Wednesday, June 6, 2012
by Paul Bressler, 67 Wine Rhone Buyer and eCommerce Director
Thursday afternoon saw us off to Vacqueyras, where we visited with Jeal-Louis Mourre at Domaine Le Colombier.
Le Colombier was several miles by road from the village of Gigondas, but is only about 200 meters over the hill from the border of the Gigondas appellation. The vineyard we visited first was comprised of three major plots of old vines - planted in 1924, 1939 and 1919. These old vines are 80% Grenache and 20% Mourvedre. These old vines have incredibly low yields. There are also a few smaller plots of Syrah.
Only the Syrah is trellised; by law, they cannot trellis Grenache.
Last winter was particularly hard on the oldest vines. Everyone we spoke to, in every section of the Rhone valley, brought up the intense cold spell last February. In an area that rarely sees temperatures below freezing, temperatures dropped to -15°C (5° F). The toll it took on the 1919 vines was obvious. There were many vines with little or no new growth. According to Jean-Louis, he wasn't expecting these vines to produce at all this year; if there was any new growth at all, he was going to leave them in place and hope for better next year. If there was no new growth at all, they would have to be replaced. As with the Pierre Amadieu estate in Gigondas, vines were replanted only on an as needed basis.
While we were there, there were 10 people working in the vineyards doing a green harvest. The vines were pruned so that there were only two shoots per branch.
After visiting the vineyards, we visited Jean-Louis's new winery. All of the wines are fermented in concrete. The new winery has these epoxy lined concrete tanks. He was still waiting for his new stainless steel vats, which were scheduled to arrive the following Monday.
The Le Colombier Cuvee G that we carry is the only wine Jean-Louis makes that is aged in oak, and then only for the Grenache. The other cuvees, the Tradition and the Vieilles Vignes, are completely tank aged.
The 2011 Cuvee G has been in this barrel since December. The barrels are French oak with a medium toast. Jean-Louis buys approximately 25 barrels a year, all one year old. The barrel aging softens the tannins. In contrast, the young vines of the Tradition are meant to be made in a fresher style, while the Vieilles Vignes have naturally soft tannins.
Next up: Chateauneuf du Pape