A narrow route nationale follows the meandering Drôme River east from where it flows into the Rhône, flanked on either side by hills and eventually small mountains—a precursor to the mighty Alpine peaks found not too far away. The local specialty here is Clairette de Die, a somewhat sweet Muscat crafted via the méthode Dioise ancestrale, which supposedly outdates the production of all other sparkling wines. This brut bottling, however, is a dry wine made exclusively from Clairette, crafted by the méthode traditionnelle that is also used in Champagne. With refreshing citrus and a hint of honeysuckle on the nose followed by a delicious-with-anything palate, this minerally sparkler ensures palate stimulation with every sip.
Among the most well-known of Clairette de Die’s producers today is the tiny Domaine Achard-Vincent. Jean-Pierre Achard, and his son, Thomas, descend from five generations of growers. The domaine has farmed organically since Thomas’s grandparents were directing it, although it is now officially certified as both organic and biodynamic. The Clairette de Die “Tradition” uses the méthode dioise, an ancestral method that allows a secondary fermentation in the bottle without dosage. The Clairette de Die “Brut” is made using the méthode champenoise, or méthode traditionnelle. The delicate liveliness of the wines from Domaine Achard-Vincent makes them refreshing, delicious, and perfect as an aperitif, dessert, or brunch wine.
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.
When buying red Burgundy, I think we should remember:
1. Big wines do not age better than light wine. 2. A so-called great vintage at the outset does not guarantee a great vintage for the duration. 3. A so-called off vintage at the outset does not mean the wines do not have a brilliant future ahead of them. 4. Red Burgundy should not taste like Guigal Côte-Rôtie, even if most wine writers wish it would. 5. Don’t follow leaders; watch yer parking meters.
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