Deep in the southern Rhone, there is a closed in valley with still waters... that place is known as Fontaine-de-Vaucluse. It is from this fountain of still waters that the department of Vaucluse gets its name.
Vaucluse is one of the many areas that Michel Chapoutier ( http://www.chapoutier.com/ ) uses for the grapes for his generic Cotes-du-Rhone blend (red and white). The Chapoutier family has been vinifying in the Rhone valley since 1808, and in that time, my how they've grown.
From what must have been a one-vineyard winery, Chapoutier has grown to literally dozens of varietals grown in a multitude of AOCs not only in France, but in Portugal and even Australia as well! One never knows where a little grape-juice may take you....
Well for the Chapoutier family, the wine industry has taken them to this rarefied platform in the wine industry. Not only do the have such a diverse array of wineries, but also a wine and gourmet food school where one can attend such day-lectures as "wine, truffles and the lunch-meal". If school was like that here....
the still waters of Fontaine-de-Vaucluse
So a rarefied lifestyle, but what kind of wine are the family making with these seemingly limitless resources?? In Michel's own words, their wines are trying to "bring out the specific tastes provided by each local terroir and wine". Well funny, that; it seems like I keep hearing the same thing over and over again by winemakers (vignerons) from every part of the world. New World winemakers, Old World vignerons, traditionalists, experimentalists, small wineries and large conglomerates. The consensus is in folks: allow your land to express itself through the grape!
And though Chapoutier uses grapes from Drôme,Vaucluse, Gard and Ardèche departments, what kind of a place is this Vaucluse? Tall mountains rising from impossibly steep gorges which run with the clearest water... small towns untouched from the frantic pace of the city; steeped in traditions running back to the time of the Romans. Ruins watching from the hillsides as people below gather their crops from some of the most abundantly fertile valleys in all of France. That, for some, is Vaucluse. And what of their wine?
visual: clean; moderately deep garnet core with light cherry rim and the lightest hints of orange
nose: clean; fully intense youthful aromas showing development; bright red cherries and raspberries from the grenache, light blackberry from the age, leathery oak, slight iron-like metal and a pronounced peppery finish
palate: clean; dry, moderate+to full (red currant) acids, moderate (slightly chewy) tannins, moderate- body, moderate+ ABV, moderately intense and youthful flavors; red currants, red cherry, black currant and black berry, leathery oak, mineral backbone, finish with currants and light pepper. Moderate+ balance. Moderate+ structure. Moderate finish.
conclusion: A well made, entry-level expression of the southern Rhone. True, there may not be alot of uniqueness to the flavor, but it certainly tastes and smells like the Rhone. Enjoy this now to 2013, the fresh fruit flavors will start to diminish rapidly after that I imagine.
PAIRINGS: Big bold flavors! Grilled red meat with a Provencal stew of tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant and fresh herbs. Grilled polenta with Sprintz, or Asiago, or Parmesano-Romano cheese. Even grilled rabbit with aioli would be good (but may not be rich enough to balance the wine). Don't do spicy food because of the alcohol, and stay away from anything too acidic... this wine wants some fat with it.
And so, a great way for someone to get acquainted with the Southern Rhone style. Not terribly flashy, but it certainly delivers for the price!