Dip your nose into a glass of Serge Férigoule’s Vacqueyras: you’ll find the liquid reincarnation of the stony terroir from which this red hails. Garrigue—wild thyme, rosemary, and, judging from the scent, some lavender—grows copiously around the vineyard, adding an almost smoky, resinous perfume to the wine, as if the baking summer sun had liberated its aromas and the mistral had swept them off to flavor the grapes. Aged in large, neutral foudres, this wine has chewy tannins that are amazingly elegant, while it contains no shortage of depth and density for extensive bottle aging, if desired. Cuvée Floureto’s mineral finish keeps things very fresh, providing a tension rarely evident in Grenache-based blends. It almost seems as though the wine has been filtered through stones—but don’t worry, that’s the only kind of filtration we would allow this Vacqueyras to endure.
In 1974, Serge Férigoule left winemaking school with a longing to return to the vineyards. He went to work for Monsieur Ricard’s family in 1979 to oversee the vineyards. Without a successor, Ricard decided to gamble by partnering with Serge. In 1990, after Ricard’s retirement, Serge launched Le Sang des Cailloux. Vacqueyras had been awarded an A.O.C. that same year, a timely twist of fate that helped Serge’s wines become as celebrated as they deserve. All of Serge’s seventeen hectares rest on the Plateau des Garrigues, where red clay, limestone, and the galets roulés impart a terrific intensity and depth to the wines.
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.
Trust the great winemakers, trust the great vineyards. Your wine merchant might even be trustworthy. In the long run, that vintage strip may be the least important guide to quality on your bottle of wine.—Kermit Lynch
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