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Today's email features some of our favorite estates from the southern Rhône Valley, all of which practice superb organic or Biodynamic farming. Hand harvesting, wild yeast fermentations and aging in cement or old barrels enables the living soils in these vineyards to produce outstanding wines of terroir at modest prices. These wines will accompany hearty meals all year round and will be perfect with anything off the grill this spring and summer, served slightly cool - enjoy!
Domaine de la Guicharde, Massif D'Uchaux
This over-achieving estate located in the Massif D'Uchaux on stony limestone soils grows vegetables, olives and fruits in a diverse, forested environment providing ideal conditions for the vines. "In addition to its warm and benevolent micro-climate, the Massif d'Uchaux has a unique and specific terroir characterized by poor and shallow soils, sometimes even arid, particularly well suited to growing vines. They develop deep root systems in search of water, the roots taking care of the passage of trace elements contained in the subsoil. Our biodynamic practices reinforce their development by promoting exchanges between the soil and the roots to regenerate and stimulate the life and organic functions of the soil." (Guicharde website) The 2020 Côtes du Rhône is a sensational value for everyday enjoyment!
Domaine Alary, Cairanne
This leading estate in Cairanne is a team of Denis Alary and his son Jean-Etienne. They practice organic farming, limit yields and vinify in a tradional manner, aging in concrete, seeking finesse in their full-bodied wines. The Alarys have the range of Cairanne terroirs: south-facing slopes with white and blue clays-soils, the lower terraces of the 'Garrigues', the high plateau with cobbles covering underlying white and red clays, along with the richer soils close to the Plan de Dieu. The Estevenas is always one of the top Cairannes - it's beautiful as a young wine but ages with great complexity for 15 to 20 years.
Domaine Aphillanthes, CDR Plan de Dieu, Rasteau, Gigondas
"This is a domaine well worth investigating" says drinkrhone "full, genuine and punchy wines, really exemplary. Daniel Boulle is an ex Co-operateur. It has been organic and biodynamic since the late 2000s. The vineyard work is exemplary, cutting edge in sowing of clovers, peas and broad beans in between the rows, four sorts of wheat - these are rolled down in April, so humidity is retained, with the effect of lowering soil temperatures by up to 4°C in summer. Three months later, when decomposed, these supply mineral to the soil, and nitrogen and a little carbon dioxide go into the vine roots. Olive trees are also being planted once more to vary the eco system. (The Biodynamic farming at les Aphillanthes is a prime example of Regenerative Agriculture in the vines!) The Plan de Dieu "les Galets" is a leading edge wine in that Village, always solid and compact, 60% 1970s Grenache, 20% Syrah, 20% Mourvèdre on clay-limestone." And we love their new Gigondas, a classy wine for current drinking or for the cellar...
Domaine Charvin and Domaine de Ferrand, Châteauneuf du Pape, Côtes du Rhone
These two superb estates in Châteauneuf-du-Pape make Cotes-du-Rhones from vineyards adjacent to their CDP vines that offer sensational value for current drinking or cellaring for ten to fifteen years. The "Le Poutet" of Laurent Charvin is from 20 to 100 year-old vines from near Maucoil, Quartier Champovin and Boislauzon in sandy, clay-limestone and galet stones soils. The beautiful Ferrand Cuvee Antiques Vieilles Vignes is from 80 to 90 year-0ld vines - 90% Grenache, 5% Syrah, 2% Cinsault, 2% Mourvèdre, 1% Grenache blanc and Clairette blanche from 3.5 hectares next to the domaine in the northern sector of CDP.
Clos du Joncuas, Gigondas
Clos du Joncuas, founded in 1920 by Pierre Auguste Chastan, has farmed with organic methods from the very beginning (depuis toujours) and has been officially organic since 1980. Currently run by sisters Dany and Carole Chastan, the estate's Gigondas vines are on slopes below the Dentelles de Montmirail, on soils of clay with dolomite and gypsum over the limestone of the Dentelles, and average 40 to 90 years old. Vinifications here are entirely old-school; whole-clusters fermented with wild yeasts in cement and aged in old barrels. Both in their farming and winemaking, they are the Domaine Gonon of Gigondas!
Balazu des Vaussieres, Tavel
And now for something a bit different, from one of the worlds most distinctive producers of natural wines. 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 can be 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 five years. Vinifications here are without additives, essentially semi-carbonic, with the red about three years in vat before bottling. 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...
All wines are in stock or arrive by Tuesday 4/18. 10% case/mixed case discount applies, stock-up on these superb values!!
Clos du Joncuas, founded in 1920 by Pierre Auguste Chastan, has always farmed with natural methods and has been officially organic since 1980. Currently run by sisters Dany and Carole Chastan, the estate's Gigondas vines are on slopes below the Dentelles de Montmirail on soils of clay with dolomite and gypsum over the limestone of the Dentelles and average 40 to 90 years old. 80% Grenache with Mourvedre, Cinsault and Syrah, whole cluster fermentation in vat with 12 months aging in large old barrels. 2020 is a great vintage at the Clos du Joncuas, a bit brighter and more elegant than the 2019, with high-toned black fruit, mineral, spice and licorice aromas. The palate is elegant and fresh showing deep supple black fruits with hints of graphite, garrigue and brown spice. A few days after opening, the wine has deepened impressively with pure blackberry, bitter chocolate and licorice aromas, great density on the palate with black fruit liqueur, red currant, earth and anise. A beautiful wine! Drink this over the next 10 to 15 years, it will give elegant early drinking, served a bit cool. David Lillie
From 80% Grenache with Syrah and Mourvedre, grown on gravelly limestone terraces, always farmed organically, whole-cluster fermention and aged in concrete vats. Dany and Carole Chastan have made another superb Vacqueyras in 2020, more elegant than the opulent 2019 version, showing dark black/red color and bright aromas of blackberry, black olive and licorice with plum skin, garrigue, violet and bitter chocolate. This young wine is showing deep black fruits with firm acidity and terrific length with chalky mineral notes, earth, citrus and olive. This will be fantastic with grilled foods, stews and tagines and will develop nicely over the next 10 - 15 years. Highly recommended and a great value! David Lillie
Isabelle and Arnaud Guicharde make this lovely Rhone red on their beautiful estate which is certified organic since 2008 and Biodynamic since 2013. Made from Grenache and Syrah, their style here is cool stylish fruit on the palate - blackberry with hints of prune, blueberry and Provencal spices. The finish is long with earthy red fruits and spicy acidity. This is a great value in a complex, balanced Rhone red.
"The 2020 Côtes-du-Rhône “la Gerbaude” bottling from Cairanne-based Domaine Alary is crafted from some of the younger vines at the domaine, around twenty years of age, and made from a cépages of grenache, syrah and carignan. The 2020 comes in at fourteen percent and delivers a very refined nose of red and black raspberries, pepper, grilled meats, a lovely base of soil and a topnote of garrigue. On the palate the wine is deep, complex and full-bodied, with a lovely core of fruit, good soil signature, ripe tannins and a long, very well-balanced and complex finish. This is excellent Côtes-du-Rhône." The View from the Cellar # 100
65% old-vine Grenache, 35% Syrah (Serine, 1960, cuttings from Ampuis) from south facing clay-limestone slope soils on L’Estévenas, hand harvested, destemmed, The 2020 "Estévenas" is already singing and should drink well for another 10 to 20 years! Glass-staining red/black color with very deep ripe black cherry and raspberry aromas, quite elegant with a cool menthol aspect despite the ripeness - perhaps a bit brighter than the 2019. The palate is very round and sappy with red currant, black cherry and blueberry fruit, all in an elegant frame with bright acidity and finishing with terrific length of minty red fruits and mineral flavors. Drink now, slightly cool or hold ten to twenty years, lovely wine and highly recommended. David Lillie "
The 2020 Domaine les Aphillanthes "les Galets" is a very delightful Côtes de Rhône from 60% Grenache (1970s), 20% Syrah, 20% Mourvèdre grown on clay-limestone soils on the Plan de Dieu, a terroir of gravel, rolled stones and clay near Gigondas. The wine shows lovely, bright aromas of black cherry and red currant, floral and quite pretty. The palate is supple and silky with cool red and black fruits, the finish is long with juicy red fruits and hints of spice with good length. Really a sensational value - a lovely CDR at a great price - serve with Coq au Vin and be happy...
The Aphillanthes Gigondas "Promesse" is from 50 to 70 year-old vines, 80% Grenache with Mourvedre and Cinsault. "The wine shows quite a dark red; has a smoky, well tuned nose that invites, offers red fruits, buffed leather, black olives, real freedom in the skies. The palate carries truffly tones, black berry fruits, and keen tannins that give smoke, cut. It’s very good, true Gigondas, bears no adornments, ends on pepper. It’s sprightly, up, very appealing, the late fruits darned tasty. This is refined and appealing, has much purity, is classy. “It’s very supple, very fine,” Hélène Boulle." - drinkrhone
The Laurent Charvin "Le Poutet" is made from average 50 year-old vines (some are 90 years-old!) of 80% Grenache with Mourvedre, Syrah and Carignan in vineyards that abut Chateauneuf-du-Pape - Maucoil in the northwest and Campovin and Boislauzon in the northeast. The soils are sandy clay/limestone with galets stones. The grapes undergo a 15 to 20-day whole bunch fermentation with daily pumping-overs, the wine then spends 18 months in concrete vat and is bottled unfined and unfiltered. The resulting wine is equal to many Châteauneuf-du-Pape, offering complex aromas of garrigue and spicy red fruits with the structure to evolve and drink well over ten to fifteen years. The lovely 2020 shows "a red robe; the nose carries a light essence of cooked plum fruit, strawberry jam, pepper, peony. It’s wide, will emerge and evolve well. The palate is close-knit, herbal-peppery, lined with red cherry, brisk fruits, cut in the tannins that still stand a little on the outside. Its frame is a bit skeletal, can amplify. There is rocky powder emphasis on the close, the length good. I like its gradual upping of the tempo, depth. It has interest, hidden corners, is not an open book. “It’s very fresh, always had foundation. 2019 is powerful, but 2020 bears jolis fruits, has true class, an identity,” Laurent Charvin." drinkrhone.com
(Wow, still available and shouild be delicious in 2023!) The gorgeous Charvin Rosé is from a 1.5 ha parcel of about 50% Grenache, 50% Cinsault, sometimes with some Bourboulenc and Mourvèdre that averages just 35hL/ha annually. Organically farmed and entirely harvested by hand with sorting done in the vineyard. The 2020 rosé shows a pale pink color and lovely aromas of raspberry, wild strawberry, rose and peach skin. The palate is silky and mineral with subtle raspberry and cherry fruit with stone and citrus flavors, quite long and elegant and finishing with refreshing acidity. This is drinking beautifully and will be a great companion to seafood, chicken and grilled meats this summer and all year round. Lovely wine!
The Ferrand "Cuvee Antique Vieilles Vignes" has been one of our favorite Cotes du Rhone for many years, providing the complexity and depth of good Chateauneuf-du-Pape at a bargain price. The 2020 is particularly outstanding. Mostly Grenache from 80 to 90 year-old vines, the 2020 shows a "dark red robe; the bouquet has capacity, an aroma of ripe plum fruit, with a little nuttiness in the background. There’s more to come, variety and opening on the agenda. The palate runs with habitual fullness, gives a pleasing surge of ample red-berry, raspberry flavour, good, ripe tannins in the wheel. The fruit of old vines here has played the top role in giving it a proper foundation, and it’s a leading 2020 Côtes, true and genuine, a real wine of terroir." - drinkrhone
This is a beautiful Gigondas Rosé from our organic friends at Clos du Joncuas. Pretty bright pink/orange color, aromas of raspberry, tart cherry, blood orange, peach skin and rose, a bit fresher and brighter than the last two vintages. Full, crisp palate with pretty red fruits and firm acidity. Long finish with tart cherry, peach, earth and citrusy acids. A bit lighter and better balanced than the 2019 and 2020, and very young - it should open up nicely over the next two years. It's delicious now though, and very food-friendly – serve with grilled fish and white meats, salade nicoise, vegetarian dishes and Provençal foods. A great rosé to enjoy all year-round!
For lovers of natural wines - The new Rouge from Balazu des Vaussieres is the Cuvée Hysope, recently bottled after a brief passage in wood, then four years aging in tank. It's from 50% Grenache, 20% Mourvedre, 20% Carignan and 10% Cinsault, grown primarily in Tavel with additional vines in Roquemaure, nearby. The wine needs 1 - 2 hours of aeration (after it's four years in vat) then shows lovely black cherry, plum, violet, citrus peel and earth. The palate shows firm acidity and a dense earthy texture with ripe cherry, red currant and licorice with herbal and citrus notes. The finish is long and complex with earthy red fruits, citrus and brown spice. This is a beautiful living wine which will be fun to taste over many days, recorked in the fridge. Ten years of cellaring should be interesting...
The 2021 Balazu des Vaussières Blanc "Cuvee Hibiscus" is from 50% Grenache Blanc and 10% each of Roussanne, Viognier, Clairette, Marsanne and Bourboulenc. The wine shows an opaque pale bronze color with aromas of almond, ripe pear, apple blossom, lemon verbena, a touch of honey and stone. The palate is dense with dried pear, herbal and mineral flavors, showing the Grenache Blanc, with hints of apricot and mint. On day two the other grapes are more evident, with a long finish of stone and citrus. This is a delicious full-bodied natural white that is delicious now and should cellar nicely as well...