURS CAIRANNE BLANC 2017 - AOP, Rhône, France (XD) - 13.50 €
40% Clairette, 30% Roussanne, and 30% Grenache Blanc. Elegant, medium intensity nose is clean with lemon citrus, herbs, fennel, and grassy aromas. It is medium bodied and creamy with nice, clean aroma replays plus a fine mineral note. Clean, balanced acids and a touch warm on the long finish. Score: 89 pts

Domaine Oratoire Saint-Martin Reserve de Seigneurs Cairanne Blanc 2017 (89 pts)Domaine Oratoire Saint-Martin Haut Coustias Cairanne Blanc 2016 (90 pts)

DOMAINE ORATOIRE SAINT-MARTIN HAUT COUSTIAS CAIRANNE BLANC 2016 - AOP, Rhône, France (XD) - 19 €
From 70-90 year old vines, blend of 40% Clairette, 20% Marsanne, 20% Roussanne, and 20% Grenache Blanc. The clairette and Grenache Blanc were fermented in concrete egg, while the Marsanne and Roussane were barrel fermented. Made in a oxidative style, this has a medium-high intensity nose that's herbally and grassy, with subtle wood influence. The medium+ bodied palate is a little creamy and has a slightly leesy character, with pleasing aroma replays. It nicely balanced throughout with good acidity. The mouthfeel is rich, while the finish is long. Score: 90 pts

Agent: N/A

DOMAINE BOISSON CÔTES DU RHÔNE ROSÉ 2017 - AOP, Rhône, France (XD) - 6.20 €
50% Grenache, 20% Syrah, 20% Cinsault, and 10% Carignan made in the saignée method. Medium-high intensity nose is fresh with white peach, grapefruit, herbally and garrigue aromas. It is dry on the light-to-medium bodied with a chalky mineral texture, some structure and complexity, and herbally, raspberry aroma replays. Very good finish length. Score: 88 pts

Domaine Boisson Côtes du Rhône Rosé 2017 (88 pts)Domaine Boisson Cuvée L'Exigence Cairanne Blanc 2016 (89 pts)

DOMAINE BOISSON CUVÉE L'EXIGENCE CAIRANNE BLANC 2016 - AOP, Rhône, France (XD) - 12.10 €
Blend of 45% Roussanne, 35% Clairette, and 25% Grenache Blanc that underwent malolactic fermentation and was aged in used barrels. Medium intensity nose with apple, stone fruit, lemon citrus. Wood influence is apparent, plus nice aroma replays on the nicely balanced flavour profile. A touch creamy with grapefruit flavours mid-palate. Juicy acids. Nicely textured and elegant on the long finish. Score: 89 pts

Agent: N/A

DOMAINE ALARY L'EXCLUS D'ALARY BLANC 2017 - AOP Côtes du Rhône, France (XD)
Not Cairanne appellation because it is 100% Clairette, however, it is from 35-year-old vines in Cairanne raised in demi-muid barrels. Medium intensity nose offers lanolin, yellow flowers, and white peach aromas. Medium-bodied with crisp acids and lemon oil, herbal, and anise seed flavours. More lemony on the mid-palate. Nicely balanced with fine mineral notes lingering on the finish, with very good length. Score: 88 pts

Domaine Alary L'Exclus d'Alary Blanc 2017 (88 pts)Domaine Alary L'Estévanas Cairanne Blanc 2017 (89 pts)

DOMAINE ALARY L'ESTÉVANAS CAIRANNE BLANC 2017 - AOP, Rhône, France (XD)
Clairette and Roussanne blend. Medium+ intensity nose is fresh with white peach, lemon, yellow floral, and herbs. Nicely textured on the medium+ bodied palate with pleasing aroma replays, bright acids, and very good length on the herbally finish. Score: 89 pts

Agent: Brand New Day Wines & Spirits (ON)

Les Grandes Serres Carius Cairanne Blanc 2017 (90 pts)

LES GRANDES SERRES CARIUS CAIRANNE BLANC 2017 - AOP, Rhône, France (XD)
Mostly Bourboulenc (50%) with Clairette and Grenache Blanc completing the blend, this has lovely, fresh medium-high intensity aromas and flavour of lanolin, white flower, lemon oil and citrus. It's medium-bodied and elegant, ripe fruited, rich and rounded. Clean acids. Long, elegant finish. Aged on the lees in stainless steel and concrete tanks. Score: 90 pts

Agent: Profile Wine Group (ON)

DOMAINE RABASSE CHARAVIN CUVÉE D'ESTEVANAS CAIRANNE BLANC 2017 - AOP, Rhône, France (XD) - 21 €
Mostly Roussanne, this has a medium+ intensity and clean nose of lemon/lime, floral and herbs. It has bright acids and is somewhat structured, creamy, and very ripe with nice herbally aroma replays. Very good length on the finish. Score: 89 pts

Domaine Rabasse Charavin Cuvée d'Estevanas Cairanne Blanc 2017 (89 pts)Domaine Rabasse Charavin Rose Prune 2017 (88 pts)

DOMAINE RABASSE CHARAVIN ROSE PRUNE 2017 - AOP Côtes du Rhône, France (XD) - 9.5 €
Blend of 50% Grenache, 25% Counoise, and 25% Carignan. This has a medium+ intensity nose that's clean and fresh with raspberry, herbal, and garrigue aromas. Dry with nice fruity aroma replays and bright, fresh acids on the palate. Very good finish length. Score: 88 pts

Agent: N/A

DOMAINE BRUSSET JEANNE B. CÔTES DU RHÔNE ROSÉ 2017 - AOP, Rhône, France (XD) - 7.5 €
2% of production. Grenache, Cinsault and Syrah. Medium-intensity nose is ripe and fruit with raspberry and strawberry aromas. It's medium+ bodied with a plush mouthfeel, some structure, and pleasing aroma replays plus some herbally character. There's fresh acids and a fine mineral mid-palate. Very good finish length with some chalky mineral texture. Score: 88+ pts

Domaine Brusset Jeanne B. Côtes du Rhône Rosé 2017 (88+ pts)Domaine Brusset L'Esprit de Papet Cairanne 2016 (90+ pts)

DOMAINE BRUSSET L'ESPRIT DE PAPET CAIRANNE 2016 - AOP, Rhône, France (XD) - 18 €
Meaning "spirit of grandfather", this is a blend of 40% Viognier, 40% Roussanne, 10% Clairette, and 10% Grenache Blanc was raised in oak for 18 months. Wood-influenced aromas plus baked apple, spice, herbs, and butter. It's medium-full bodied on the palate with a fine seam of acidity and touches of floral and lemon oil flavours joining the aroma profile. Creamy mid-palate and very good finish length. Score: 90+ pts

Agent: Rogers & Company (ON)

PIERRE AMADIEU CÔTES DU RHÔNE ROULEPIERRE 2017 - AOP, Rhône, France (XD) - $19.95 CAD
This 75/25 Clairette and Grenache Blanc blend has a medium intensity nose that is all mineral, lemon and herbal aromas and flavours with a lovely saline character taking the lead on the medium+ bodied palate. Fresh, fine acids and somewhat structured. Nicely elegant with a long, clean finish. Score: 89 pts

Pierre Amadieu Côtes du Rhône Roulepierre 2017 (89 pts)Pierre Amadieu Domaine Grand Romane Côtes du Rhône Blanc 2017 (89 pts)

PIERRE AMADIEU DOMAINE GRAND ROMANE CÔTES DU RHÔNE BLANC 2017 - AOP, Rhône, France (XD)
100% Clairette from vines planted in 1955, barrel-fermented and aged on the lees for 6 months, this has a subtle nose of herb, white flower and white peach. It is medium-full bodied and creamy with very nice aroma replays and juicy acids. Some woody notes arrive mid-palate and add elegance. Very good finish length. Score: 89 pts

Agent: Trilogy Wine Group (ON), Balthazard (QC)


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