In a region where raw power usually trumps finesse, we are fortunate that vignerons like the Bruniers are tirelessly striving to bring out the nuance inherent in some of the southern Rhône’s great terroirs. Their Piedlong bottling is an effort to deliver classic, stony Châteauneuf that is accessible both in price and in its early stages of life. It consists of old-vine fruit grown mainly in galets roulés, resulting in a mineral tension highlighted by the relative coolness of the 2014 vintage. Sleek and suave on the palate, the Piedlong culminates in a noble tannin that will remind you of the southern Rhône’s potential for wines of real finesse.
Vignobles Brunier embodies the ensemble of the holdings by the Brunier family. Brothers Frédéric and Daniel are the fourth generation of their family to farm the land of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. They have worked hard to solidify the legacy left by their father, Henri, and their great-grandfather, Hippolyte. In 1986, the family complemented their portfolio, offering more affordable cuvées that showcase the diversity of terroirs within their holdings. The “Pigeoulet” and “Mégaphone” are fresh, rich in fruit and easy to appreciate young. The red Châteauneuf “Piedlong”, sourced from the Piélong lieu-dit, is a profoundly mineral wine that balances elegance and purity with the muscle that is found in this great appellation.
The southern Rhône valley is Grenache country. It’s also known for its stones. With a viticulture history dating back well before the Popes arrived in the 12th century and one of France’s oldest appellations d'origine contrôlée, Châteauneuf-du-Pâpe, the southern Rhône is unquestionably one of France’s best known and premier winegrowing regions. The wines have the pedigree and age-worthiness of Burgundy and Bordeaux, but with a rustic, Mediterranean character. Like most wines from southern France, the reds, whites, and rosés are blends. Filling out the Grenache for the reds and rosés, you’ll often find Syrah, Carignan, Mourvèdre, and Cinsault. The common white grape varieties are Grenache Blanc, Clairette, Bourboulenc, Viognier, Roussane, and Marsanne among others. From the alluvial riverbed stones found in Lirac, Tavel, and Châteauneuf to the limestone cliffs of the Dentelles de Montmirail that influence Beaumes-de-Venise (where you’ll find excellent Muscat), Vacqueyras, and Gigondas, great terroir abounds.
Kermit’s entrance in the region came in the mid 1970s on his first trip with Richard Olney, an American ex-pat and friend of Alice Waters. On that trip, Richard introduced Kermit to the Brunier family of Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe. Soon after, Kermit began importing the Brunier’s wines—their Châteauneuf-du-Pape “La Crau” bottling remains a staple of our portfolio today. In the late 1990s Kermit teamed up with the Brunier family to purchase the famed Gigondas estate, Domaine Les Pallières. More than 40 years later, we now import wines from fifteen southern Rhône domaines spanning the entire area of the region.
I want you to realize once and for all: Even the winemaker does not know what aging is going to do to a new vintage; Robert Parker does not know; I do not know. We all make educated (hopefully) guesses about what the future will bring, but guesses they are. And one of the pleasures of a wine cellar is the opportunity it provides for you to witness the evolution of your various selections. Living wines have ups and downs just as people do, periods of glory and dog days, too. If wine did not remind me of real life, I would not care about it so much.
Inspiring Thirst, page 171
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