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Years ago, back in the late 2000's, wines from a relatively unknown estate, L'Anglore, began making the rounds in Paris, and by 2010, were imported into New York by our own David Lillie and friend Phillipe “Fifi” Essome. Made by a humble beekeeper and grape-grower named Eric Pfifferling, who had been selling to the local co-op in Tavel/Lirac area until 2002, these wines had a following of wine-nerds, musicians, Parisian hipsters, and the like. By no means widely known, the L'Anglore wines attained a type of cult status among a small circle of wine drinkers. Since beginning to make and independently bottle his own wines, Eric Pfifferling has worked with many up and coming young winemakers in the region, so by way of his collaborations with folks like Nicolas Reynaud, we've been able to enjoy a wider range of wines influenced by Pfifferling. Today, we are very happy to share a lineup from a young winemaker named Romain Le Bars, who worked alongside Eric at L'Anglore for 7 years before embarking on his own modest project.
Romain Le Bars started with a tiny surface of 1.5 hectares (around 4 acres) of vines in Tavel that he acquired in 2018, while still working with Pfifferling at L'Anglore. Since then, he has augmented his surface by renting parcels in the area, allowing him to produce a small range of wines, including several Tavel rosés, Lirac reds, and some Vin de France wines. Most of his winemaking utilizes partial carbonic maceration or direct press, with one wine - Nouveau Nez - the product of pure carbonic maceration. Style-wise the wines have rustic flavors, and characteristic spice and chalky, limestone notes, but due to his light-handed approach with winemaking, they all feel very elegant and lifted. Of the four wines we are offering today, three are under 13% (with the fourth - the 'Nuits de Java' coming in at 13.5)
I will admit, it is common to hear about a new winemaker through association with an established name. One can easily hear the phrase "she worked with so and so" or "he spent 2 years at Domaine something-or-other" as if that would unequivocally guarantee the wines are of the same quality level as the associated mentor or highly esteemed wine estate. Though his association with Eric Pfifferling and L'Anglore has heightened interest in his wines, Romain's skill and vision as a winemaker have been apparent from the beginning. The first time I tried his Grenache-based Tavel rosé, I was truly impressed, and of course had to separate my expectations and experience with L'Anglore to attempt to appreciate Romain's work on its own. Luckily it hasn't been so hard to do so. The wines are clearly influenced by Pfifferling, perhaps mostly in the use of direct-press and partial carbonic winemaking, which seek freshness over power in an area known for the latter. Other than that, the farming is by Romain's hand, and the cuvées are his 'inventions,' if you will. Surely an estate to keep on your radar, we happily present a small lineup today as an introduction.
Not present today are his Grenache-based Tavel rosé or red Lirac (stay tuned!), but the four bottlings offered here form a fantastic introduction to Romain Le Bar's wines.
Les Secondaires is a Vin de France white from Romain Le Bars that speaks of the Rhone Valley. A blend of Ugni Blanc and Roussanne, it has the unique weight and viscosity from the Roussanne, and subtle floral and quince notes from the Ugni Blanc. Grapes here go through partial carbonic maceration and are aged in used barrels. On opening, the notes of Herbes de Provence and chalky limestone are clear, and with time this white opens up with stone fruit and more weight on the mid-palate. This should be exceptional with poultry dishes in cream sauce, grilled and herbed fish, cheeses, etc. A must for any lover of Rhone whites.
A juicy, deeply spiced and flavorful Tavel rosé from Romain Le Bars. Romain produces two different Tavel rosés, one a blend of Grenache and Syrah, and this one, which is made from Cinsault. Though perhaps lacking the pronounced spice of the Grenache, this wine overdelivers on savory notes, dark, overripe wild berries, and mineral structure. This wine will be darker and deeper than expected for any rosé drinker who has never tried a bottle from L'Anglore (where Romain worked for 7 years) or from Romain Le Bars himself, but for those accustomed to the darker, savory dry rosés from Tavel, this is a welcome treat, giving varietal expression while also delivering a bit of the 'natural vibe' (wilder aromatics, high acidity, and cloudy/opaque hue).
Nouveau Nez is a wine resulting from pure carbonic maceration, aged in stainless steel, and like Romain's other cuvées, bottled without any added sulfites. A blend of Carignan, Cinsault, Mourvèdre, and Grenache, this is a juicy, brambly young wine meant for immediate consumption, preferably with a light chill. Pure carbonic maceration sees whole clusters of grapes placed in an inert tank, which allows the fermentation to commence within the intact berries, sometimes with the addition of a thin layer of CO2 gas at the top of the tank to keep oxygen out. The result is typically a fresh wine, with notes of young berries, and lifted, fruity aromatics. Some may remark that after several decades of winemakers utilizing this approach (previously specific to the Beaujolais region and Gamay grape), there is a dirth of wines from disparate regions (and countries) that taste quite similar. I won't disagree, but this wine from Romain definitely speaks of the grape varieties and offers lovely, high toned spice and garrigue. Drink with a light chill.
Very much akin to his elegant Lirac red, this blend of Grenache and Syrah called "Les Nuits de Java" is a delicious and complex red from the tiny vineyard parcels of Romain le Bars. The wine shows the faintest hint of reduction from the Syrah, giving a truly pleasant outdoorsy 'barnyard' nose, which blends with notes of earth, blueberries, and spice. On the palate, this red is energetic and fresh, while still behaving as a true medium-bodied Rhone red. Open over several hours, it just gets better and better! A stand out red from Romain Le Bars, quite effective on its own as an experience, or recommended with simple, rustic meals, roasted root veggies, roast chicken, pork dishes, lamb dishes, mushroom dishes, and cheeses -EL