Vacqueyras, the village whose apt name translates as “Valley of the Stones” from the local dialect, celebrates its thirtieth anniversary as an official cru of the Rhône this year. Coincidentally, at Sang des Cailloux, Serge Férigoule also celebrates his thirtieth anniversary of taking over the estate, where he was an employee for many years, before his boss called it quits and handed him the keys. Pioneers in the methods of organics, soon followed by biodynamics, the Férigoules have honed a unique style of Vacqueyras that mixes deep, dark color with a lightness of touch, rusticity with warmth, and minerality with delicious fresh fruit.
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.
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.
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