Two red wines, each with its own character!
Two characters, it goes without saying. At Domaine Les Pallières, from the 2007 vintage onwards, we began making two plot-specific cuvées, Racines and Terrasse du Diable, instead of a single red wine.
Racines is made with grapes from the domaine’s very old vines, planted mainly round the winery at about 200m altitude. Grenache dominates the blend (> 80%) alongside Syrah, Cinsault and Clairette. This cuvée epitomises the heart and origins of the estate, with an average vine age exceeding 80 summers!
The Racines cuvée, which flows from the estate's very old vines, possesses the velvet, depth and harmony of old Grenache when cultivated on refined terroirs. It has very high ageing potential, with balance being the prime factor.
Terrasse du Diable takes its name from the estate’s highest plot, which is thus titled in the land registry, doubtless because it is very hard to access. The cuvée is made with the grapes from all the high-lying plots, spread amid 110 ha of woodland, which is integral to the domaine and its characteristics. In these plots at 250-400 m altitude, Grenache naturally rules the roost, contributing 90% of the blend, together with 5% Mourvèdre and 5% Clairette. The estate’s former owners, the Roux brothers, cleared forest to create this plot after the big freeze of 1956.
In its youth, the Terrasse du Diable cuvée serves up the minerality, freshness and occasionally over-rugged tannins of high-lying terroirs. The fine vintages have cellaring potential of 20 years and more.
So why separate these two characters? In the southern Rhône Valley, the saying goes that blending grape varieties imparts complexity. But is the same really true of localities and exposures?
Certainly, but since our first day in charge here, we have noted that the grapes grown in the two Les Pallières microclimates yielded wines so different that they struggled to attain harmony when blended. It was, in a sense, an arranged marriage. This is chiefly evident in their tannins’ personalities: we felt that what we were creating, rather than complexity, was merely two tiers of tannin that could take years to integrate.
It was also frustrating to see some vats’ identities being lost in a single wine; and intriguing to see a likeable personality flourishing, though not dominant. Equally, it was frustrating to make just one wine and one flavour for one moment, one discussion, one companion – a sole proposition. The idea behind the separation was not to compare the wines, but to have a choice – choosing the occasion, the cooking and the mood. This is a luxury that costs nothing but, when absent, its importance is acutely felt.
As you will have gathered, there is nothing very scientific about our move to create two personalities at Les Pallières. Rather, we wanted to deepen a little further our understanding of this terroir; to enjoy ourselves; and, we hope, to please the greatest possible number of enthusiasts.
A Blanc de Noirs at Les Pallières
A Blanc de Noirs was first made at Les Pallières in 2004. After a few years’ work, observation and results following the purchase, we felt it desirable to set aside a few hectares of vines – given the personality imparted by their soil/variety pairing – and devote them to an easy-drinking wine: a Blanc de Noirs.
Made mainly from Cinsault, Clairette and Grenache Noir, the wine has a very French name: « Au Petit Bonheur – Les Pallières »A little bit of happiness… it’s a name that conjures the convivial pleasure of summer wines, but also the serendipity of this cuvée, which owes nothing to technology and has come into our lives almost by accident.
Au Petit Bonheur is the only Vin de France produced by the Brunier family in the Rhône Valley. It is made with Grenache Noir, Cinsault and Clairette grapes, pressed straight after hand-picking and then jointly fermented and matured in oak (650-litre demi-muids). After gentle filtering to impart brilliance and clarity, it is bottled at winter’s end following the harvest.