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- SOUTHERN RHONE
- “Ile des Trois Miles”.
- LE VENDANGEUR MASQUE, ALICE OLIVIER DE MOOR, Vin de Pays de l’Ardèche – Organic
DOMAINE LES MAOU, VINCENT GARRETA, Ventoux- Organic
These wines are really cool climate Ventoux labelled as Vins de France because their alcohol level is too low. The Au P’tit
Bonheur Rouge is a 100% Cinsault foules with 30mg/l of sulphites à l’encuvage, then no sulphite in vinification until 15mg/l
at bottling. Vaste Programme is a Carignan with carbonic maceration blended with Aubun (apparently, an old type of
Carignan) foule, with short maceration and no sulphites until 15mg/l at bottling.
AU P’TIT BONHEUR
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CHATEAU VALCOMBE, LUC & CENDRINE GUERNARD, Ventoux- Organic
Situated in the foothills of Mont Ventoux Château Valcombe" covers 28 hectares. Luc and Cendrine (and their team) are
ecologically minded, respectful and aware of the natural assets of the terroir. The vines are supported by a high wooden
trellis. The labour is traditional, without using chemicals. Leaf removal, destemming are performed manually and there is no
pollarding of the vines. The average age of the vineyard is of more than 50 years, the resulting wines are powerful with all the
energy focused in a few grapes. The vineyard surrounds the gravity cellar of the domaine. The grapes do not have far to travel
after harvesting so they do not get crushed and thus the aromas are allowed to develop fully.
The wines mature in barrels of 400 and 600 litres until ready for bottling. Nothing is rushed.
Cinq Puits comes from a vineyard situated in the town of Mazan, on south east facing slopes on clay and limestone soils. The
blend is 70% Grenache, 15% Syrah and 5% Carignan, all old vines and all manually debudded with green harvest. Grapes
are handpicked. The wines are matured in “demi muids” used six times previously. Bright cherry red with ripe fruits the wine
has discreet aromas of undergrowth and warm brick. In the mouth this Ventoux red is fleshy yet elegant with aromas of kirsch,
raspberry, cherry and dark chocolate and some roasted notes. The peppery finish binds the whole.
Epicure Rouge comes from a vineyard situated in the town of St Pierre de Vassols, at an altitude of 250 metres, on north-west
slopes, facing the Dentelles de Montmirail. The soil is clay, limestone and sand based, grey-brown with a yellowish hue,
pebbly and gravelly. The silt lies on dark ochre fine sand which itself lies on gravels. Some areas sit on oxidised gravels. The
blend here is 60% Grenache, 25% Carignan and 15% Syrah. The winemaking process involves racking and returning with
maturing on the lees in concrete tanks. Predominant notes of ripe fruit, cherry, in the mouth the wine is unctuous and round
yet perfectly balanced with freshness, great structure and smooth tannins on the finish. The aromatic palate spreads from ripe
fruit to more aromatic liquorice flavours finishing with notes of stone and plum.
Biodynamics – Earth Calling
Of course, I don’t believe in it. But I understand that it brings you luck whether you believe in it or not. (Niels Bohr on a horseshoe nailed
to his wall.)
Biodynamics goes a step further than organic farming although it shares many of the practical approaches. It assumes philosophical
holism, articulating almost animistic and Gaian values and allies to it its own scientific analysis and observation. I think science is too
often confused with technology: its applications might be represented in the metaphor of a pill. What the pill contains is a chemical
solution to a problem that tends, by definition, to be a short term one. There may be alternative therapies such as acupuncture or
homeopathic remedies which may achieve the same effect as the pill. Faith-healing and hypnosis can alleviate certain illnesses because
they can stimulate the brain to send out signals to create antibodies. Biodynamics starts from a different perspective and posits a unified
methodology insofar as it is not treating the vine as a patient but creating a healthy environment for the vine to exist in. Rather than being
a reactive form of farming, it is prescient, intuitive and intelligent.
Incorporated within this philosophy are such diverse matters as the importance of a planting calendar, seasonal tasks, epedaphic
conditions, the waxing of the moon (and how it corresponds to high pressure) and the role of wild yeasts. The dynamic of the vineyard
mirrors all the cycles. The seasons are a necessary part of the great natural balance, the constant process of decomposition, dormancy and
recomposition. Nature is about a series of transformations, and biodynamics analyses the different states and exchanges of matter and
energy that operate in the growth of the vine: between the mineral and the roots; the water and the leaf; light and the flower; heat and the
fruit, a series of metamorphoses which can be seen not as different states, but ascendant and descendant ones. This is a radical way of
looking at plants (although it was proposed by Goethe as early as the 1800s before being elaborated by Rudolph Steiner and Maria Thun.)
The vineyard then is worked through the cycles of natural peaks and troughs. Autumn, the time of decomposition, the sun in its
descendant phase, is marked by the use of compost and diverse animal and vegetable preparations to nourish the soil. Spring witnesses the
time of regeneration, photosynthesis, the ascendant sun, and crystalline formation. All activities in the vineyard will mirror these rhythms.
The lunar calendar meanwhile is used as a timetable indicating when is the best time to prune vines or to rack the wine from barrel to
Is biodynamic wine better? Perhaps this is not the question we should be asking. Andrew Jefford quotes Nicolas Joly’s credo: “Avant
d’etre bon, un vin doit etre vrai”; in other words a wine should ultimately be true to itself – this is the “morality of terroir.” Biodynamic
viticulture is the ultimate endeavour to realise terroir.
For an in-depth analysis of the philosophy and methodology of biodynamics Monty Waldin’s Biodynamic Wines published by Mitchell
Beazley is an invaluable guide.
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DOMAINE JACQUES MESTRE, CHRISTOPHE MESTRE, Châteauneuf-du-Pape
One cannot be precise and still be pure – Marc Chagall
Cue Ennio Morricone music: this is the domaine with no name. Consult the guidebooks and you will find a glorious
Old-fashioned Châteauneuf from a quirky grower who ages his wines in enormous oak foudres and releases them to order.
The soil is pebbly red clay with galets (pudding stones). Green harvesting in the vineyard, lutte raisonnée, organic viticulture
and low yields (below 35hl/ha) help provide the raw ingredients.
The blend is reassuringly southern Rhône: 60% Grenache, 10% Syrah, 10% Mourvèdre and 5% Cinsault and the
remaining odds and curious sods making up a baker’s dozen à la Château Beaucastel. The 2010, a superlative vintage
in Châteauneuf, has the usual animal aromas, game-and-gravy, plus olives, tamarinds, oranges and a mahogany
smoothness derived from maturity, in other words, a right old roister-doisterer.
With heart, mind and lots of body – a really pukka wine as a formerly young TV chef might say. Buy some now – for
now – and buy some now – for later – it’s got legs to burn. Recent vintages see a touch more Syrah and have a topuch
more backbone as a result. They still march to the drum of sun and the garrigue.
CHATEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE, CUVEE DES SOMMELIERS
CHATEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE, CUVEE DES SOMMELIERS – ½ bottle
CHATEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE, CUVEE DES SOMMELIERS – magnum
CLOS SAINT-MICHEL, OLIVIER & FRANCK MOUSSET, Châteauneuf-du-Pape
The red is a chewy Châteauneuf with smoky roasted meat character, black cherries and kirsch, pepper, herbs (bayleaf,
rosemary) glycerine fruit. Rich, deep and generous, with a compelling sweetness of fruit and a lush, pliant texture.
Finishes with firm but sweet tannins and a note of dark chocolate.
for high extraction and ages in foudres for about 12-16 months. If you seek characterful Côtes-du-Rhône in the
embryonic “Neuf” idiom then the supple Mathilde, (80% Grenache, 20% Syrah from 15-40 year old vines) all juicy
jammy fruits (strawberry, plum and orange) with a hint of bitter olive, delivers the smoky bacon. The white
Châteauneuf is just sublime: aromas of acacia and wild mint jostle with honey, beeswax and vanilla, a mouthful of
subtle pleasure. This is a didapper palate, a wine whose flavours seem to disappear only to bob up again like a
nervous dabchick. Grenache 30%, Clairette 30%, Roussanne 20%, Bourboulenc 20%, all the grapes being manually
harvested and fermented separately in 225 litre oak casks. After twelve months, and after a rigorous selection process,
the wines are blended. Both colours of Châteauneuf will age happily for ten years or more.
COTES-DU-RHONE ROUGE “MATHILDE”
CHATEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE ROUGE CUVEE SPECIALE
CHATEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE ROUGE CUVEE RESERVE
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Glowing with pride
Growers in the Rhone have been rejoicing since they have been given permission to change the name from Coteaux du Tricastin with its
connotations of the local nuclear power plant to the more poetic “Ile des Trois Miles”.
DOMAINE LA BARROCHE, CHRISTIAN & JULIEN BARROT, Châteauneuf-du-Pape
In the 17
century Alexandre Barrot purchased the first plot of land and founded a domaine. After him followed Pierre
Barrot and, after a lot of begatting, Eugène Gabriel Barrot. After him the domaine was divided between four sons, one of
them was Marcel Barrot. His son Christian Barrot resumed the estate and called it “Lou Destré d’Antan” “the press of
yesteryear” in memory of his grandfather.
The current domaine comprises 12.5 hectares in AOC Châteauneuf-du-Pape producing only red wines. The average age
of the vines is 60 years old, but 1/3 of them are 100-year-old-plus nubbly-knobbly Grenache bush vines, notably the 1.6 ha
vineyard at Grand Pierre, a small pebble-free parcel planted on sloped sandy red soils, the 0.8 hectare at Terres
Blanches (stony, limestone soils) and a 2.3 hectare plot at Palestor with some more centurion Grenache vines.
Julien is also very fond of his 0.5 hectare parcel at Pierre à Feu with 60-year-old Cinsault.
The Châteauneuf Signature is the cuvée that most naturally expresses the subtlety of the terroir. It embodies both the
fullness and the finesse of many complex aromas. It is at once an invitation to travel and a heightening of the senses.
The result of blending 100-year-old Grenache to Mourvèdre, Cinsault and Syrah varietals it offers a subtle mixture of
spices and well-ripened red and black fruit flavours, mingled with cocoa-coated dry fruit overtones. Think raspberry,
incense, mineral and lavender with fine grained tannins, a stony-garrigue cocktail of flavours.
The winemaker writes: “We have developed this wine with the greatest of care, taking into account the effects of both the
earth and sky on the grapes and wine. While in the vineyard, we only use organic fertilizers, manually harvest the fruit
and meticulously select our grapes. Once in the cellar, we gently handle our wines, which are regulated according to a
gravity-feed system.” Soft extraction methods are used, juices are gently handled and manipulations in the cellar are done
according to the lunar calendar and weather conditions. Wines are matured in
foudres and only bottled when they begin to reveal their personality (anywhere between one and three years)
Pure is, as the name suggests, something special, a wine meant to reveal an alliance between tradition and terroir.
Imagine a corner of land filled with century-old vines and the purest, sandy soil. The resulting wine, 100% Grenache,
pays due homage to historical Châteauneuf-du-Pape and its most celebrated grape varietal. It embodies delicacy, an
escape, a synthesis of subtle flavours: strawberries, black cherries, liquorice and a hint of toasty spice. Pure fruit and
muscular minerality, beautiful texture and length with supple tannin. It signifies the perfect balance between kindness and
Stephen Tanzer 93pts: “Intense raspberry, strawberry, and exotic blood orange aromas complicated by garrigue and
anise. Supple, sweet, and elegant, showing excellent depth and a broad range of red fruit tones. Silky, intensely fruity, and
Only a handful of vintages made and the “R” (Rayas) word has already been mentioned.
CHATEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE “PURE” ~ on allocation
DOMAINE DES VIGNEAUX, HELENE & CHRISTOPHE COMTE, Coteaux de l’Ardèche – Biodynamic
Domaine des Vigneaux is a third-generation family business located in Valvignères half way between Montélimar and
Aubenas, Ardèche. This 13-hectare vineyard is planted with Chardonnay, Viognier, Syrah, Grenache, Merlot, Pinot
Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon and run by Hélène and Christophe Comte. The domain received AB organic certification
in 2001 but has adopted biodynamic methods as early as 2009. The soil is worked lightly, enriched with organic
fertilizers and sprayed with plant concoctions, which helps to minimize the use of copper. It also stimulates the vines’
self-defence mechanisms and the microbial life of the soils. The ultimate goal is to find the right balance and bring out
the subtleties of the terroir in each cuvee. Hélène and Christophe have adopted non-interventionist winemaking
methods using neither additives nor any sulphur.
A lovely juicy Syrah bursting with healthy smiling purple colour and
exuding a warm nose of ripe cassis fruit. Ecocert certified. The Viognier is rich with aromas of waxy orchard fruit and
roasted white spices. The acids are soft, the wine mouthfilling. The Pinot Noir has bold red and dark blue fruit flavours
and soft spices.
PINOT NOIR AU BOUT DES DOIGTS
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From the ripened cluster brandished by its tormented stem, heavy with transparent but deeply troubled agate, or dusted with silver-blue,
the eye moves upward to contemplate the naked wood, the ligneous serpent wedged between two rocks: on what, in heaven’s name, does
it feed, this young tree growing here in the South, unaware that such a thing as rain exists, clinging to the rock by a single hank of
hemplike roots? The dews by night and the sun by day suffice for it – the fire of one heavenly body, the essence sweated by another –
Colette – Earliest Wine Memories
MAS DE LIBIAN, FAMILLE THIBON-MACAGNO, ST MARCEL D’ARDECHE – Biodynamic
Mas de Libian, a working farm (cereals, fruits and vines) since 1670, has remained in the hands of famille Thibon for its entire
history. Hélène a remarkably energetic member of the family took over the viticulture and winemaking in 1995, and convinced
her family to bottle their own wine rather than sell to local négociants. Her farming is entirely biodynamic since the 1960’s
when her grandfather ran the farm, and the vines (averaging 40-45 years-old) are pruned for low yields and concentration.
Nestor, a Comtois workhorse, joined the team for her ploughing prowess. The terraced vineyards, composed mostly of galets
rouges, in St-Marcel d’Ardèche (the west bank of the Rhône) provide stunning views of Mont Ventoux, the Alpilles, and the
Dentelles de Montmirail. Hélène is in her late 20s and in June this year she was selected by the French Wine Review as one of
its Young Winemakers of the Year. She makes her wines in a traditional fashion following organic principles, and the
vineyards have ‘pudding-stone’ soil like that found in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. The stones reflect sunlight during the day and
retain heat during the cold nights, thus making the vines work harder to extract water and minerals from the soil.
preferably. The vines are grown on clay-limestone with lauzes (flat stones) and some rolled pebbles. Grapes undergo strict
manual selection, are destemmed, lightly crushed and given a five-day maceration. Dark ruby colour, aromas of blackberry,
myrtle and gentle spices. The palate is warm and digestible with olive notes that recall the Rhône origins. Slap the tapenade on
the lamb cutlets and get the barbie fired up. Bout d’Zan refers to bits of liquorice; it was also a nickname for Helene’s father in
his youth alluding to his small stature and tanned skin. Now it refers to the liquorice flavour of the wine. From clay-limestone
terroir, the gobelet vines yield only 40hl/ha. The wine is vinified without sulphur and 30% of it spends seven months in foudres.
Black cherry, peppery spice, earthy notes, and did I mention the liquorice? Cave Vinum is a blend of Viognier, Roussanne amd
80-year-old Clairette on clay-limestone soils with large pebbles. Floral aromas of honeysuckle merge into sweet hay and herbs
– the wine is like an ethereal vermouth.
CAVE VINUM BLANC
VIN DE PETANQUE
COTES-DU-RHONE ROUGE “BOUT D’ZAN”
A little project from Alice and Oliver de Moor who buy organically grapes farmed from their friends in the Languedoc and
Ardeche. The grapes are spontaneously fermented in a mixture of foudre and stainless steel and the wine undergoes a natural
malo before being bottled without filtration or fining and just a little SO2 at bottling. A blend of Viognier, Clairette and
Grenache Blanc from Domaine des Dimanches (Emile Heredia in the Hérault) and Domaine du Mazel, Valvignère in the
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