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I remember quite vividly my excitement upon first tasting with Eric and Christine Nicolas - I think it was at the first "Dive Bouteille," perhaps in 1999? I found the wines to be totally unique, pure and crystalline and I was very happy that my friends at Louis/Dressner decided to import them. My favorite vintage of Domaine Bellivière might be 2002 - a great vintage in the Loire - and the 2018s have a similar style of vibrant fruit and perfect balance. The reds (and sensational sweet rosé) from Pineau d'Aunis are particularly great in 2018 and the new Pet Nat "Myriades des Bulles" is remarkably delicious. Read on for more details and stories about this fantastic estate in the paragraphs written below by Pascaline, another committed fan of the Nicolas'. David Lillie.
I haven’t known Domaine de Bellivière for as long as David (I was first introduced to their wines in 2005) but I experienced a similar epiphany, discovering chiseled, brilliant expressions of Chenin like no other. But really what got me was their variation on Pineau d’Aunis, a grape improperly dismissed in the rest of the Loire Valley but proudly preserved in the Loir Valley. I was already in love with Chenin, but I fell hard for the Aunis. So every year I eagerly await for harvest to know if Eric, Christine and Clément, their son who joined them in 2015, will be able to produce the full range of their beautiful cuvées, as Jasnières and Coteaux-du-Loir remain the northernmost outposts of the region, thus one of the most susceptible to deadly frosts. Happy me - and hopefully you - 2018 allowed them to bottle almost everything, and the wines are absolutely terrific! Definitely a vintage of great concentration and lift for their Pineau d’Aunis, it is also a benchmark year for all their Chenins, from the “young vines” that just landed to the old vines cuvées still patiently aging in the Nicolas’ underground caves. So if you don’t know their wines, it is a great occasion to discover one of the most dedicated domaines of the Loire & Loir Valleys, and if you know, you know, so enjoy these gems now, or cellar them for 5, 10, 15 years!
PS - Bonus price, we also received some of their negoce wines made under Les Arches de Bellivière label. What started as a necessity after the traumatizing frost of 2016 became a true collaboration for the long run with the vignerons they are buying the grapes from (biodynamically farmed). Eric & Clément put the same dedication and elegance in these wines as they do for their domain’s bottlings.
The Loire & the Loir. Oh confusing of course, like a lot of French wine related subjects. We don’t really know why the Loir is called the Loir but one of the most reliable etymological explanations being it’s paronymic ... Like most of the subregions of the Loire Valley, a lot of historical vineyards (back to medieval time) were developed alongside the banks of the multitude tributaries of the “royal river” by abbayes and local nobilities. The Loir is one of them, running parallel to the right bank of the Loire, 40 miles or so north of Bourgueil and Vouvray before merging with the Sarthe river, then the Maine, then the Loire near Savennières. Despite its northern position, just at the limits of Normandy, the Loir Valley was an important wine region in size (18,000 ha, the current surface of Alsace) before phylloxera hit. The multiple historical clos (Clos des Molières) are still testimony of this more glorious time as the whole vineyard almost disappeared after the devastation of the louse, two World Wars, and 40 years of very difficult vintages. If it was not for the commitment of growers like Joël Gigou or the Derré, and the firm belief of Curnonsky the Prince of Gastronomy - 1872-1956 - who was not totally wrong (he famously said “Jasnières is, three times each century, the greatest white wine in the world!”), we would probably not be drinking as many Coteaux-du-Loir, Jasnières and their cousin upstream Coteaux-du-Vendômois today. For 30 years now, the area is going through a revitalizing movement thanks to a mix of locals coming back - think Jean-Pierre Robinot in Chahaignes, or newcomers like Eric & Christine Nicolas in Lhomme. Today, we are close to 100 ha planted in both Coteaux-du-Loir and Jasnières, with more talent popping up every year and focusing solely on vines. Jasnières is quite limited in its expansion with 147 ha maximum under the AOC, thus there is some space to grow for the Coteaux.
For more than six decades, wine was not a money-maker. The vineyards were part of polycultural structures (apple trees and grains) resulting in a remarkable fragmentation of the plots, rarely bigger than a couple of hectares. This division of the land is probably also due to the variations of soils, as the area is not as homogenous as one may think. In 2006, some geological research by INRA-Angers determined 17 different combinations of soil types. This possibly explains why there are 3 different AOCs using the same grapes alongside barely 40 miles of the river, and not just one (I would assume there are probably some politics involved too!)
Jasnières is in a way the jewel of the crown. It is the smallest, the most renowned (Henry IV was a fan!) and the first to gain AOC status in 1937. Its 90 ha or so are spread over one small, steep west to south exposed slope, 5 miles long and ? of a mile wide, between 60 to 120 meters elevation in the communes of Lhomme & Ruillé-sur-Loir. Chenin is the only authorized grape, planted on Turonian tuffeaux covered by late Senonian sand and silex with more or less variation leading to some plots gaining more regard than others, including the Clos de Jasnière that gave its name to the appellation. Like in Vouvray you find superb caves, and the soils are not that different. You just find more clay, both on the slope but also on the top of the plateau. There, you are not in Jasnières anymore, but in Coteaux-du-Loir, and the Pineau d’Aunis takes over. Two of the main units of soil are a mix of clay, sand and mica giving sleeker wines with more tension, while the heavier clay with limestone gravels produce broader cuvées.
While Jasnières is compact, Coteaux-du-Loir is spread over 22 communes and both banks of the river. Almost all the vineyards are on slopes or on the limits of the plateaus, for better drainage and sun exposure, some located on smaller tributaries of the Loir like the Dême. More red grapes are farmed as there are more clay pockets over this sandy tuffeau-silex mix, and if Pineau d’Aunis must represent the majority of the plantings, you also find some Cabernet Franc, Gamay and Côt. If Jasnières is quite far away from the river - 3 miles - the whole area still enjoys the influence of the water and the funneling of western winds especially in the summer, early fall, at time of harvest. Humidity can indeed be an issue or a blessing depending on the year, as it is possible to see some noble rot develop when all the conditions come together: a famous vineyard called Rasné is the reference for botrytised wines. It is located north of Chahaignes, in a specific area protected by the beautiful Forêt de Bercé. That forest is crucial for the proper ripening of grapes in the region as its 5500 ha act as a barrier from the rains and cold northwestern winds. It is also one of the most famous forests for oak trees, with Jupilles being recognized as a grand cru for barrel making - you just don’t see a lot of them as the forest is quite small compared to the Allier’s forest like Tronçais.
Eric and Christine were not originally meant to become vignerons in the Loir Valley as Christine studied international trade in Le Havre where Eric was passing his industrial computer engineering degree. But wine books and great bottles led him to change career with her full support. He quit the petrochemical industry, to study oenology in Montpellier and train in the south of France including at Pibarnon and in Rasteau where he understood the importance of the health of the plants and the virtues of old vines. Looking for a place to start their own domain, a friend told them about the Loire, and the Loir. In 1995, they took over La Ferme de Bellivière from Louis Derré and his wife. Mr Derré became a mentor to Eric, training him to prune and understand the complexity of the terroir. The century-old Pineau d’Aunis, Hommage à Louis Derré, is dedicated to him. Starting with 3.5 ha, they farm today 18 ha over 70 plots in 5 different communes. Despite his scientific background, Eric is someone who believes in intuition and feeling, and is deeply amazed by the beauty and intricacy of Nature. The conversion to organic, then to biodynamic farming came naturally, and he applied his attention to detail to each step along the way. Certain years were harder than others though, as the logistics are quite complex when you have so many different parcels. Beginning in 2015 and with Clément’s arrival (he is passionate about farming, and very skilled with a tractor), Eric has been able to reach another level of precision, and the vineyards have never looked so healthy and strong, including the old vines. They work on replaning in higher density with top massales selection, changing the pruning techniques and the leaf pulling to deal with creeping warmth and heat stress (totally unseen phenomena in the region), and improving the ploughing. All in all, the quality of the farming was already superb, it is now more in control to be able to mitigate the critical effects of climate change.
In the cellar, it is quite simple. Until 2015 the wines were made in 4 underground caves, beautiful but not exactly practical. Now everything is vinified in the new cellar designed by Eric and Christine in order to minimize any “trituration” of the grapes or the must, using almost solely gravity. All grapes are of course hand-harvested, pressed whole-cluster for the whites in a pneumatic press, settled over night then fermented in barrels, from 350 l to demi-muids, most of them from Atelier Centre France. The different terroirs are vinified separately and blended after aging. Fermentations are indigenous, malo may occur. They can last if they need too, and end when the balance is stable, possibly resulting in some residual sugar. Sulfur dioxide is used with parsimony, depending on the vintage, but Eric keeps its use to a minimum. Bottling is made by Christian Braud, the best in the region for low-intervention wines, and especially with residual sugar as he manages to maintain the complexity of the wines (he does remarkable work with Mark Angeli for example). For the reds, Eric and Clément are using more or less stems depending on the year. There is no remontage, just pigeage really to wet the cap, and in 2020 all the cuvées will be foot-trodden (until now just the Louis Derré was). Macerations are long, up to 4 weeks, then the wines are aged in larger format. The press and the free-run juice are always blended. For the off-dry rosé like Giroflées, they use tank and bottle the wine in the Spring.
They produce around 20 different cuvées, depending on the vintage. It looks like a lot but when you think there are 70 + plots, and they are working mostly with two grapes that can be gorgeous in multiple styles depending on the quality of the vintage - dry, off-dry, moelleux, sparkling - it makes total sense. One thing to notice, Eric is very attached to the separation between old and younger vines: each plot is like a stone for him building the wine and can’t be removed without destroying the overall architecture of the cuvée. They make roughly 80% of white and 20% of red, the sparkling being an anecdotal volume of production. If they produce 35 hl/ha, it is a high yielding year for them. Here are the main cuvées, knowing the style of the Chenin (dry, off-dry) varies depending on the vintage :
Jasnières (8 ha in Lhomme and Ruillé-sur-Loire)
Prémices - Chenin : from the young vines or the newly acquired plot, vinified with a short aging.
Les Rosiers - Chenin : from 50 year-old vines grown on 4 different soil variations, usually has a little residual sugar, up to demi-sec.
Calligramme - Chenin : from 70+ year-old vines grown on a large diversity of soils including specific clay-silex and micas over 9 plots. The name is a tribute to Guillaume Apollinaire as Eric loves poetry.
Discours de Tuf and Elixir de Tuf - Chenin : moelleux and liquoreux from tries, rarely produced recently unfortunately.
Coteaux-du-Loir (10 ha in Chahaignes, Dissay-sous-Courcillon and Marçon)
L’Effraie - Chenin : 50 to 60 years old vines over 6 plots with some clay, silex and pockets of sandier terroirs.
Vieilles Vignes Eparses - Chenin : the old vines cuvée, 85+ year-old vines from 2 ha, over 5 plots very stony but also some clay giving breadth to the wine. Always broader than Calligramme.
Haut-Rasné - Chenin : a rare cuvée produced from 25 year-old vines in a ½ ha vineyard in Chahaignes historically famous for botrytis.
Philosophale - Chenin : an even rarer cuvée from the best tries of botrytis from the oldest vines. Unfortunately not seen for a long time.
Le Rouge-Gorge - Pineau d’Aunis: 30 to 55 year-old vines on clay
Hommage à Louis Derré - Pineau d’Aunis: 12 rows of hundred-year old vines, and more from 7 other plots for a total of 600-800 bottles produced only in the best vintages.
Les Giroflées - Pineau d’Aunis & a touch of Grolleau some vintages: bottled as a Vin de France, this is an off-dry rosé (around 30-40 g usually) from very ripe berries from old vines, sometimes passerillées, sometimes with noble rot. If the vintage allows it, they make 2 other cuvées with even more concentrated grapes: Salamandre and Aurore d’Automne.
They also makes some sparkling wines either pet’nat or traditional (Les P’tits Vélos and Myriades de Bulles), a blend of Gamay Teinturiers and à Jus Blanc (Pollux), and their négoce cuvées all with biodynamic grapes: an Anjou Cabernet Franc (Castor), a Chenin from Bonnezeaux (Confluence) and a Grenache, Carignan and Aubun from the Ventoux (Raisins Migrateurs).
A quick note on Pineau d’Aunis: we still don’t really know where it comes from. Gouais is one of the parents but for the rest it is a mystery... Yet we have now a couple of certitudes. There is no link between Chenin and Aunis even though it is still called “Chenin Noir." The prieuré d’Aunis near Tours did not exist but there may be a link with Aunis in Charentes, implying a possible South West origin. It used to grow from Anjou to eastern Touraine especially in the 19th century. Now there are only a couple of hundred hectares left, but more talented vignerons are replanting it (Benoit Courault, etc.). A conservatory was created. This grape is very finicky, and disease-sensitive with inconsistent yield - reasons why Cabernet Franc was preferred. Low yield is necessary to get the best out of it. Pineau d’Aunis is sensitive to geosmin (giving a forest floor, beet like aromas), and has a lot of rotundone explaining its pepperiness. It does not give dark colored wines. For more info (in French) have a look at this intense paper by Henri Gallinié.
Eric, Christine and Clément are some of the most humble vignerons I know, with an extreme sensitivity, a poetic touch, an intuition for Nature. They respect their land and their vines as human beings, and they have built around them a team that cares as much as they do. Despite really difficult vintages with levels of crops threatening the viability of the estate (the frosts were absolutely devastating), they maintain their cap, and produce some of the best cuvées of the Loire. 2018 is the confirmation of their hard work and their talent, and despite the mildew pressure, they produced a superb range of wines reflecting their serenity and their maturity. I can only encourage you to enjoy these bottles, as they are truly special.
A big thanks to Eric Nicolas who took the time pre-harvest to chat with me, to Christine and Clément for their patience during my tasting with them in Angers last January, and to Le Rouge & Le Blanc for their in-depth article of the domaine and the map (this magazine is a gem of wine journalism and it is now available on-line in English!)
Les Giroflées is an absolute delicious treat Eric, Christine & Clément Nicolas are producing with over-ripe grapes of old vine Pineau d'Aunis. Off-dry still rosé is a traditional style of Loire Valley wines rarely seen outside of the region. It was drunk by the bucket at the turn of the 20th century by workers enjoying these Grolleau Gris, Cabernet Franc, Gamay or Aunis with residual sugars, bracing acidity and exuberant strawberry-peppermint notes. Unfortunately industrial winemaking destroyed the quality of these wines... until some real vignerons produced them again: no chaptalisation, no high yields, good farming and suddenly we could rediscover their true taste. I love this rare cuvée from the domain as it is an incredibly versatile wine combining these sensual red berry notes, especially pomegranate and wild strawberry, the fresh cracked pepper spice and the forest floor giving some savory tones, and the perfect balance between sugar and acidity coming from the old vines and the clay limestone. 2018 is a great expression of this wine, as the vintage gave the natural concentration to achieve this balance. You don't feel the 50 g of residual as there is more tannic structure as counterpoint. Enjoy this wine today, chilled but keep it up to 5 years no problem, as the sweetness will become more and more humus, pepper driven. Of course this is wonderful with cold strawberry soup with rose water, fresh mint and white pepper, but really use it for any spicy red meat based dish - don't be scared with duck, lamb, etc. It should be quite outstanding! 100% Pineau d'Aunis. Pascaline Lepeltier.
The Nicolas have been crafted unique, chiseled Chenins from the terroirs of silex, sand clay over tuffeau in the little valley of the Loir, 40 miles north of the more famous Loire with "e", Within a couple of miles, they grow this grape over 2 appellations and 10 different variations of soils, leading to multiple cuvées. Les Rosiers is made from multiple plots of 50 year-old vines in Jasnières. It is always one of the broadest Chenins they produce due to the terroir. In 2018, a concentrated vintage, the wine has more shoulder and residual sugar than usual (25 g/l, technically a little more than off-dry) but you don't really feel them as the superb farming of Eric and Clément allowed to maintain a good amount of acidity. The nose is typical for the region, with this mix of quince, crabapple, petrichor and dried chamomile. The palate as mentioned is not shy but not heavy at all. If you cellar the wine, the feeling of sweetness will decrease over the year (I can see this bottle aging 10+ years no problem). If the attack enhances the fruit, the finish is more herbal, with hints of gentiane and some smokiness. Open it now, serve it in medium size glassware, and pair it with poached lobster with cumin and confit carrot, an Indian vegetable curry, a Thai noodle salad with peanut sauce, or some mild blue cheese. 100% Chenin. Pascaline Lepeltier.
Vieilles Vignes Eparses is without a doubt an emblematic cuvée of Chenin produced by Eric, Christine and Clément Nicolas at Domaine de Bellivière. Made from old vines growing on a variation of clay, silex and tuffeau over multiple plots, this is one of the most chiseled examples of Coteaux-du-Loir. Eric is adamant separating the oldest vines, as they are able to give a unique length and balance to the wine, whatever the vintage: the oldest Chenin of the domaine go in this wine. Of course working in biodynamic reinforces this harmony too. This cuvée needs some time to reveal itself so being able to enjoy 2015 now is perfect. A really good vintage for the estate, the wine is a little shy on the nose: it deserves larger glasses to blossom, within minutes showing notes of sun Anjou pear, papaya and sunflower. Eparses is always more aromatic, exuberant than Calligramme, the old vines cuvée from Jasnières. The palate is unfolding the acidity with a lot of elegance: the attack in on the larger side, to become more and more focused as the wine goes. The few grams of residual sugar are barely felt, if not to carry on notes of yellow plum, oregano and salt. Keep this bottle for 10 years or enjoy it today with a Turbot on the bone with a saffron butter sauce, a yellow chickpea and cauliflower curry or a hard press cheese with rhubarb marmelade. 100% Chenin. Pascaline Lepeltier.
Le Rouge-Gorge is one of the most regular, over-delivering, delicious, consistent cuvées of Pineau d'Aunis you can find in the Loire. It is in other words a benchmark for what this under-valued grape (not of course at CSW) is capable of. In the talented, wise hands of Eric & Clément Nicolas, the Pineau d'Aunis shows its delicacy yet its ability to be layered, structured, terroir-driven. Being high in rotundone and sensitive to geosmin, it is easy to think Aunis is just a light peppery, earthy red, or rosé. But it can be so much more, floral, herbal, wild, with orange zest, and a refined tannic structure. When yields, farming, vinifications are in check, it works, and in fact Eric & Clément don't hesitate to do 4 weeks of maceration with foulage, and long aging from these old vines definitely showing what the grape is capable of. Rouge-Gorge 2018 is absolutely yummy. The concentration due to the mildiou (which reduced the crop early in the season) and the heat gave quite some structure to this wine, but without loosing the chalky freshness. In fact, despite this density, it tastes so fresh. The nose is unmistakably Aunis, with this combinaison of wild cherry & strawberry, black and pink peppercorn, fern and rose. The palate mimics the nose, but brings more savory undertones of fennel, caraway and tomato leaf. Tanins are chalky, the gentle aging in older barrels making them even more velvety. This is just delicious and complex. Enjoy it now in a Burgundy glass - you can slightly chill it - or keep it up to 10 years no problem. Play of course with the tannins, the acidity and the pepperiness for the pairings: some wild boar, duck or bison charcuterie, smoked eels, some over-roasted pulled pork would be great, but also with a spicy lentil stew. Pineau d'Aunis. Pascaline Lepeltier.
Without hesitation, this cuvée belongs to the pantheon of the best reds made in the Loire Vallée. If you had to taste only 1 Pineau d'Aunis, it should probably be this cuvée, for you to understand the complexity, delicacy, sensuality of the under-considered grape varieties. Made from century-year old vines preserved with deep love and passion by Eric and Clément Nicolas, this special cuvée paying tribute to Louis Derré, the vigneron-farmer who sold the Ferme de Bellivière to Eric and taught him a lot, is only produced in the best vintages. In 2018, it was the case, and the vintage gave one of the best examples of this bottling! Partially destemed, the cluster and berries are gently foot-trod in large format barrels, macerated for 4 weeks then pressed. The free-run and the press juice are blended, and the wine is then aged in demi-muids for 18 month. Sulfur dioxide is used to a bare minimum, and after fermentation. Barely 600 to 800 bottles of this wine are produced... The nose of the 2018 is a little reduced, but you would be worried if it was not the case. A gentle decanting blows the reduction off, to discover a bouquet of Damask rose, pink and black peppercorn, caraway, black cardamom, fern. It is really quite complex. The palate really reminded me why Pineau d'Aunis can be described as a cross between Pinot and Syrah, but in this case think Beaune meets the historical heart of St Joseph, with an undeniable chalky freshness with reinvigorating herbal tannins. The saltiness plays with the pepperiness, lingering. It is a shame to drink this wine today even though it is so good. 5 years in your cellar will make it even more complete. Serve it decanted in large Burgundy glass, and pair it with a grilled red mullet served with confit heirloom tomatoes, venison loin with soy and glazed baby beet, or a roasted duck breast with celeriac purée and braised raddichio. 100% Pineau d'Aunis. Pascaline Lepeltier.
For couple of years, Eric, Christine and Clément Nicolas have been producing a tiny quantity of delicious sparkling, some pet nat, some traditional method, some white, some rosé from Pineau d'Aunis and Chenin from their biodynamic vineyards in the Loir Valley. Myriade de Bulles is a new cuvée for them, and I never really tasted anything like this. Think Lambrusco meets Rosé de Saignée Champagne, but made with Cabernet Franc & Aunis! So how is it made? The base is 2017 very ripe Aunis, directly pressed, but very dark, vinified dry, bottled to do the second fermentation in bottle. Because the tirage led to too much pressure, they had to disgorge it, put it back in tank. They added 20% Cabernet Franc from 2018, and vinified again a traditional method this time with less pressure. It is disgorged after a little more than a year on the lees, with no dosage. So, what to expect? Eric wanted vinous, dry, red bubbles - this for sure is the case, but because it is made with lightly extracted Aunis and Cabernet Franc, the tannins don't come in the way of the tension, the dryness and the pressure (which is quite high, at least 5 bars). The colour is quite deceptive as you would expect something bigger and more structured, but it is not the case. Aromatically, it is a really enticing combination of the dominant of the two grapes, playing with each other : pepper, beet juice, raspberry, cherry, forest floor, fern. All in all it is more on the savory than the fruity style. I have to say I really like it! Drink it now, chilled, and serve it with anything grilled on the barbecue, including river fish, a paella with a lot of saffron, any type of cheese or red-wine marinated strawberry. As you can see, you have lot of options! 80% Pineau d'Aunis, 20% Cabernet Franc. Pascaline Lepeltier.
Raisins Migrateurs started as a one off in 2016 after the terrible frost endured by Domaine de Bellivière where they lost most of their crop. Looking to buy grapes, Eric & Christine discovered a biodynamic property in the higher part of the Ventoux growing old vines Grenache and Carignan on sedimentary soil. They picked the wines and brought it overnight back to the estate. They vinified it like all their other reds, just destemmed in that case, but keeping the long, gentle maceration. As they understood vintages could continue to be devastating, they decided to commit to a long time collaboration with this grower. They now have been producing this cuvée every year, investing in older parcels as well as new vessels to vinify the wine (2020 will see some Aubun in the blend, and some cement egg aging, inspired by Dominique Hauvette's work with Cinsault.) This 2017 has for sure a different profile than the red we usually know from Bellivière - their Aunis, their Cabernet and Gamay - with this Grenache/Carignan blend from the Southern Rhône, but you will still pick up their touch in the delicacy of the extraction. It is not a shy wine, coming from a sunny vintage : all the Mediterranean aromatics explose on the nose, the crushed red and black berries, the liquorice, the oregano, finishing with some leather notes. In the palate, the wine is dense for sure but without any heat, and the tannins, well ripe and a little chocolaty, hold the finish. A wine for late night summer barbecues, and for sure a treat for this fall when temperature will get cooler. Pour it in large bowls, and enjoy it with a beef tenderloin with braised mushroom, a black bean stew and or a lamb tajine. 95% Grenache, 5% Carignan. Pascaline Lepeltier.
Raisins Migrateurs started as a one off in 2016 after the terrible frost endured by Domaine de Bellivière where they lost most of their crop. Looking to buy grapes, Eric & Christine discovered a biodynamic property in the higher part of the Ventoux growing old vines Grenache and Carignan on sedimentary soil. They picked the wines and brought it overnight back to the estate. They vinified it like all their other reds, just destemmed in that case, but keeping the long, gentle maceration. As they understood vintages could continue to be devastating, they decided to commit to a long time collaboration with this grower. They now have been producing this cuvée every year, investing in older parcels as well as new vessels to vinify the wine (2020 will see some Aubun in the blend, and some cement egg aging, inspired by Dominique Hauvette's work with Cinsault.)
This 2017 has for sure a different profile than the red we usually know from Bellivière - their Aunis, their Cabernet and Gamay - with this Grenache/Carignan blend from the Southern Rhône, but you will still pick up their touch in the delicacy of the extraction. It is not a shy wine, coming from a sunny vintage : all the Mediterranean aromatics explose on the nose, the crushed red and black berries, the liquorice, the oregano, finishing with some leather notes. In the palate, the wine is dense for sure but without any heat, and the tannins, well ripe and a little chocolaty, hold the finish. A wine for late night summer barbecues, and for sure a treat for this fall when temperature will get cooler. Pour it in large bowls, and enjoy it with a beef tenderloin with braised mushroom, a black bean stew and or a lamb tajine. 95% Grenache, 5% Carignan. Pascaline Lepeltier.