Gaël Petit’s family history is deeply intertwined with that of Tavel. Records show his ancestors inhabited the quaint, sunny Provençal village across the Rhône from Châteauneuf-du-Pape as far back as the sixteenth century, and his great-grandfather, a former mayor, played a major role in the creation of the Tavel AOC, granted in 1936. Gaël recalls growing up at the family domaine, its cellar full of massive foudres in which the wines were raised. These perdurable casks helped the family earn widespread recognition for its grandiose Tavels—the kind of wine, undoubtedly, that enchanted countless connoisseurs throughout history, from Louis XIV to Hemingway. By the 1980s, however, the traditional casks had all but disappeared from cellars across France, replaced by the dependable sparkle of stainless steel. Herbicides in the vineyard substituted tilling, laboratory yeasts colonized fermentation tanks, and other innovations facilitated the vigneron’s life to yield a reliably consistent, albeit standardized, product each vintage. Modern enology dictated winemaking when Gaël took the reins of the domaine in 1992, but he ultimately changed course, realizing a return to traditional ways was necessary for Tavel to relive its former glory. He began an organic conversion in the vineyards, then launched a micro-cuvée from the domaine’s oldest vines in its top limestone terroirs. For this new departure, Gaël opted for a whole-cluster, infusion-style vinification with native yeast, drastically reduced sulfur usage, allowing the wine to complete its malolactic fermentation, and bottled it without fining or filtration. The first edition of this exciting project, “La Combe des Rieu” is a Tavel whose intensity, complexity, and decisive sense of terroir have more in common with the regal reds of Châteauneuf than with southern France’s sea of generic rosés. Behind the historic label lies a wine of class, depth, and substance, bearing a rich bouquet of wild strawberry, flowers, garrigue, and sweet spices, culminating in a long, stony finale. This is Tavel the way it was meant to be, validating the appellation’s legendary standing as the “rosé of kings.”
Gaël Petit’s family history is deeply intertwined with that of Tavel. Records show his ancestors inhabited the quaint, sunny Provençal village across the Rhône from Châteauneuf-du-Pape as far back as the 16th century, practicing viticulture for generations leading up to present day. His great-grandfather, a former mayor of Tavel and head of the local vigneron union, even played an important role in the foundation of the Tavel AOC, having outlined the production area eligible for France’s first rosé to receive appellation status in 1936.
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.
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