Venerable Ventoux's Rhône Revolution

This week, we bring you, what in many ways is a spiritual sibling to our 'There’s No Place like Rhône’ part 1 and part 2 mixed cases. The difference is, today we will be taking a deep dive into a range of growers, from a single appellation, historically in the shadow of its headline stealing cousins, Chateauneuf and Gigondas. An appellation, whose name derives from the iconic peak that lords over the Southern Rhône, and that is famed for providing a gruelling finish to the Tour de France. An appellation, who one could argue has seen the greatest transformation of any in the Southern Rhône in the last 20 years or so, thanks to a small group of visionary and experimental winemakers leading a Rhône revolution, with the wine world finally standing up and taking notice. Welcome to our ‘Venerable Ventoux’s Rhône Revolution’ Mixed Case.

Historically dominated by cooperatives, Ventoux garnered a reputation for nothing but light, insipid and cheap wine. However, to completely overlook the appellation would be to do yourself a disservice. Not constrained by strict parameters or a ‘classic’ appellation style, spirited and passionate wine makers have been drawn here over recent years, due to the relatively inexpensive, but high quality and varied mountainous terrain, as well as the creative freedom to experiment and truly express themselves through their wines. The big difference between Ventoux and many of its neighbours just to the west, is the increased altitude and temperature variation between night and day (thanks to the cooling air currents descending from Mount Ventoux each evening). This has the effect of extending the growing season and allowing the grapes to reach incredible levels of phenolic ripeness. This, as well as well the incredibly diverse range of microbial rich soils, is what has been noticed by the handful of growers really pushing the boundaries of what can be done here. Seeing the untapped potential and crafting world class wines, which offer remarkable value. Today we are very excited to help you discover three of the shining stars of this appellation, who are all, in their own ways, redefining Ventoux.

2017 Ventoux Rouge - Domaine La Martinelle

Domaine La Martinelle is spearheaded by the tenacious German born winemaker, Corinna Faravel. It is made up of an almost forgotten cluster of small vineyards, nestled on the steep slopes behind the Dentelles de Montmirail. Corinna purchased the land back in 2001 before building a winery from scratch: she was determined and on a self-proclaimed one women wine making mission. As Corinna herself says ‘Ventoux is not as famous as its neighbours, but it has incredible potential – and I decided it was up to me to show what a winemaker could do here!’. Her vineyards are situated high up on the Bramadou lieu-dit in Beaumes de Venise, which is famed for its Triassic rusty/orange soils, and on the Martinelle lieu-dit in Ventoux, which is more limestone and clay. At harvest time all the grapes are selected and picked by hand. The winemaking process is as gentle as possible; the grapes being fed into the cement vats via gravity. There is no fancy technology employed here, Corinna simply relies upon her instinct and experience. Her wines are sumptuous and beautifully crafted.

This red is a little beauty, a harmonious mesh of Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, Cinsault and Carignan with lovely soft acidity and low to medium tannins. It’s fresh and juicy, with a luscious palate of pure and seductive redcurrant/ berry, a touch of blackcurrant, and spice. There is an attractive whisp of sweetness to the fruit due to the wonderful ripeness. It also has a very mineral accented middle and a long, juicy, subtly herbal finish. Corinna is not aiming for anything too big or that needs years of age to reveal itself, she is aiming for purity and finesse. This is a beautiful wine, with wonderfully fragrant bouquets, seamless elegance and a fruit-driven focus.

2012 Ventoux 'L'Argile' - Saint Jean du Barroux

The irrepressible Philippe Gimel is a true pioneer, his enthusiasm for his vineyards is infectious and his passion is unquestionable. Phillipe’s raison d’etre, is to produce a wine unencumbered by oak, that showcases the magnificent terroir of his small, 15-hectare estate, situated between les Dentelles and Mount Ventoux. Philippe’s yields are meagre, in part due to the vines’ age, averaging over 40 years old, and due to his strict approach to organic farming. Harvesting is manual, often conducted in several passes through the vineyards, to ensure that only the best grapes reach the recently built, but modest cellar. Once there, the fruit is destemmed and fermented by indigenous yeasts. Phillipe is uncompromising in his vision, and his knowledge and attention to detail throughout every stage of the winemaking process is extraordinary. He truly knows how to get the most out of the terroir here. Ever the perfectionist, Phillipe ages and keeps all of his wines on site, only releasing them to the general public when he feels they are ready to be drunk, aiming to ensure that people only experience his wines at their best, and as he envisioned them.

Originally located near the ancient, fortified town of Barroux, Philippe started with a few hectares and no cellar. He has now proudly built and invested in his own cellar, and never wanting to be far from what he loves, within the same building has also been able to construct a superb home. Phillipe truly lives and breathes wine, and his wines are pristinely crafted, plush, modern, and simply a delight to drink.

The L’Argile is a stunning blend of 75% Grenache, 15% Syrah, 5% Carignan and 5% Cinsault, all of which were aged two years in concrete tanks. The 2012 L'Argile has a perfumed bouquet of white pepper, rose petals, kirsch, sweet black raspberries, liquorice and pine that gives way to a medium to full-bodied, elegant, seamless profile on the palate. The tannins are harmoniously integrated, it is silky and delicious, and it has fabulous length on the finish as well.

2012 Ventoux 'Vielles Vignes' - Clos de Trias

Last, but most certainly not least, we bring you Even Bakke and his domaine, Clos de Trias. Even was born in Boulder, Colorado, raised in Norway and learnt his wine craft over a period of some, ten plus years, back in California. Then on a quest to produce true ‘vin de terroir’, Even, after 3 years of searching, came across, a run-down domaine, high in the foothills of the Cotes du Ventoux in the Southern Rhone. Clos de Trias, was later founded in 2007 and lies surrounded by beautiful and rugged terrain, comprised of 19 hectares, with a healthy share of 80+-year-old vines in microbial rich Triassic soils. The vineyards are situated high in the hills at 300-500 meters above sea level, allowing them to escape much of the exhaustive heat that their lower altitude neighbours experience. To extract the most from his stunning terroir, Even employs the most natural, non-interventionalist methods of winemaking possible. The winery was officially certified organic in 2012 and also follows many biodynamic principles. Even relies on spontaneous fermentation, with no addition of yeast, or temperature control and keeps sulphur levels to a minimum. The wines are truly allowed to ‘make-themselves’. Some of his reds are aged for up to 6 years in old oak fourdre, yet still the minerality, concentration, life and perfume the wines exhibit is somewhat bewildering, and simply a testament to Even’s understanding of his land and vines. Even has only one wine that he produces annually, his red label Ventoux Rouge, the rest of stunning range of staples (His Vielles Vignes, Pied Porcher and Ventoux Blanc) he only produces on years where he feels they can be done justice. In addition to these, because of his constant love of innovation and experimentation, Even will constantly surprise with exceptional one-off bottlings and new cuvee’s. Since the inception of Clos de Trias, Even has gone on to show that he his undoubtably one of the most intuitive winemakers in the world, producing some of the most individual and delicious wines produced in the Southern Rhône today. Alongside Philippe Gimel and Corinna Faravel, Even is a pioneer, who is pushing back the boundaries of what can be achieved in the foothills of Ventoux.

The 2012 Ventoux Vielles Vignes is an intensely coloured, extraordinarily expressive red wine delivering a juicy, full and rich mouth-feel with lots of satisfying complexity. Cultivated in high PH rich Triassic limestone soils, very much like those found in Chablis, and aged for 6 years in small old barriques, this wine is (unbelievably) remarkably alive. It is energetic, rich, fragrant, intense and beautifully complex. It has plenty of deep ripe red fruits, black plums, liquorice, black olives, grilled meats, eucalyptus and spices on nose and palate. Incredibly unique, in that despite its complexity and density, it is in no way heavy. It is medium bodied, with smooth, harmoniously integrated tannins, a wonderfully refreshing saline minerality and a sublimely long finish. It is very suited to red meat with Provencal herbs (thyme, rosemary, sage). Produced very naturally and with absolutely minimal usage of sulfur, this wine would benefit from decanting up to an hour before serving if possible. It may require a bit of effort and forethought, but oh my is it worth it!

This is a six-bottle mixed case, containing 2x each of the following wines:

2017 Ventoux Rouge, Domaine La Martinelle - £16.10 Per Bottle

2012 Ventoux ‘L’Argile’, Saint Jean du Barroux - £21.25 Per Bottle

2012 Ventoux ‘Vielles Vignes’, Clos de Trias - £34.00 Per Bottle

Normal Retail Price - £142.70


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