If ever a wine qualified as a “winter white,” it’s this one. The satiny, luxurious blend of Grenache Blanc, Clairette, and Roussanne is a liquid scarf that wards off the gloom of short, cold days with a foreshadowing of the ripe summer stone fruits to come.
In September 1986, René Laugier wanted to retire but had no successors to take over La Roquette , his domaine in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. When Daniel and Frédéric Brunier bought the domaine, it was a logical choice. The brothers had been proving their worth as rising young stars of the appellation, and the Brunier family, proprietor of Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe, had a long history of working tough soils—they farm La Crau, which boasts some of the most challenging vineyard terrain and most pedigreed soils of Châteauneuf. Daniel and Frédéric purchased twenty-nine hectares of vineyards at La Roquète. The brothers replanted the Clos La Roquète to white in 1987; this is currently the only wine bottled under the La Roquète label.
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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