Sunday, February 05, 2012

InterMezzo Visits

Domaine Sauvaire-Reilhe's 16th Century tower

After Millesime Bio, I had some time before the next round of shows in Angers, in the Loire, so I headed off to Crespian, in the Coteaux du Languedoc, north of Nîmes. Yes, I was going to be abusing my palate some more, er, I mean tasting more wine, but this time at the domaines themselves. I was there to see Hervé Sauvaire, owner and winemaker at Domaine Sauvaire-Reilhe. His family has owned this winery since the 1600s, when one of his ancestors received it as a wedding gift. Talk about a generous present!

Old-vine Carignan

Their home still has a 16th century tower, though of course it’s been renovated. Hervé met me at the train station and we drove up into his vineyards, located on rocky hillsides around his house. He’s got some crazy old vine Grenache, Carignan and Vermentino, as well as Syrah, planted in super rocky soils. When you see where these vines grow, you wonder how they can survive let alone thrive.

The winery- look Ma, no oak!

Hervé shares his chai with 2 other winemakers, and while one of them does use oak, Hervé does not. To me, this keeps the wines fresh and light on their feet, with bracing acidity balancing out the beautiful, deep minerally fruit. And while his winemaking’s not “Certified” Organic or Biodynamic or Natural, he does take loving care of his soils, as they have fed his family for centuries with the quality of his wines. And I’m not the only one to think so, his wines have been selling very well in the NY market, which makes me very happy.

Say Bonjour to Hervé!

Hervé himself is really lovely and down to earth, with huge hands that have been weathered by years in the vineyards. He’s serious, but a smile comes easily to his face. It’s people like him that make this business worthwhile. Getting them the recognition for their work is something that delights me, and just recharges my batteries. So after a hearty lunch of bull stew (a local specialty that was delicious) and his wines, off I went to see my newest winery, in the Ventoux, Croix des Pins.

Bienvenue to Croix des Pins

Croix des Pins was an old and crumbling property until Jean-Pierre Valade and two of his wine-making friends got together and started renovating it. They also purchased some vineyards at the foot of the steep Dentelles de Montmirail mountains, all old-vine Syrah and Grenache on terraced hillsides. Using Organic principles, their goal is to make wines that are pure expressions of their local terroirs. Yeah, every winemaker says that, but at the end of the day the proof is in the bottle. These wines are crisp, spicy representations of their appellations, Ventoux, Gigondas and Crozes Hermitage. And I’m not the only one to think that, Steve Tanzer’s Rhône reviewer Josh Raynolds scored them well:

And thus another long, lusty dinner with lots of wine ensued, and lots of laughter. These are soulful, good-humored folks who are thrilled to be bringing these vineyards back to life. And I’m really happy to be able to represent them in the US.
Gnarly old vines


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