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For many years now we've been working with the great father and son team of Guy and Thomas Jullien at La Ferme Saint-Martin in Beaumes-de-Venise, one of the first estates in the southern Rhône to practice organic farming and low-sulfur vinificatons. The high-altitude vineyards produce complex, powerful reds that retain freshness and balance, as well as full-bodied whites and a fresh and lovely rosé. The estate was created in the 1960's when Guy's father Aimé transformed the farm that produced grapes, olives, apricots and cherries, into a real vineyard with 11 hectares of vines. Guy took over in 1979 and began using organic methods in the late 1980s. During this period he would travel to Paris to show his wines and would taste with other growers and with Francois Morel at "Les Envierges" (author of the wonderful book "Le Vin au Naturel") and Philippe Pinoteau at "Le Baratin." It was then that Guy acquired a desire to produce natural wines. Guy's very capable and enthusiastic son Thomas is now in charge and the estate continues to produce some of the most naturally delicious wines of the Southern Rhône - and they are superb values as well. The farming here is particularly outstanding with careful plowing along the vines and a carpet of green maintained between the rows - "regenerative agriculture" that sequesters CO2 and preserves living soils.
From their website: "The vineyards are exposed due south on dry and stony limestone terroir, in terraces from 600 to 1800 feet in altitude. We have cultivated the vines in certified organic agriculture since 1998. Each parcel is harvested by hand and we select with care (with a sorting table) the grapes that enter the cellar. The vinifications are done without the addition of any oenological products. (A minimal dosage of SO2 is added to most wines before bottling) Our family, united in the same passion, works with conviction and determination to bring you living wines, free to express their personalities, true reflections of their terroir." The Beaumes-de-Venise reds offered today, especially Costancia and Cuvée Saint-Martin, are big, well-structured wines that will need carafing or opening well in advance if drinking soon - they are outstanding wines that are worth the effort or time in the cellar. The Côtes-du-Rhône "Les Romanins" and the Ventoux "La Gérine" are superb everyday reds to serve a bit cool. Thomas Jullien is creating unique and delicious whites - the new 2016 CDR " L'Austral" is made from Roussanne and Grenache Blanc that undergo a one-week maceration on the skins - it avoids the excess tannins of some skin-contact whites and offers very complex, full-bodied fruit balanced by a structured, mineral palate. And Thomas' rosé is simply delicious! We urge you to try these truly unique though inexpensive wines... Wines arrive Tuesday 8/27
A blend of Grenache and Syrah, hand harvested, de-stemmed and aged in foudre, with a low addition of sulfur at bottling. 'Costancia' is a great example of a fuller-bodied wine from grapes grown on predominately limestone marl soils at the highest altitude plantation of vines in Beaumes-de-Venise (~500 meters above sea level), which lends the lift and structure to balance the dark, sappy fruit. Blackberries, black pepper, and bloomy rind cheese peak out on the nose while chalky tannins streak through the lush black plum, prune, blueberries, and savory herbs on the palate. Decant to enjoy now with burgers, grilled pork loin, stews, or put down for 5-8 years. Cari Bernard
An excellent value from Beaumes-de-Venise, 'Les Terres Jaunes' is a blend of ~75% Grenache and ~20% Syrah both from 30+ year-old vines, and a small percentage of Mourvèdre, Carignan, Counoise. Organically farmed, aged in concrete with very little sulfur added at bottling, this is a truly terroir-focused wine. I love the rich texture with powdery tannins, and after some time decanting, it definitely softened and opened up. Full of ripe black cherry, plum, and preserved raspberries with more savory undertones of olive, oregano, dried tobacco and a touch of dark chocolate. Plenty of complexity in this deep Southern Rhône wine to sit and contemplate, and would be excellent with heartier or gamey fare. MD
From loam and gravel soil, the vines from Ferme Saint-Martin’s La Gérine face south in the municipality of Saint-Hippolyte-le-Graveyron. Here, the vines are between 25 and 40 years old. La Gérine is a blend of 50% Grenache, 25% Carignan and 25% Cinsault, with an emphasis on the bright red fruit of these Rhône varieties. The wine is semi-carbonically macerated between 7 and 14 days, giving it a wonderful spark out of the bottle upon opening. Finally, it is aged in concrete vats for about 6 months. Winemaker Thomas Julien notes that he wanted to “create an easy red…for people who don’t drink red wine.” From this philosophy, we’ve gotten a lovely light red hue in the glass, a floral nose, and a palate of sour cherry, orange, cinnamon, pear and a tart, crunchy finish. A wine made to be chilled, this is a great choice for an apéritif, with soft cheeses or charcuterie. John David Crosby
Thomas Jullien farms vines on and around Mount Ventoux in the Southern Rhône, and produces the Sur La Rose from mostly Grenache with a bit of Syrah. The 2018 vintage shows candied berry fruit, melon, and strawberry aromas, with a hint of citrus and spice. On the palate, the wine is ripe but very well balanced, with pleasing acidity and minerality complementing flavors of pure cherry, ripe strawberry, watermelon, and citrus. The finish is pretty and mineral, with a refreshing, cooling quality. A great end-of-summer wine: perfect for sipping on the patio or the fire escape with or without food. Ben Fletcher
Guy and Thomas Jullien at la Ferme Saint-Martin are making some of the finest wines in the Southern Rhône on their organic estate in Suzette, near Beaumes-de-Venise. One of their best wines, the Cuvée Saint-Martin is made with 85% Grenache from 60 to 105 year-old vines grown on clay over limestone (Triassic) soils. Vinification is with wild yeasts, with no added SO2 until a tiny amount before bottling - this is a "natural" wine of great quality. Deep red/black color, with ripe plum, red currant and strawberry aromas, very floral and lush with hints of licorice, garrigue and earth. The palate is ripe and dense with deep chocolately blackberry and plum liqueur with earth and spice, finishing with firm acidity and citrusy red fruits. This is an outstanding southern Rhône red and a great value - serve with grilled foods, Moroccan tagines and Provençal stews.
Though we love Thomas Jullien's traditional expressions of the Rhône Valley, his more avant-garde offerings like "Austral" are a pleasant departure from tradition while maintaining a sense of place and varietal character. The 2016 is a blend of Roussanne and Grenache Blanc that were macerated for one week before spending nine months in vat followed by a year in barrel. The wine shows a lovely honey gold in the glass and offers complex aromas of chamomile, apricot skins, and spiced pear. The palate is round and waxy with pretty notes of stone fruit and subtle lavender. Bitter notes of herbal tea on the long finish. A full-bodied wine with enough acid to lend structure and elegance. Serve with a slight chill but not too cold! Amanda Bowman
Guy Jullien at the Ferme Saint-Martin is one of the pioneers of organic and natural winemaking in the southern Rhône, and his great work continues under his son Thomas. Made from hand-harvested young vines of Grenache, Syrah and Cinsault, the 2018 "Romanins" has a dark, inky robe. The nose is deeply pitched and savory with aromas of cassis, blackberry, plum skin, garrigue and leather. The concentrated palate displays deep black fruit flavors and a tactile earthiness, but remains balanced, with plenty of drive on the long, lingering finish. This lovely, great value Côtes-du-Rhône would be terrific with grilled boneless leg of lamb, stuffed zucchini, or a hearty daube. Serve slightly chilled. (Bottled with minimal SO2, not fined or filtered.) John McIlwain