Today was a special day, which I will not soon forget. I spent the day with Daniel Brunier, of Vieux Télégraphe, Domaine La Roquète, and Les Pallières, who kindly and graciously gave me his time during a busy harvest season and gave me a lesson in wine making.
If you have not tried one of Daniel, and his brother Frédérick's wines from my shop, then I am not doing my job...I promise to point them out to you when I return (though do not feel you have to wait...ask for one today!). Their projects are varied in place and sometimes in the varietals, or at least the percentages, but they are unified in their philosophy that wine is simple, natural, and should reflect the place from which it comes.
Their approach begins in the vineyard, and in this region of the Rhone, there are many challenges. This wine region is fraught with contradictions. I suppose this is why it appeals to me, as I am drawn to paradox, though this one found me. The conditions are at once perfect for wine growing, yet harsh, intense, and demanding. The sun is hot and powerful, and without the freedom to water, they rely on the Mistral winds to cool the wines and dry the grapes, and on the rocks and soil to manage the heat and water.
The flip side (yes, we all know that there always is one), is that the rocks make vineyard management very difficult, and the wind can be harsh and maddening at times, blowing the vines with a fierce strength. This wind intrigues me. I have experienced it twice since I arrived, which I understand is good for the vintage. The weather has been clear, hot, and dry, which is ideal as long as they have the Mistral because it cools the grapes and avoids rot, but at the same time people complain that it is cold and that the wind is bothersome. Seriously, this is a strong wind and it is nonstop. If you are a sailor, you would love it! I will admit, it stirs emotion. It is hard to avoid, you have to hold yourself with a certain fortitude against it, both literally and figuratively. Literally, in that it is a strong wind that has extreme force, biting and whipping against your skin, blowing the dust, and cooling the air...but for me, this is more about emotion, and it is difficult to articulate, but I imagine that the mistral has made many lovers and initiated many wars.
Despite these harsh and contradictory conditions, Daniel and Frédérick make beautiful wines that are powerful and elegant, though each one has its own unique identity, some more rustic like the Les Pigeoulet, some with a bit more finesse and structure like the new Megaphone, and those with power, elegance, and complexity, like their Chateauneufs, Vieux Télégraphe and La Roquète. When I asked Daniel about all these projects, he smiled and said that he is always seeking a new experience and a new challenge. Bravo!
A nice surprise today, Rosé! You know how I adore the pink wine.
2011 Les Pallières, au petit bonheur, rosé The wine has just a pinch of pink. It is elegant, light and fresh. Daniel explained to me that there is an expression in French, which I cannot possible quote, but it means following one's joy. Liberally, translated, I understood this to mean that you make decisions based on what makes happy, what pleases, despite all logic in opposition. (I hope I understood that right, Daniel!) And, this is what the name indicates, a little happy place or moment. If my French were better, I could explain the pun, but alas, I have to work on that. In the meantime, I will enjoy a glass of this rosé and smile. And, I will work on getting some to enjoy with own lingering summer sunshine.
And, the newest addition to their family, 2011 Megaphone, which is a blend of only grenache and syrah from two hectares of vines on the westernmost edge of the Cotes du Ventoux appellation. It is a new opportunity to articulate their philosophy; hence the name, a tool by which one verbalizes and calls out one's beliefs.
They do not like to sit still. What struck me about this drive for variety, diversity, complexity, and growth, is that they remain a boutique, artisanal organic operation. As Daniel put it, the philosophy stays the same. So, while production may increase, they remain small, making hand crafted wines from only the very best grapes that they produce. So impressive.
In terms of the 2012 vintage, it looks very good. At both Gourt de Mautens and Vieux Telegraph, I saw the same thing, beautiful, ripe, large opulent bundles of grapes, with taut skins, dark color, light yellow-green stems, which bespeak a freshness, but also those dark grapes starting to wrinkle, just a touch of "raisined" grapes, to give richness, power and texture. Daniel explained that this is the maturity that he waits for, to give complexity to the wine. It will be a while, months of fermentation, two years in the barrel, and then resting in the bottle before release...but, when we get our hands on it, it promises to deliver a wonderful glass of wine.