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In our series of Great Values from France we turn towards the Southern Rhône, home of full-bodied, often powerful wines that we associate with winter meals but that are beautiful pairings, served a bit cool, with beef, pork, lamb and chicken from the grill this summer. Many of the wines in this email will age beautifully as well, particularly the Gigondas from Clos du Joncuas and the Beaumes-de Venise from Ferme Saint-Martin, giving superb mature wines in the style of Chateauneuf-du-Pape.
One of the most enjoyable tastings on our January tour de France was with Dany and Carole Chastan of the Clos du Joncuas, two women who are very modest but quite proud of their wines, their long tradition of organic farming and their definitely old fashioned vinifications. Old vines, wild-yeast whole-cluster fermentations and aging in old barrels yield wines that clearly express each vintage and their terroir below the Dentelles de Montmirail. We're happy to offer new vintages of these superb traditional wines - and don't overlook the outstanding white and rosé...
Marcel Richaud has been making "natural wine" for over 40 years, since taking over from his father in the 1970s. Organic farming, low yields, hand-harvesting for perfect fruit and fermentations with wild yeasts with little or no sulfur - Richaud produces beautiful wines of nature and is passionate about making wine without chemicals in the vineyard or cellar. "As an advocate and member of the A.V.N (Association des Vins Naturels),I've believed for a long time that real wine is wine that sees no chemical treatment, no filtering, no commercial yeasts and no other technique that would specifically alter a wine." These are some of the most elegant and "gouleyant" wines of the southern Rhone - we urge youi to try them!
Guy Julien at La Ferme Saint-Martin has gradually turned over the reins to his very capable and enthusiastic son Thomas, who is doing fabulous work, constantly improving the farming and fine-tuning the vinifications at this outstanding estate. The top wine here is the Cuvée Saint-Martin, from 100 year-old Grenache vines, with old vines of Syrah - it's a sensational blend of fruit and terroir expression that is delicious young but best at five to ten years of age. Quality here is exceptional throughout the range, including thier superb Rosé and the intriguing white made from Grenache Blanc, Clairette and Roussanne. The 2014 reds are fantastic and quite delicious in their youth showing beautiful fruit and supple tannins.
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. The 2012 Gigondas is a bit lighter and brighter than the norm at Clos du Joncuas 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. After three days, recorked in the fridge, 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! Serve cool and decant many hours if drinking young, or cellar for five to fifteen years.
This is another great Gigondas from Dany and Carole Chastan at Clos du Joncuas - one of the last estates in Gigondas to ferment with whole clusters - done in cement vat followed by 12 months in old barrels. The estate has been organic since the 1920s and produces some of the most traditional wines of the southern Rhône. Quite lush and less tannic than usual, the 2014 shows very ripe aromas of black cherry and blackberry - very pure and quite lovely. There is a beautiful melange of red and black fruits on the palate with hints of dark chocolate, citrus, earth and spice. It's ripe and supple but with a cool citrus/mint backing that continues with plum and berry fruits in the long finish. A delicious Gigondas to drink young with its youthful fruit, but this should age into something quite interesting, perhaps best 2022 to 2030. Highly recommended.
This is Gigondas at its finest! 100% Grenache from old vines, fermented in cement, and aged in large oak vats before being bottled unfined and unfiltered with minimal added sulphur. It gives you that classic Grenache mustiness – like blackberries and blueberries smashed onto the forest floor – but also more fresh and delicate notes of nutmeg and strawberries. Hints of grapefruit peel, vine tomato and pine offer added depth. Given its age, it is still incredibly energetic on the palate with wonderfully resolved tannins and ripe black berry fruit. Truly a complex and delicious wine with a long life ahead of it! Tim Gagnon
From 80% Grenache with Syrah and Mourvedre grown on gravelly limestone terraces, always farmed organically, fermented and aged in concrete vats. The wine shows dense red/black color with deep aromas of blackberry with violet, brown spice, and blood orange with hints of plum and cherry. The palate is ripe and layered with dense berry fruits but balanced and well-structured with firm acidity. Very long elegant finish. This is a beautiful Vacqueyras that willl benefit from carafing if drinking now. Serve with daube provencal, lamb shoulder, grilled meats and terrines, farm chicken or rabbit. Cellar for five to ten years for a mature experience...
(70% Grenache, with Carignan, Syrah and Mourvèdre, always farmed organically, hand harvested, whole-cluster wild yeast fermentation, aged in cement vat, un-fined, unfiltered.) Dense red/black color. Vivid aromas of blackberry and black cherry liqueur with hints of cocoa, citrus peel and licorice. The palate is dense and supple with berry liqueur, cherry pit and firm citrusy acids, fairly bright and cool in the finish. This beautiful young wine will benefit from decanting or 5 years of aging, serve with grilled foods, North African cuisine, strong cheeses. Great value!
This is a beautiful Gigondas Rosé from our organic friends at Clos du Joncuas. Pretty bright pink color, aromas of raspberry, tart cherry, blood orange, peach skin and rose. Full palate with creamy red fruits and firm acidity. Long finish with tart cherry, peach, earth and citrusy acids. A bit lighter and better balanced than the 2013, and still young – it should open up nicely over the next two years. It's delicious now and very food-friendly – serve with grilled fish and white meats, salade nicoise, vegetarian dishes and Provençal foods. A great rose to enjoy all year-round!
(50% Clairette, 25% Roussanne, 25% Viognier, always organically farmed, wild yeast fermentation, aged in enamel vat.) This unique Rhone white shows subtle aromas of dried pear, peach, citrus and stone. The palate is dense and well-structured with flavors of citrus peel, white fruits, stone, hay and almond. Very long and fairly powerful at 14% alcohol, this will accompany a bouillabaisse, full-flavored fish dishes, squid, octopus, roast chicken with herbs, full-flavored cheeses and patés. With aeration the wine becomes more aromatic and floral, showing the viognier, really lovely! This is a fabulous value and highly recommended...
From parcels of clay/limestone (Triassic!) rich in iron, on hillsides surrounded by woods and hedges, 75% Grenache, 25% Syrah. The lovely 2014 Terres Jaunes shows aromas of ripe cherry, blackberry and strawberry with a bit of chocolate, pepper and spice, the palate is supple and deep with berry fruit and a bit of pepper with firm acidity. Powerful but fresh and long, with mouth-coating berry fruits and chalky mineral flavors. Serve cool with grilled chicken, pork dishes and stews. Delicious now or cellar 5 to 8 years. Like all the Ferme Saint-Martin wines, it's from organic grapes and bottled with minimal SO2, and it's a sensational value! David Lillie
An outstanding Beaumes-de-Venise from Guy and Thomas Julien at La Ferme Saint-Martin. The estate has been working with organic methods for many years, with natural fermentations and minimal use of sulfur. Costancia is from old vines of Grenache and Syrah grown at 1,800 ft in Suzette, on limestone/clay soils. At this altitude the Syrah has better freshness and acidity than in other parts of the southern Rhône. Aged in an old foudre. 2014 is a great vintage for this wine, showing complex aromas of black raspberry and strawberry compote with violet, citrus and roast meats, really lovely. The palate is balanced at 14% alcohol with dense red fruits and firm citrusy acids, not over-ripe, quite elegant and well-structured with a clean, very long finish of saline minerals and red fruits. Decant and serve cool if drinking now, with roast or grilled meats, or cellar for five to eight years for peak drinking. Better than most Chateauneuf-du-Papes - a fabulous value!
Guy and Thomas Jullien at la Ferme Saint Martin are making some of the finest wines in the Southern Rhone 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. Deep red/black color. Fabulous aromas of black fruits with animal, garrigue and floral notes with lovely freshness and hints of blueberry and mint. The palate is ripe, elegant and supple, backed by firm acidity with black fruits, spice and a long cool finish. Carafe if drinking now or hold a few years and drink till 2025. Fabulous value!
Guy and Thomas Jullien make a small quantity of fascinating and delicious white Cotes du Rhône on their organic estate in Suzette, on the slopes of the Dentelles near Beaumes-de-Venise. "Le Blanc" is made from 45% Clairette, 45% Roussanne and 10% Grenache Blanc grown at high altitude on clay/limestone soils, vinified with some skin contact and with minimal SO2. This complex, full-bodied wine is a light gold color with aromas of yellow fruits, dried flowers, anise, lemon zest and spice. The palate is very earthy and mineral with notes of apricot, citrus, caramel, tea and spice. The finish is long with white fruits, citrus peel and mineral flavors. Decant or open in advance. This extraordinary wine will accompany cheeses, poultry and pork dishes, fish in sauce and Asian foods.
A lovely rosé of Syrah, Grenache and Cinsault grown in the Ventoux by Guy and Thomas Jullien at their beautiful organic estate in Suzette, above Beaume-de-Venise. The grapes are hand-harvested, fermented with only wild yeasts and the wine is bottled with minimal SO2. Very subtle, pretty peach/raspberry aromas with citrus and spice. Beautiful palate with firm acidity and mineral flavors with hints of red currant, raspberry, peach and brown spice, with good density and length. This is a real wine of terroir, showing more mineral than fruit, which should open up nicely with aeration or a few months in bottle. A fabulous value!
The Richaud 2014 Cairanne is a gorgeous wine made from Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault and Mourvedre, partly made with carbonic maceration. The aromas are ripe and vivid with black cherry, red currant and floral notes backed by earth and dark chocolate. The palate shows lush, bright fruit - a beautiful and intense melange of berries lifted by cool acidity and mineral flavors with fabulous length. Three days later the wine is showing beautifully with a bit more spice in the aromas and fabulous minty black fruits on the palate, very long and complex. Bravo to Marcel Richaud! Serve this lovely wine quite cool with just about anything!
(Marcel Richaud has been making "natural wine" for over 40 years, since taking over from his father in the 1970s. Organic farming, low yields, hand-harvesting for perfect fruit and fermentations with wild yeasts with little or no sulfur.) From Carignan, Syrah, Grenache, Counoise and Mourvedre on gravel, sandy, galet stone covered soils, semi destemmed, 8-10 day vinification - 65% semi carbonic maceration, 35% traditional fermentation, aged in concrete vats 6-12 months, unfined, unfiltered. The 2014s from Richaud are simply outstanding! The Terre de Galets shows lovely aromas of black cherry and black raspberry with spice and violets. Very supple, fresh palate with black plum, ripe cherry liqueur, citrus and black pepper with smooth tannins and bright acidity. Very long with ripe fruits and citrusy acids lingering in the finish. Lovely wine - serve cool with grilled meats, chicken, fulll-flavored cheeses.
This lovely Cairanne is a blend of Grenache, Mourvedre and Syrah form 35 to 65 year-old vines, farmed organically for many years. Aged in cement vats, no wood. Dense black/red color, deep aromas of black and red fruits with hints of spice, chocolate, licorice and blueberry. The palate is elegant and ripe with cool blackberry fruit, complex and long with firm acidity and juicy fruit in the finish. This is delicious now served a bit cool, best after a few years of aging - an oustanding Cairanne at a very reasonable price!