by Clark Z. Terry, January 2020
It’s always a pleasure to have Daniel Brunier, vigneron at Vieux Télégraphe and Les Pallières, in town to visit customers. He knows how to put on a show, and anyone who attended our Autumn Tasting in Oakland in November saw his talent to connect with the public.
Daniel’s arrival was well timed with the arrival of the two 2017 bottlings from Les Pallières. When speaking about his work, Daniel likes to build connections between the wines he makes across the Rhône Valley. He’s a man of Gigondas and Ventoux, not simply Châteauneuf, where Vieux Télégraphe is based, and the through line of his production is the Grenache grape. What’s striking in his wines is how each bottling expresses the greatness of an appellation and Grenache, yet is distint and full of character. The 2017 vintage of Racines and Terrasse du Diable epitomizes this. I highly recommend picking up six bottles of each to discover what makes 2017 Les Pallières outstanding now and in the future.
2017 Gigondas « Racines »
The domaine’s oldest vines and 80% Grenache in the blend are the fundamentals of Racines. Of the two Les Pallières bottlings, this is the one that typically is open younger in its life. The tannins are soft, and the fruit is pure and elegant. Underlying that, though, is something dark and profound – a savory character reminiscent of a tapenade. Don’t count it out as a candidate for your cellar.
2017 Gigondas « Terrasse du Diable »
The Grenache is turned up to 90% for this high-altitude cuvée. The vines (averaging only fifty years) are planted on terraces that nestle against the imposing limestone cliffs of the Dentelles de Montmirail. For those of you who just can’t wait, open the Terrasse du Diable a good two or three hours before serving. Notes of black olive and licorice, mint, eucalyptus, and rosemary will soon fill the room. For those who can, in five to ten years, the brooding youthfulness will start to mature and you’ll be rewarded with … well, we don’t yet know. But if past vintages are any indication, you’ll be very happy with your foresight to put a few bottles away.
Vin de France Au Petit Bonheur Rosé 2018
93. This offers such complex and sophisticated drinking with a lightly toasted thread to the ripe, rich fruit. Grilled-peach flavors abound and the length is exceptional. Drink now.
Terrasse du Diable rouge 2018
92-93. The fruit for this is sourced from elevated terrasses (above 300m) and the depth and righ, dark cherries and plums are stunning. Rich red plums, mulberries, chocolate and plenty of tannin here. Sapid, chalky finish. A blend of 85% grenache and 15% mourvedre. 70% de-stemmed and 30% crushed with stems. Drink or hold.
Les Racines rouge 2018
91-92. From very old vines (70-100 years old). There is a strong, red-fruit focus here with a sappy and very plush feel to the palate. Succulent, fleshy and mellow and a very suave, open-knit and ripe-grenache finish. A blend of 85% grenache and 15% cinsault and syrah co-planted. Drink over the first decade.
LA REVUE DE VIN DE FRANCE – OCT 2019 – SOPHIE DE SALETTES
«PARCELLES ASSEMBLÉES OU ISOLÉES»
Daniel Brunier (Domaine Les Pallières à Gigondas, Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe à Châteauneuf-du-Pape) a attendu de faire connaissances avec les vignes et les vins des Pallières avant de décider que les parcelles ne seraient plus assemblées dans une seule cuvée. «Nos 25 hectares de vignes s’étagent de 200 à 400 mètres d’altitude. Nous avons constaté dès les premières années que les vins du bas et du haut ne s’assemblaient pas harmonieusement. C’est pourquoi nous avons préféfé les séparer à partir du millésime 2007.»
La cuvée Les Racines provient ainsi de vignes centenaires plantées sur les parcelles situées autour du chai, à 250 mètres d’altitude. Ce terroir aux sols argileux, avec des éboulis calcaires, est exposé au nord-ouest : le soleil y arrive donc plus tardivement. Les plus jeunes vignes (une cinquantaine d’années tout de même !) issues des Terrasses du Diables, davantage en altitude, donnent le vin éponym. «Plus on monte, plus la charge en cailloux augments et plus les vins sont tendus. Mais les raisins des parcelles hautes du domaine sont mûrs avant ceux des parcelles basses car ils profitent d’un ensoleillement prolongé.»
« To quickly summarize the two vintages reviewed here, 2017 is a terrific vintage throughout the Southern Rhône. The wines offer rich, powerful, incredibly Provençal styles that resemble more elegant examples of the 2009s or even fresher, more docused examples of the 2007s…
A step back, 2018 is nevertheless a good vintage that suffered due to an incredibly rainy winter and spring followed by a massive mildew outbreak in the spring and early summer. This was less of an issue for higher elevation, hillside regions such as Gigondas and Rasteau that see better airflow and cooler temperature. It’s also worth pointing out that the vintage improves as you move away from the Rhône River towards Mount Ventoux. Nevertheless, yields were down throughout the Souther Rhône in 2018 due to mildew…
What You Need To Know
Both 2017 and 2018 are solid vintages for the Rhône Valley, with 2017 offering exciting, Provençal, sexy wines that have plenty of density and structure, and 2018 offering more forward, soft, elegant wines that are going to be ideal for near term drinking. »
Terrasse du Diable rouge 2017
92-94+. Also not yet bottled, the 2017 Gigondas Terrasse Du Diable is rocking stuff and has a mouthwatering sense of salinity and mineratliy as well as the classic kirsch, garrigue, and peppery aromas this cuvée always possesses. Medium to full-bodied, balanced, and nicely concentrated, with ripe tannins, it’s going to keep for 15 years of more.
Les Racines rouge 2017
92-94. More blackcurrants, black cherries, earth, and leafy, peppery herb aromas emerge from the 2017 Gigondas Les Racines, which is more closed and backward yet has plenty of depth and concentration. It needs 4-5 years of bottle age.
Terrasse du Diable rouge 2018
91-93. Mostly Grenache from terraced, higher elevation sites in the Gigondas, the 2018 Gigondas Terrasse Du Diable offers a beautiful perfume of kirsch and ripe red fruits as well as loads of spice, graphite, and peppery herbs. With plenty of sweet fruit, solid mid-palate depth, ripe tannins, and beautiful finish, it has plenty of upfront appeal and will keep for over a decade.
Les Racines rouge 2018
90-92+. The 2018 Gigondas Les Racines comes from older vines and slightly deeper, more north-facing parcels around the estate. It offers darker notes of blackcurrants earth, ground pepper, truffle, and leafy herbs as well as a more concentrated, tannic style on the palate.
« Le Vin En Rose » par Jane Berg, Septembre 2019
2018 Vin de France Rosé
« Au Petit Bonheur » – Les Pallières
If you’re feeling résistant to any policy makers these days, stock up on the sandy blond Au Petit Bonheur from Les Pallières. The INAO, the certifying body for France’s winemaking regions, believe that Gigondas’s eponymous rosé, despite being made naturally from organic grapes, may not identify as such if it does not look pink enough. Vexed by this rule, Kermit and the Bruniers decided to part ways with the Gigondas AOP and make their rosé as Mother Nature intended, in a vin gris style. Equal parts Clairette, Grenache, and Cinsault, this bottling is salty, discreet, and full of brambly fruit and soft citrus notes. Vive le freedom of le Vin de France.
Les Racines rouge 2017
93-95. Despite being riper and more concetrated than the Terrasse du Diable bottling, the 2017 Gigondas Les Racines shares a similarly edgy structure. Potent raspberry fruit is delivered on a full-bodied, richly textured palate that finishes crisp and a bit jagged. Give it a couple of years in the cellar, and it should be fine for drinking over the next 10 years.
Terrasse du Diable rouge 2017
91-93. From a cool sute at 300-400 meters above sea level, the 2017 Gigondas Terrasse du Diable is a blend of 85% Grenache and 15% Mourvèdre. It boasts knockout aromas of ciolets, garrigue and purple raspberries, with an undercurrent of black cherries. It’s full-bodied and concentrated, with bright, crunchy acids. The overall impression is of a wine with sharper edges that the harmonious 2016 or 2018. Cellar it a couple of years and then enjoy it over the following decade.
Les Racines rouge 2018
95-97. The precise blend for this cuvée hadn’t been finalized at the time of my visit, so the sample I tasted of 2018 Gigondas Les Racines was an approximation put together by the team at the estate. Marked by accents of blodd orange and citrus zest, the raspberry fruit at the core of this wine is concentrated and ripe. Full-bodied and rich, yet silky, fine and elegant, it’s a classic representation of this microclimate and its 75-year-old Grenache vines.
Terrasse du Diable rouge 2018
93-95. The 2018 Gigondas Terrasse du Diable comes from yields that ended up being approximately hald of the average for the estate (only 11 hectoliters per hectare). It’s full-bodied, with a rich yet silky texture, ripe flavors of cherries and raspberries and a long finish that hints at clove and licorice. The exact blend for the domaine’s wines was yet to be finalized when I tasted this sample, but historically, this cuvée is about 85% Grenache and 15% Mourvèdre.
Wines from the 2016 vintage in southern France generated plenty of excitement from growers and critics alike, so I canred correspondingly high expectations upon arriving at domaine Les Pallières in the summer of the 2017 for our annual blending session. Before a mesmerizing backdrop of stubby old grenache vins, dense pine forest, and dramatic limestone outcrops, the Bruniers – brothers Daniel and Frédéric, along with sons Edouard and Nicolas – recounted the vintage over a raucous chorus of cicadas.
In Many ways, they explained, 2016 represented the same challenges – hot, dry summer weather – that have become the norm as of late. The drought especially took its toll at Les Pallières, where the extremely old vines already eke out a bare minimum of juice each year. The vintage‘s strong point, then, is certainly not its yields. Rather, cool nights throughout the growing season ensured superb balance, color, and aromatic complexity in the resulting wines. The high elevation, north-facing terroir at Pallières accentuated this effect, giving wines defined more by a salivating freshness than by exaggerated ripeness or heat. By the time we had perfected the final blends, we all bore purple-toothed smiles and were ready to raise a cool glass of Gigondas rosé to a successful millésime 2016.
In bottle, the two cuvées of rouge confirm my initial impression – one of purity, completeness, and, most of all, great balance. Both feature the succulent perfume we love in Gigondas : black cherries picked ripe off the tree, fragrant herbes de Provence oils liberated by the pulsating summer sun, earthy licorice root …
Each terroir leaves its stamp on the palate. Supple and elegant, Racines conveys the generosity and velvety depth of ancient vines deeply rooted in clay-dominant soils. Terrasse du Diable, in contrast, relays its rocky environment with shameless audacity. Perched above the rest of the domaine on crunchy limestone rubble, it brings a chewy touch of rusticity and a saline finale.
You may find you have a taste for one cuvée over the other, or perhaps, like me, your preference will oscillate between the two with every sip. One thing is certain : each bottle I uncork leaves me more convinced that 2016 ranks among the top vintages ever produced at Pallières.
This estate is jointly owned by the Brunier family of domaine du Vieux Télégraphe in Châteauneuf-du-Pape and their longtime US importer Kermit Lynch.The Bruniers and Lynch bought the property in 1998 and have steadily brought it back to life.
Located on thie northwest side of the appellation, the estate is a parchwork of terraces that can be roughly divided into two halves.The first contains that estat’s oldest vines of Grenache, Syrah and Cinsault, located around the winery itself at elevations of 650 to 600 feet, and the second includes terraces of Grenache and Mourvèdre at higher elevations of 1,000 feet, weaving in and around the Dentelles. After an initial run of vintages, vigneron Daniel Brunier decided to bottle the fruit from the two halves of the estate separately. Both bottlings show the more elegant side of Gigondas, relyning on subtle fruit flavors, fine tanins and lingering minerality.
Terrasse du Diable red 2017
***(*) (large 60 hl barrel, bottling summer 2019) clear, shiny red colour. The nose is floral, resembles Pez sweets, is tender, with good crystalline virtues, a peppery backdrop; it holds up safely. The palate links to the nose via its rose fragrance, develops a toffee-caramel aspect from the oak,shows that late on. This is a one-off young foudre/large barrel, which skews it somewhat. This extols purity, doesn’t have many hidden corners. “It has refined, was a bit hard before, the tannins demanding, from a dry vintage,” Daniel Brunier. 14.8°. From 2021. 2038-40
Les Racines red 2017
**** (large barrel, bottling June 2019) steady red robe; the nose is aromatic, nicely wide and quietly persistent, floral, gracious, comes with snippets of licorice, sparks of menthol, smokiness. The palate has a broad debut, good heart, fills the palate with some silk in the texture, develops pebbly tannins, with a chewy aspect on them. It is more complete, profound than the Terrasses 2017, the length assured. It can make progress quietly, gradually. The tannins remind me a bit of 2013, though it’s more elegant than 2013. Good local ID here; take your time with it. 14.8°. From 2022. 2040-43
In the late 1990s, Daniel Brunier was expanding his family’s holdings. Along with his brother Frédéric, Daniel had Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe, the family’s flagship property in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, humming along. Vineyards in the Ventoux had been acquired for additional bottlings and he had set up his Massaya venture in Lebanon.
« We were looking to expand a bit more, maybe [50, 75, 100 acres] of Côtes du Rhône vines somewhere, » he says. « To be honest, at that time, even though Gigondas was not a big name, it was a little too expensive for us. »
But one day Brunier got a call to come visit Domaine Les Pallières, a Gigondas estate with 60 acres of vines, and a big problem: It wasn’t selling any wine. In the cellar, still in foudres and vats, were five vintages’ worth of wine, from 1993 through 1997. The 1998 harvest was hanging on the vine, and there was literally nowhere to put it.
The estate can be divided into two portions, upper and lower. The upper terraces are over 1,000 feet in elevation, average about 45 years of age and are planted primarily to Grenache with some Mourvèdre. The parcels around the winery itself range from 650 to 800 feet, and the Grenache, along with a mix of Cinsault and Syrah, are markedly older, at 70 years and up. Brunier vinified these two portions separately, then eventually blended them to make a single estate cuvée. But he kept finding the tannins a bit tight, even « rude, » as he puts it.
It is one of the most widely planted grapes in the world, known as garnacha in Spain and cannonau in Sardinia, but Americans know it best by its French name, grenache. It is the most important constituent in the blend of grapes in Gigondas, the next focus of Wine School.
The southern Rhône is known for its warm, generous, heady wines. Châteauneuf-du-Pape is the most famous among them. Its wine can achieve a majesty that other southern Rhône appellations can only envy, but Châteauneufs nowadays can also seem overly powerful and fruity depending on the style of the producer. They are also expensive.
Gigondas, by contrast, tend to be a little fresher and gentler in potency and price than Châteauneuf, while retaining many of the characteristics that come from the Mediterranean climate and the bright Provençal sun. Gigondas won’t be low in alcohol — that’s just the nature of grenache. But it goes very well with sweaters and the onset of chilly weather.
Here are the three wines I suggest you try:
Domaine du Cayron Gigondas 2012 (A Daniel Johnnes Selection/Skurnik Wines, New York) $30
Domaine du Gour de Chaulé Gigondas Cuvée Tradition 2012 (Rosenthal Wine Merchant, New York) $30
Domaine Les Pallières Gigondas Terrasse du Diable 2011 (Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant, Berkeley, Calif.) $40
As is so often the case, these may be hard to find, so don’t hesitate to look for other producers, like Grapillon d’Or, Montirius, Montmirail, Château du Trignon, Château de St.-Cosme, Raspail-Ay, La Bouïssière and Notre Dame des Pallières. These are among the best, but buy whatever you can find. You could even try Vacqueyras, a neighboring appellation, or some of the better Côte-du-Rhônes-Villages from places like Cairanne or St.-Gervais.
These wines are best served with hearty foods. They will go great with casseroles and meaty stews, braised dishes and lamb shanks, as well as burgers and sausages. They will flatter roast chicken. (Doesn’t every wine?) You may also want to experiment with some savory-and-sweet combinations, like a tagine made with meat and fruit.
As always, it’s better to serve these wines with a light chill, say 60 to 65 degrees rather than 75 degrees. Decanting is never necessary. But one thing I’ve learned from Wine School is that decanting does seem to improve just about every young red. So, while it’s not essential, as my people like to say, it couldn’t hurt.
By Eric Asimov
Beaucoup de bois, épices douces, tanins serrés, savoureux, résine, ferme, beaucoup de potentiel, riche, note amère, persistant. 16,5.
Domaine Les Pallières a été sélectionné dans la catégorie « Progressions de l’Année» de ce guide
15/20. Avec deux hectares de Gigondas, un assemblage en trois tiers (grenache, cinasult, clairette), fermenté à partir de levures indigènes, c’est un rosé à l’expression d’épices douces avec une final safranée.
Fin, élégant et léger : un sans-faute avec une paella ou un tajine d’agneau aux pruneaux
2011 Les Racines
Brilliant ruby. Lively red fruit and floral scents are complicatedby suggestions of smoky minerals and potpourri. Spicy, penetrating and pure, offering gently sweetraspberry and lavender pastille flavors and a subtle touch of blood orange. Closes smooth and long,with a whisper of tannins and strong mineral cut. This wine is a poster child for the blend of powerand elegance that marks a great Gigondas. 92
2011 Terrasse Du Diable
Vivid ruby. Heady scents of candied cherry, raspberrypreserves, anise and potpourri. Shows a darker profile in the mouth, offering palate-stainingblackberry and bitter cherry flavors and a strong floral quality. Picks up smokiness with air andfinishes with superb focus and length and youthful tannic grip. No question that this is one of thebest wines I tasted from Gigondas this year. 93
As wines from Châteauneuf-du-Pape become more popular – and more expensive – those who love the Grenache-based reds of the Southern Rhône Valley can turn to other appellations for relief. Gigondas […] is considered by many to be a mini version of the Southern Rhône’s premier appellation, but in a more rustic vein. In reality, however, its terroir is quite different, and its best wines offer distinctive character as well as welcome value. […] This terroir combines with the significant elevation and predominantly northern and northwestern exposures to produce wines that, at their best, have more finesse and perfume than their cousins from Châteauneuf. […] The traditional approach in Gigondas has been to mimic the Châteauneuf style, which involves long maceration (typically with minimal destemming). The resulting wines are often thick-textured, with rugged tannins that give Gigondas its rustic reputation. But the best examples marry ripe, dark black fruit with fine-grained tannins and perfumed, minerally finishes. These wines age well, delivering mesquite, iron and black tea notes after five to eight years. […] Gigondas currently has more than 180 individual growers, […] Among the region’s leaders are producers such as Domaine Les Pallières, Domaine Santa Duc, Château de Trignon, Domaine des Espiers and Perrin et Fils, among others.