8 Buyers, 1 Store, 8000 Wines

Monday, June 4, 2012

On 4:30 PM by The Bloggers @ 67 Wine in , , , , ,    1 comment
      by Paul Bressler, 67 Wine Rhone Buyer and eCommerce Director

As a quick introduction, I’ve been buying the Rhone wines for 67 Wine since March of 2006. When I took over, I was anything but an expert on Rhone wines. I knew a bit about Cotes du Rhone and Chateauneuf du Pape, and a little about Crozes Hermitage, but that was about it. In the past six years, I've obviously added considerably to that knowledge.

Until last month, though, I had never traveled to the area. Everything I knew about the area came out of books. I have tasted hundreds, if not thousands, of Rhone wines (especially if you count all of the different vintages), but had never been to the wineries. My wife and I were very much looking forward to the opportunity.

After landing in Nice on Monday morning, we took a couple of days to be tourists before heading to the Rhone.
Restaurants near market

Monday Antiques Market

Tuesday Flower Marker
My kind of beach - No sand!

Wednesday morning we picked up our car and headed out. Our first stop was Bandol, on the coast west of Cannes and St. Tropez. We didn’t go to the wineries on the hillsides above the town, except by accident. Our GPS wasn’t very happy with the way we were going, and kept trying to get us back to the highway. We ended up turning around at Domaine Bunan, a winery at which I would have loved to stop; unfortunately, we didn’t have the time. The town itself is very much about the boats, with any number of nice cafes to spend time in.

Our destination was the Auberge de Tavel, a small hotel in the town of Tavel, which is known for their rosé. Only rosé can have the Tavel AOC. Reds from the area bear the Lirac AOC. More about that later.

The first winery we visited was Domaine Pierre Amadieu. We have had their basic Gigondas since shortly after I started buying Rhone wines for the store. They have consistently received 90+ points from Parker and Wine Spectator, and I’ve always liked the wines. They are imported by a well respected, but very small, supplier, Jerome Selections. Before setting out on our tour, I had the opportunity to taste through a selection of wines, including the Cotes du Rhone (which we often have in half-bottle) and three different Gigondas.

My hosts were 32-year-old Henri-Claude Amadieu and his 19-year-old brother Jean-Marie. Henri was recently back from a one-year internship at Chappellet Winery in Napa Valley, and is now the Hospitality Director for the family estate. It was a religious holiday, and most of France had a four-day weekend. Jean-Marie was home from university, where he is studying vineyard management. According to Henri, there are records of the Amadieu family farming in Gigondas going back to the 14th century.

Everything you see in the picture at right and more, vineyards and forests, belongs to the Amadieu estate. Pierre Amadieu, Henry and Jean-Marie’s grandfather, bought up the entire canyon between 1949 and 1954. The canyon has two weather effects. First, it shields the vines from the harsh north wind (the mistral). Then because of the altitude change from the bottom to the top of the canyon, it creates its own more gentle wind twice a day, morning and evening. He also built the winery in the town of Gigondas, and made it big enough that he handled the custom crush for most of the village. Their father is the current vineyard manager, and their older cousin Pierre (also 3rd generation) is the winemaker.

As seen at left, the soils are mostly broken limestone and clay. The vines are mostly Grenache and Syrah, with the leaves shown at right. The vines average 40+ years old. They replace the vines only as needed, though this year was particularly hard on old vines.

Cool Story: There were once over 1000 sheep on the property to eat the weeds and expel fertilizer. Unfortunately, they had to be moved hundreds of miles twice a year. Before the heat of the summer, they were moved (cattle drive style) to the Alps; every Autumn, they had to be moved back. The practice was discontinued in the 1970s, because of the effort needed to make the moves.

The canyon is divided into two main parts, La Machotte (the lower canyon) and La Romaine (the upper canyon). La Machotte has been farmed since the middle ages, while artifacts recovered from La Romaine date the Roman settlement back over 2000 years. The ancient building at La Machotte is now used as their cellars.  The foudrés were purchased from Alsatian breweries and date to 1885.

There are several buildings at La Romaine. The house dates to the 1800's. The house was used as a summerhouse by a Lyon merchant and hid a Jewish family from Paris during WWII, before being purchased by Pierre Amadieu in the early 1950s. Another building at La Romaine date to the middle ages. A second floor was added at some point, and you can see that extra support was added both on the outside and inside, while extra columns were added to support the ancient arches.
Following our tour of the estate we were treated to lunch at L'Oustalet in Gigondas. There we drank three vintages of the Pierre Amadieu Gigondas Romaine Machotte, blended from grapes grown in both the upper and lower sections of the canyon. We were treated to the 2010, 2007, and an incredibly fresh tasting 2003 from magnum. The other Gigondas cuvees are the Grande Romaine, taken from the upper part of the canyon only, and the Grande Reserve, using the best of the barrels from both parts of the canyon and barrel aged.

After lunch, we were off to Vacqueyras! See part two on Wednesday.

1 comment:

  1. Great article Paul, don't know how I just found it today ! Hope you all are safe and sound over there in the city ? All our best from Gigondas, hope to see you soon back in Provence !
    Take good care,


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