"I was instantly struck by the vitality of these wines. They are living wines - constantly evolving and shifting. Their energy is unmistakable." - Felix G
In the small town of Montbrison-sur-Lez in the northern reaches of the Southern Rhone, surrounded by vines and olive groves, lies Domaine Gramenon. The serene beauty and idyllic surrounds were exactly what Philippe Laurent and Michele Aubery-Laurent were looking for to raise their young family.
Philippe was a talented vigneron, and together with Michele, they set about transforming these historic vineyards to organic and biodynamic viticulture, rebuilding the old farmhouse and converting it into a cellar. Their first release under the Domaine Gramenon label was in 1990.
Things were going well, with Philippe gaining international acclaim for his complex and concentrated wines, made naturally from their 100-year-old vines. But in 1999, tragedy struck. Philippe was killed in a hunting accident, leaving Michele alone to deal with their three children, vineyards and winery.
Crushed but undaunted, Michele stepped up, boldly taking up the reins and carrying on where Philippe left off. Despite not having her husband's experience or reputation, Michele was no stranger to Philippe's way of working. She followed his blueprint both in the vineyards and the winery, but also began to add her own voice to the wines. In doing so, she has managed to catapult Domaine Gramenon into cult-like status.
Today Michele is aided by her son Maxime Laurent (an incredibly talented winemaker in his own right), and the wines have never been better. All of their vineyards are still managed biodynamically, with certification in 2010. In the winery, too, Michele applies a careful, natural winemaking philosophy, allowing the fruit and the terroir its purest expression. Only the smallest amounts of sulphur are added at bottling.
Don't be fooled by the lack of appellation status for Gramenon. These are some of the most complex, layered and beautiful expressions of Grenache and Syrah coming from the Southern Rhone.
Gramenon Poignee de Raisins Cotes du Rhone Rouge 2019 - $53 single bottle / $45.05 in any six
The Poignee de Raisins, meaning 'fistful of grapes', is Gramenon's early drinking, lively and refreshing Grenache (with a touch of Cinsault) from the estate's younger vines. Its seamless blue and red fruits slide delightfully over your palate. Just so drinkable!
Gramenon La Sagesse Cotes du Rhone Rouge 2019 - $83 single bottle / $70.55 in any six
La Sagesse translates as “the wise one,” and this old-vine Grenache from Domaine Gramenon certainly encapsulates the name. The fruit is sourced from two parcels of 60-year-old vines from the Gramenon Estate, vinified with natural yeasts and then matured in old oak barriques for 12 months. There's such an elegance to this wine. Lingering perfume that feels almost Burgundian at times, alongside an undeniable depth and complexity and a lovely smoky, charcuterie tone that is really engaging. The palate is finessed and elegant, with a wonderful texture from the old vines, fine-grained tannin structure and great persistence. This will cellar well too, if you can wait… - Felix G
Gramenon l'Emouvante Cotes du Rhone Rouge 2019 - $105 single bottle / $89.25 in any six
l'Emouvante was released as a Syrah to sit alongside their flagship and most celebrated wine, Ceps Centennaires (100% Grenache). It's made using the oldest vines on the estate to produce an age-worthy Syrah that would feel at home mixing with the best. Patience will be your friend with this wine... A wine to be cellared and enjoyed with friends.
Gramenon La Papesse Vinsobres Cotes du Rhone Rouge 2019 - $112 single bottle / $95.20 in any six
'La Papesse' or 'the high priestess' comes from a stunning parcel that produces deep, concentrated wines packed full of complexity. Any fans of Chateauneuf-du-Pape (all of us) will be at home with this wine. It's first release was in 2008 and like all the top Gramenon wines will blossom with age.
Maxime Laurent Orpiment Rouge 2019 - $66 single bottle / $56.10 in any six
Maxime's wines are equally as stunning as the Gramenon wines and definitely worthy of your attention. A blend of Grenache (70%) and Syrah (30%) all from older vines. Vibrant purples hues are matched by lifted aromas of blackberry, licorice, hints of alpine flowers with a real stonewashed character. Sharing the same Gramenon sensibility packed full of life and vitality.
Maxime Laurent Champsaurel Rouge 2019 - $66 single bottle / $56.10 in any six
Labelled as Côtes du Rhône but as we've said, far from your average wine from the region. A blend of old vine Grenache (75%) and Syrah (25%) coming from a single site planted in sandy limestone about 400 metres above sea level.
Maxime Laurent La Rubiconde Rouge 2019 - $73 single bottle / $62.05 in any six
Rubiconde is 100% Grenache and a blend of two sites, both located very close to Gramenon. The vines are aged between to 40 to 80 years old and some are owned by Maxime's uncle too! Fermented in concrete utilizing a portion of whole bunches. Named Rubiconde due to the elegant red fruit characters the wine has. Elegant, fresh and seamless length like all of Maxime's wines.
This week we're looking at some Fresh Drops from Anjou producer, Jo Pithon of Pithon-Paillé. Jo first started producing wines in the Loire in 1978, using fully organic and biodynamic viticulture - something that was completely unheard of back then!
Over the years he refined his techniques, both in the vineyard and the winery, and started to garner international attention for his vibrant and vital wines, picking up the Grower of the Year award from the prestigious Revue des Vins de France. The Pithon-Paillé label was launched in 2008, when Jo partnered with Joseph Paillé.
The jewel in the Pithon-Paillé crown is the monopole vineyard Coteau des Treilles, a steeply graded plot in Beaulieu-Sur-Layon that had been abandoned since World War 2. Jo spent many years acquiring all of the separate plots to unite the vineyard under one ownership. He restored and replanted the site in 2000.
In 2018, looking to retirement, Jo sold his business to wine entrepreneur, Ivan Massonnat. Ivan and Jo have partnered together with a common goal - to make wines that become the reference for Chenin Blanc globally, and showcase the incredible Coteau des Treilles site. Jo will remain the winemaker for the next few years to ensure a smooth transition.
Pithon Paille Grololo Blanc 2019 - $50 single bottle / $42.50 in any six
Grololo Blanc is a real Loire Valley blend featuring the three major white varieties from the region. Melon de Bourgogne from Muscadet, Chenin Blanc from Anjou and Sauvignon Blanc from Touraine. Talk about Loire terroir! All farmed Biodynamically and aged in stainless steel. The wine has a beautiful golden colour, with the Sauvignon Blanc bringing the fruit, while Melon de Bourgogne and Chenin Blanc add tension and weight.
Pithon Paille Grololo Grolleau Rouge 2020 - $50 single bottle / $42.50 in any six
100% Grolleau, another native to Loire Valley that undergoes a short carbonic maceration to build those juicy, vibrant, lifted red fruit characters. Fermented and aged in stainless steel tank. A deep garnet with red fruit aromas that leap out of the glass, fresh acidity and fine lithe tannins.
Pithon Paille Anjou Mozaik Blanc 2018 - $57 single bottle / $48.45 in any six
Delicate aromas of quince and honeysuckle; a lithe and refined nose. There's a lightly buttered texture with oodles of white peaches. This is a wine that evolves in the glass and is a fantastic intro to Loire Chenin. - Nick F
Pithon Paille Anjou Mozaik Rouge 2018 - $57 single bottle / $48.45 in any six
100% Cabernet Franc, biodynamically farmed in soils rich in clay and limestone. Gently extracted to draw out soft, smooth tannins. Fermented in tank and then aged in old French oak. The wine has a beautiful array of red and blue fruits on the nose and structure on the palate.
Pithon Paille Graviers Bourgueil Rouge 2018 - $64 single bottle / $54.40 in any six
Once again, 100% Cabernet Franc this time grown calcareous soils biodynamically. The most serious out of the bunch, fermented and aged in French oak. Wild raspberry, cherry, red currant and hints of roasting herbs, medium body and a real bistro wine.
See the range here.
From The Cellar this week:
Domaine des Ardoisières
The Savoie region is having somewhat of a resurgence thanks to producers like Domaine des Ardoisières. Once considered part of the elite in Europe, many of the top vineyards perished over time because of the difficulties and challenges thrown at farmers. But all of that started to change in 1998, when one very special slope called "Coteau de Cevins" – abandoned for decades – was painstakingly brought back to life by Denis Perroux and Michel Grisard. Champions of biodynamics, they restored this steep, ancient vineyard, keeping the original plantings as well as adding new ones.
Over the years, several other vineyards have been added to the Ardoisières portfolio. All these wines have a cult following in France and abroad, and have received numerous accolades and praise from around the world. They have tremendous freshness, acidity and yet the fruit is ripe, profound and highly detailed. The grapes have been sun-kissed all day on the picturesque slopes of the Alps. Domaine Ardoisières is putting the Savoie in savoi(e)r faire!
“… the top reds, named Farvie, are shockingly good.” Huon Hooke, The Real Review
This is the second release of the Farvie wines from Swinney, following their incredible debut last year. They are as exciting as they are rare, representing the pinnacle of Grenache and Syrah from the Frankland River region.
From carefully tended bush vines, each bunch of fruit is hand-selected with several successive passes through the vineyard. In this way, only the most optimum fruit is chosen to produce the Farvie wines. Shade cloths are utilised in the vineyards too, to protect the fruit from the harshest sun, and aiding in fruit uniformity. The idea that great wines are made in the vineyard has been fully embraced by Rob Mann and the Swinney team, with these exacting standards utilised to ensure the premium nature of the fruit.
These wines are as rare as hens' teeth, and won't stick around for long.