Les Vignerons D’ Estezargues Les Grandes Vignes Red
Regular price $23.00
Winemaker: Armelle Rouault
Appellation: Côtes-du-Rhône, Rhône, France
Grape Varieties: Cinsault
Estézargues’ flagship red blend that seeks to showcase Cinsault – a traditional Rhone-Valley grape that is often considered only a “blending-material” yet produces very pleasant wines when coming from old vines with tamed yields, as is the case here.
Vineyard: Red clay-based and stone-strewn. Blend of old vines from different member’s properties, the average age of the vines 50 years
Grapes: 100% Cinsault
Making of: 10-15 days maceration at temperatures around 20 degrees Celsius, followed by settling in tanks until next spring. No external yeast and no enzymes are employed during the winemaking process, bottled without fining or filtration.
Tasting Note: Garnet in the glass with shimmering highlights. Elegant notes of smoky red fruit, violet, sweet herb and a note of baking chocolate. The palate is rich with ripe cherry and berry flavors, and a mineral note that is followed by supple acidity and velvety tannins. This is a very expressive red with a great concentration of fruit that is never overly extracted. The wine finishes with floral notes and a dash of black pepper.
Pairing: Works wonders with grilled chicken and pork, cold cuts, or simply by itself.
Just some twenty minutes from the famed medieval city of Avignon (Chateauneuf du Pape, anyone?), in an eponymous village, Les Vignerons d’Estézargues operates a very rare kind of co-operative. The caves co-op, as they call them in France, are a traditional and still very important part of the wine landscape, especially in the South, as sharing know-how and the cost of cellar space and equipment brings important synergies to the participating growers. In most cases, the co-ops make conventional wines in large batches and process grapes from many different vineyards together, focusing on quantity and cost-efficiency rather than quality or environmental respect. Les Vignerons D’ Estézargues, on the other hand, is a whole different animal on both accounts. Their unique approach, practically unheard of among cooperatives of this size, is what made Jenny bring these terrific-value wines to the US since the very early years of J&F.
Estézargues was established in 1965 and, as early as the 1980s, shifted towards natural winemaking thanks to the arrival of Jean-François Nicq, a talented winemaker influenced by the ideas of natural wine legends like Marcel Lapierre. Nicq (now making wine in his own boutique Domaine des Foulards Rouges in Roussillon) put the cave firmly on track towards respectful farming and practically no additives in the cellar. No commercial yeast, no enzymes, no gum arabic, no acidifiers, and also almost no sulfur. “We use a minimal amount of SO2 at bottling if needed, to make sure the wines are safe even when exported overseas, but that’s it,” says Armelle Rouault, Estézargues’ congenial current CEO and winemaker as we chat on Google Meet, the tasting room of Covid-19 times. Funnily enough, the company never felt the need to label themselves as vin naturel (“and we’re not going to start now, all of a sudden,” Armelle adds), but it’s a bit of a trade secret nevertheless: the well-informed patrons of Parisian bars as well as buyers overseas know that choosing an Estézargues label equals no-BS-added honest bottles.
Another feature rather untypical of a coop is Estézargues’ focus on vinifying many of their terroirs separately—a practice promoted by Nicq’s successor Denis Deschamps. Deschamps even had the cuverie doubled in 2018, thus making it possible to showcase the unique personalities of the grower’s best plots even more. These wines proudly bear the name of the particular domaine on their labels (such as Genestas or Grès Saint Vincent), and represent “a great way to valorize the work of each grower—we vinify the wines in almost the same way so it’s really up to the grapes to show what’s in them. And I can’t help but see the personality of each grower in the final wine as well,” Armelle smiles. She’s happy to have both the individual and all-together approach featured in the roughly 20 different cuvées that Estézargues produce every year, as the communal bottles such as Grandes Vignes Blanc or Rouge are a good symbol of the brand’s collective nature. She affectionately calls the community “village gaulois” in a reference to the beloved Asterix & Obélix comics and the fact that most of the original founding families are still members today, with the third generation now in command.
With such colorful heritage all around, one wonders which shade Armelle hopes to add to the picture herself (besides the modern cellar door that they’re currently developing as one of the projects with the new sales director Anna Tyack). “Fully finishing the conversion towards organic—three quarters of our surface is already certified, and the rest is on the path as well,” she enthuses. The village of Estézargues is located on a sun-drenched windy plateau, quite a bliss for organic viticulture: “As we say here in the South, the mistral is better than one [anti-disease] treatment,” Armelle laughs before drawing a compelling metaphor: “Take breastfeeding, for example: it went out of fashion for a while in favor of formula, but now society has once again accepted the old truth that nature has all the resources. And I love to see the wine world going back to this balance as well.”
-Jenny and François Selections