If there is something we can be sure off… it is that in the Southern Rhône Valley, winemakers have some character! First their grapes are bloody tannic, aromatic with a dark gourmand juice for the reds. They grow with that much sun that it almost shines in your mouth. Add to this climate an eco-friendly wine making process and you can soon understand why there is an amazing potential for good wines
It’s raining today in Paris, this winter is a bit tough and I’m glad to dive back into my harvest day in the Rhone. That’s about 80 heros I went to visit last October in Vacqueyras: The so called Vignerons de Caractère. A team of 80 families now, that started with a small group even before the A0C Vacqueyras existed (1990).
If a winemaker had a kid the day the Vignerons de Caractère were formed, this kid would be 54 years old… old enough to be part of the second generation of these green family, and about to form the third. I’m not sure there is such a kid but it seems like the Vignerons de Caractère community is growing, that the eco-friendly way they have set up in their making process is a success: wheither it is in the marketing ideas or in the final juice.
It is a fantastic idea, to make a difference and to be seen as different. Green is trendy anyway and eco-friendly wine-making a first for such an organisation. At Vignerons de Caractère everything is tracked back – from the grapes culture, (80% is certified organic in 2010) to the grape density, color and maturity. They are also very careful to the eco-friendly lightening in the buildings and even to the winemakers transportation (they are using car sharing). It is an interesting way to live, to communicate…that can do no harm and engage many more others.
The 80 wine-makers don’t only make Vacqueyras, they are also keen of Beaume de Venise, Châteauneuf du Pape, Gigondas and Côte du Rhône. But as Vacqueyras is their flagship we may as well focus on this today.
- One of the only appellation in the Southern Rhône that exist in Red, White and Rosé... which is lucky cause it allows a broad range of wines, aromas and creativity.
- 1300 hectares and 200 winemakers on 1300 Ha- 80 winemakers for the Vignerons de Caractère So they represent 45% of the AOC.
*reds: To be a Vacqueyras, a wine must be 50% Grenache – it’s a very expresive grape variety with warmth and structure. Add to it some Syrah and a bit of Mourvèdre and you’re all set.
I find the reds very aromatic for me with liquorish, forest and peppers – sometimes a bit too much for me but I like their silkiness and deep color. They are made in stainless steal tanks and concrete so they are not heavy on oak so you can easily find some more fruity ones. I’d say I prefer older ones that got wiser and gain even more harmony.
*Whites: Made out of Grenache blanc mainly - you can also add up Marsanne, Roussanne Bourboulenc, Clairette and Viognier, they are aromatic of course and have texture and body. I remember the taste of the fresh 2010 with a clear exotic fruit palate with a drop of pears. Just delicious!
- Rosé: (Cinsault, Grenache, Syrah)… Oulala, I love the Pink – so bright, so there! With no complexe it show its bright body! Pellicular maceration, fruit; light peppers and richness. I can live with that > read this french tasting note on Taste A Wine .
Coming from beaujolais, seeing this incredibly big vines, grapes got me very impressed… Understandable that grapes have to be destalked, I’m not sure such a must be not so good for the wine.
Overall, les Vignerons de Caractère is a very welcoming place on your wine tour! With a modern and nice restaurant where you can try the best Vacqueyras and food match ever and have the feel of what’s made in the region. L’Eloge Restaurant is a peacefull place when the Mistral blows and a gourmand stop over you should see in the Rhone Valley.
I have one red from the Vignerons de Caractère in my cellar… time to invite a date for dinner tonight and check that up … Probably the wine Soirée Decanter could help making it more approachable for my delicate palate!