Rasteau That Unfortunately Does Not Live Up to the Hype

Today’s Story: Domaine Gourt de Mautens

Domaine Gourt de Mautens was established by Jérôme Bressy in 1996 and is located in Rasteau of Southern Rhône. Though Bressy’s family owned vineyards in Rasteau for some time, the small AOC was not incredibly well-known. Jérôme’s father Yves converted his vineyards to organic viticulture in 1989 which allowed Jérôme to inherit healthy vines (30-100 years old) and soils for his first vintage, though he quickly took this a step further and started practicing biodynamic farming (later certified in 2008). The domaine consists of 13 hectares with chalky top soil composed of rocky clay and marl, largely attributed to the fact that water tends to flow toward the domaine following a storm. The name itself comes from “a place where the water flows” (Gourt) and “storm or bad weather” (Mautens). Bressy’s vines struggle due to poor nutrients in the soil, however, and produce low yields of 10-15 hl/ha. All harvesting is manual, and the fruit is sorted three times before beginning natural yeast fermentation. After the wines age, they are bottled unfined and unfiltered.

Today’s Wine: 2016 Vaucluse Rouge

Blend of Grenache, Carignan, Mourvèdre, Syrah, Counoise, Cinsault, Vaccarèse, and Terret Noir; 16% ABV

The 2016 Vaucluse Rouge is opaque medium to deep purple in color. This needs some generous time in the decanter to open up, but once it does the nose showcases aromas of black plum, crème de cassis, black raspberry, fig, black licorice, crushed rock, mild herbs, and black pepper. There’s also a slight sting of alcohol. Once on the palate, the wine shows notes of black cherry, candied strawberry, spiced plum, violet, light smoke, savory herbs, and milk chocolate. This is full-bodied with medium acidity, medium (-) tannins, and a long finish.

Price: $60. This is not my style of wine. It comes across rather big, sweet, and boozy (though I will say the ABV surprisingly doesn’t throw off the balance too much). It drinks more like a cocktail to me, and though I hoped saving some wine for day 2 would be better, it is all too much the same. Perhaps this is a vintage (or off bottle) story, but I don’t think it lives up to the hype.

Unique Natural Côtes du Rhône

Today’s Story: Domaine Gramenon

Domaine Gramenon was established in 1978 in Montbrison-sur-Lez which rests in the northernmost area of southern Côtes du Rhône in France. Located on the foothills of the Alps, Domaine Gramenon sits at about 1,150 feet above sea level on soils made largely of limestone, sands, and clay once covered by the sea 86 million years ago. The domaine is largely planted with Grenache thanks to its adaptability to the elevation and region, and many of their vines are old with ages ranging from 50 to 120 years old. Since the domaine’s founding, they practice natural and organic vineyard cultivation though adopted biodynamic practices and received the DEMETER certification in 2010. All harvesting is accomplished by hand and rigorous selection goes into sorting the fruit before they are ultimately shaken (never crushed by tools) into concrete vats. All Domaine Gramenon wines are meant to showcase their terroir in unadulterated fashion, so spring cuvées age in vats and old vine cuvées age in old barrets and minimal (if any) SO2 is added.

To learn more about the domaine, particularly with a wonderful depiction of their terroir, check out the website here.

Today’s Wine: 2018 l’élémentaire

75% Grenache, 25% Syrah; 14.3% ABV

The 2018 l’élémentaire is opaque deep purple in color which leaves heavy staining on the glass. This needs at least an hour or two to decant, but once it opens up the nose showcases aromas of blackberry, black plum, cassis, anise, tobacco, clay, wet gravel, chocolate, and dark roast coffee bean. On the palate, I get notes of blackberry compote, jammy blueberry, plum, black cherry, leather, loamy soil, dried herbs, black pepper, and smoky spice. This wine is medium- to full bodied with medium acidity, medium tannins, and a medium (+) length finish. Drinks better on the second day.

Winemaking process: Produced from 45 year old vines cultivated with biodynamic farming; fruit is sorted manually; 15 day maceration in concrete vats; partially de-stemmed clusters; natural yeast fermentation; light addition of SO2.

Price: $30. Not a bad price for this fun “natural” wine, and it’s one of those that is different than what most people expect from a Grenache/Syrah blend. Pair this with grilled beef, smoked game, or smoky barbecue chicken.

Value Cotes du Rhône

Today’s Story: Domaine de Coste Chaude

Though the estate stretches further in history, Domaine de Coste Chaude as it exists today was remodeled during the 1960s and André Guichon, a wine merchant from Chambéry, bought it in 1969. The estate again changed hands in 1994 when it was purchased by the Fues family and they further developed the property by planting new varieties, altering storage methods, and processing grapes differently. In my opinion, however, the greatest contribution of the Fues family is their transition to organic farming in 2014 (Ecocert certified). Vincent Tramier took over the estate in 2018, with his major goals being improved wine quality and the introduction of new cuvées to widen the offering portfolio.

Domaine de Coste Chaude consists of 37 hectares of which there is 14 hectares of forest and 23 hectares planted to vine. The domaine is located on a hill at an elevation of 360m behind the Eastside of the village of Visan, creating hillside vineyards with Southern exposure. Thanks to the domaine’s location, the vineyards face a nearly constant breeze that helps fight against fungal diseases and spring frosts, while also experiencing slightly colder temperatures than the lowlands which creates fresh wines. Soil in the vineyards consists of limestone gravels and pebbles mixed into ocher, yellow, and brown clays deposited during the Miocene period. For some pictures of their property, check out the Domaine de Coste Chaude website here.

As part of the domaine’s organic farming practices, Coste Chaude uses green or organic fertilizers depending on soil variety and maintains natural ground cover when possible to protect against erosion while fostering biodiversity in the vineyards. Further, they use less stressful pruning methods on their vines (especially on their old vines 40+ years old) to oversee fruit quantity in an effort to foster concentrated and healthy grapes. When it comes to winemaking at the domaine, Vincent mixes traditional methods with modern technology to produce wines that reflect the terroir. The winery is located in the middle of the vineyards so harvested fruit can arrive as quickly as possible for sorting and minimal intervention is the name of the game from harvest to bottling.

Today’s Wine: 2014 Cotes du Rhône Visan Cuvée L’Argentière

80% Syrah, 20% Grenache; 13.5% ABV

The 2014 L’Argentière is medium ruby/garnet throughout and slightly transparent. The nose showcases aromas of blackcurrant, plum, cherry, smoke, forest floor, barnyard, green herbs, green peppery spice, and black olive. Once in the mouth, I get notes of blackberry, black raspberry, wet rock, smokey cedar, tobacco, leather, stone minerality, and green vegetation. This is medium- to full-bodied with high acidity, medium tannins, and a medium (+) length finish.

Price: $18. This is a great value Cotes du Rhône I picked up after an in-store tasting at one of my local shops. If you like terroir-driven wine at a great price, this is for you. Pair this with steak au poivre, roasted lamb, or a charcuterie with some hard goat’s cheese.