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Balazu des Vaussières, Christian and Nadia Charmasson in Tavel
After reading about an estate in Tavel that practices totally natural, more-than-organic vineyard work and vinifies without adding SO2, we made an appointment to visit Christian and Nadia Charmasson on the Chemin des Vaussières in Tavel. Our first visit occured during a storm of howling winds and torrential rain and was cut short by a truck load of organic manure, but we found both the wines and the people to be extraordinary, and we are happy to again offer Balazu des Vaussières to natural wine lovers in the US.
The estate was created in 1986 by the step-father of Christian Charmasson, named Balazu, with one hectare of vines which are now 90 years old, located on the Chemin des Vaussières in Tavel. The family had been winemakers for many generations. Five hectares of Grenache, Bourboulenc and Clairette were added from Nadia’s family in Roquemaure. The estate practices natural winemaking at it's very finest, beginning in the vineyard, where they work with organic and Biodynamic methods (primarily those of Maria Thun) and refuse to apply the permitted organic treatment of copper-sulfate as it is harmful to the life of the soil. This is not “laissez-faire” winemaking, but rather the work of intelligent, hard-working people who have the courage of their convictions to produce a pure and healthy wine from living soils. And while the wines may deviate somewhat from “conventional” norms, they can also be wildly delicious and elegant as we found over the last four years.
Vinifications here are without additives, essentially semi-carbonic, with the white spending about two years in vat and the red about three years or more and bottling is without SO2. As Bert Celce points out in "Wine Terroirs," it's "no surprise that with Pfifferling of L'Anglore, they're considered the Natural Giants of Tavel..." 48 btls of each wine available for the US, wines arrive 8/30.
The new release of vin rouge from Balazu des Vaussières, the 2016 "Cuvée Camélia," is a field blend of Cinsault, Grenache, Mourvedre and Carignan. The wine spent about 4 years in vat with zero added SO2. The estate is certified organic and Biodynamic and uses no copper sulfate (the "organic" treatment against mildew) in the vines, nor SO2 in vinification. Pure juice! In the glass, the wine has a dense red core with clear violet edges. The nose is full of character, with dark maraschino cherries and spicy aromas of nutmeg, cinnamon, and birch. Smells of smoke and orange oil add a lighter dimension. Flavors of black plum and cherry add a base to more herbal hints of fennel seeds and mint. There is a wonderful and healthy earthiness, but in the middle is a flashy center of minerality. Medium acidity and just an ounce of tannin. A stony finish of salt and graphite. This wine is an absolute treat! (Note - the Balazu reds usually evolve nicely for a week or more after opening, re-corked and refrigerated)
Once again, in 2020, the Charmassons at Balazu des Vaussières did a harvest of all their red and white grapes together (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, Carignan, Grenache Blanc, Marsanne, Viognier, Roussanne, Clairette, Cinsault) and are calling it a "blanc de rose," but we might call it a wine of maceration, given its light unusual color. The official name this year is "Lune Bleue." In the glass, the wine is the color of freshly squeezed grapefruit juice. On the nose, the same type of bitter zippy citrus leads a mix a slim red fruits and wild flowers. Flavors of lemon, small red cherries and herbs surround a core of fresh white minerals. We drank the wine over 4 days, with more red fruit flavors mingling with earthy almond and apricot notes, with the Roussanne and Marsanne emerging. A bottle for those chasing the most "natural" of taste profiles, from an estate devoted to the health and purity of its soils and its wines.