A Favorite Forgotten Wine Region and A New Old Way of Making Wine.
This week, we turn the spotlight on the ever-growing Natural wine movement, and one of our favorite producers in one of our favorite forgotten wine regions. These wines epitomize what natural wine is all about - no added sulphites, no chemical intervention, native yeasts, the whole nine yards. We're thrilled to have a great supply of natural wine in the store, and elated to have some open for you to try. All of the wines will be 10% off all week long through 6/3/18.
The wine world is having a moment right now-- Once, not so long ago, an enterprising patron of a restaurant would just ask for the house red, or the red from Napa, or a California white. Details were not important-- homogeneity ruled the roost and wines were crafted to meet certain specifications in taste to match the current zeitgeist.
Now, it's a different age, the information age. WIne is simply another vessel that we can file down to an obsessive degree.. First we began to learn what the varietals were that we craved so much, and then terroir - that potent French word that encompasses the once indescribable- how the land and climate impact taste. And one of the largest impacts of this relatively new juncture in wine is the increase of natural wine.
We start to hear it more and more, "Do you have any natural wine?" People care what they put into their bodies, and though the winemaking world is still relatively obtuse, some have started to learn how chemical processes are integral and sometimes added to wine. Natural wine seeks to reject all that, homogeneity is unnatural, and variation is beautiful.
Out of this latest fascination, wine drinkers started to latch on to the importance of place in their wine, and to regions that they may have never heard before. We know, it happened to us too.
This region lies in the very end of Southwestern France, and once was the northern reaches of Catalonia. With a distinct influence independent of France, the region is known for its Catalan heritage and, given the dry climate and mountainous terrain, follows more of a Spanish wine influence than a French one, predominantly growing Grenache, Syrah, and Carignan. Rousillon had gained fame in the wine world for its dessert wines- made in Rivesaltes, thanks to its long history with the Muscat grape--introduced by Greek settlers in the 7th century BC. Muscat was the grape Greeks brought with them throughout the world, an ancient grape that was preternaturally suited for dessert wines with its honeyed aroma and inherent light fruity and nutty flavors. Still, Rivesaltes, like the larger Roussillon area, had an independent streak, allowing for many varietals to be used in the making of their dessert wines and production of Grenache grew. In the 20th century, dessert wines waned in popularity, especially due to the overall increase in consumption of wine and the time required to make a quality dessert wine. Winemakers started to appreciate the quality of the red wines grown in the region, with their spicy aromatics and rich red fruit. Still, Roussillon was a long way off from approaching the popularity of Burgundy and Bordeaux.
The most current iteration of the natural wine movement traces back to the 1960s in another lesser known wine region of France, Beaujolais. The region, just south of Burgundy had long been seen as an area that mass produced low quality Gamay for a young wine that was called Beaujolais Noveau, but young winemakers wanted to hearken back to wines of the older generations, to make pure wines with no sulfur dioxide added. This movement, buoyed by younger wine consumers, soon spread throughout France to the Loire Valley and beyond. But natural wine was fraught with limitations, certain regions required intervention due to pests and problems with the terrain. Roussillon was lucky, due to its dry climate (so dry, in fact, that only olive and grape vines manage to thrive. The heat of the region helped drive away pests and other vine disease, making natural wine a relatively easier venture to embark upon despite the low yields.
That brings us to our featured producer, Domaine Réveille. Réveille means "Rise" in French, a reference to the growing natural wine movement in the Roussillon. Domaine Reveille is headed by France Crispeels, and she cultivates very old carignan, Grenache, macabeu and younger Syrah vines on her 8.6 hectare estate, split into three vineyards; Cassagnes, Tarrerach and Caudies. The elevation is between 350 and 500 meters between the sites, but all of her grapes are grown on the same soil type made up of gneiss and slate. The extreme conditions from strong winds, high temperatures and a lack of water result in more stress on the vines, action that has created an ideology- stressed vines create better wine. It does sound rather Darwinian- only the strong survive, but the results are hard to argue.
Crispeels launched Reveille in 2006 when she purchased her first old Carignan and Grenache vineyard. She's expanded since, but still has very low yields allowing a more hands on approach to making sure the wine stays true to form. We're lucky to have 4 of her wines, including one that she sourced from a friend in nearby Rivesaltes.
First up is the 'White Spirit, sourced from 100% Macabeu. What is Macabeu? Well, in Spain its highly prized in Rioja white wine, but it goes by a different name, Viura. Provided you understand French, Reveille is dedicated to providing every little detail about their wines on the label, from the elevage to the soil type to the breakdown of the grapes in the blend. Crispeels makes sure to provide very gentle vinification with native yeasts. I could continue to describe the wine, but I'll let Crispeels tell you for herself,"100% macabeu on the clays and flint of Caudiès de Fenouillet terroir fresh, pretty mature, manual harvest in boxes, severe sorting on this vintage, indigenous yeasts, malolactic fermentation made, aging on lees in concrete vat, no added inputs or sulphites. " The result is very floral and mineral driven on the nose, and fresh and lively on the finish.
Along for the ride is the Jardins Court-Circuit Vin de France Rouge. The "short-circuit" is a reference to the frost that cut short Crispeels harvest in 2016, leading her to reach out to friends in the surrounding area. Thus, the tongue in cheek Albert Camus quote on the label "In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer." This is a Vin de France because Rivesaltes doesn't typically grow Carignan or Mourvèdre, but the blend here is nonetheless 75% Carignan and 25% Mourvèdre. The grapes here belie the freshness of this wine, with ripping acidity and very supple tannic structure.
Then we get to 'Elan'. French for 'Momentum', this Red cuvee is made up of grapes from her own vineyards in 2014. It's 40% Syrah, 40% Carignan, and 20% Grenache, and a powerful wine in the longer sense of the term. There is some "barnyard" on the nose from the native yeasts but very bright with crunchy tannins and fresh summer fruit. This is an engaging and focused wine, with plenty of drive to live up to its name.
Last, but certainly not least is the 'Ultra-Violet', this is sourced directly from Crispeels' young Syrah vineyards, and I'll let Crispeels take it away again,""100% young Syrah on the granitic arenas of the High Conflent. Grapes picked ripe in early October, sorting bunch by bunch to ensure winemaking and aging without sulphites." This is certainly French Syrah, with spicy overtones, fine tannins, and a very aromatic nose.
We encourage you to try the lineup, we will have them open on Tuesday and Wednesday this week, perhaps even Saturday, but the discount will be valid all week long. Discover your new favorite wine region, and your new favorite natural wines!
The Fine Print:
Domaine Reveille 'White Spirit' - ̶$̶2̶4̶.̶9̶9̶ $22.49
Domaine Reveille 'Jardins Court-Circuit VdF - ̶$̶1̶9̶.̶9̶9̶ $17.99
Domaine Reveille 'Elan' - ̶$̶2̶9̶.̶9̶9̶ $26.99
Domaine Reveille 'Ultra-Violet' - ̶$̶2̶9̶.̶9̶9̶ $26.99