Although we sometimes speak of the Rhône Valley as a monolithic region, it is important to distinguish the wines of the northern Rhône from those of the southern Rhône. In the north, you find cooler climates, dramatically steep slopes, and the renowned appellations of Cornas, Côte Rôtie, Hermitage, Saint-Joseph, and Condrieu. With occasional exceptions, the reds tend to be all Syrah, and the whites all Marsanne or Viognier. The warmer south, where Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Gigondas are situated, is the land of blends: Grenache, Mourvèdre, Syrah, and Cinsault are often combined in the reds, while the whites are mélanges of grapes like Roussanne, Marsanne, and Grenache Blanc. If you had to erect a gate between the northern and southern Rhône, signaling your passage from one to the other, you might situate it at Domaine Gallety. Here, just south of Montélimar, but on the cooler left bank of the river, Alain and David-Alexandre Gallety craft singular reds and whites that exhibit some of the defining characteristics of both the northern and southern Rhône. In addition to the cooler climate, a relatively early harvest leads to this racy white with lip-smacking acidity. Made of Grenache Blanc, Marsanne, and Roussanne, and aged two years in old barrels, it has just the right amount of chiseled richness without sacrificing any freshness. This blanc is especially impressive considering that this is the first time the Galletys have made it!
The talented Alain Gallety began making wine in the Côtes du Vivarais alongside his father. Though the Galletys reside here, making their wines with pride, determination, and focus, their minds are frequently traveling to other regions in France, closely studying the techniques of their contemporaries. Alain takes every aspect of the process seriously. To grow the quality of grapes he wants, he farms his fifteen hectares of vineyards organically. The wines are then aged in Burgundian barrels, as they believe them to produce wines with finesse. Alain Gallety is indeed a man of vision. Domaine Gallety is a new acquisition to the KLWM portfolio, but one well-positioned with wines of such brightness, density, and impeccable balance.
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.
Great winemakers, great terroirs, there is never any hurry. And I no longer buy into this idea of “peak” maturity. Great winemakers, great terroirs, their wines offer different pleasures at different ages.
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