This was another great discovery on a trip in October 2013. Marcel and his wife Marie were delightful hosts and again the very antithesis of an industrialised chateau. They are unsung heroes, very hard working vignerons who have spent nearly 40 years developing their Domaine, creating jobs for local people and putting Cairanne on the map.
In May/June 2013, they had enormous problems with coulure (the viticultural hazard which stops grapes developing after flowering), notably with the Grenache where they lost up to 70% of their crop. It will be a very difficult year (they employ 10 people constantly throughout the year and another 30 during the harvests) and Marcel will have to pull a rabbit out of the hat this year to manage their cash flow. According to Marie, this is their hardest ever year.
Marcel is a silver haired fox, oozing experience and charm, and with circa 40 years’ experience behind him, you would back him to get through this year and succeed.
To be precise, this is their 38th vintage and is their latest they have ever harvested. The Grenache suffered because it harvests early and when snow fell on May 25th, it suffered. They have 60 hectares to farm of which they own 15, the rest being owned by their relatives.
Their philosophy, whilst organic and advocates of low intervention wines and low sulphur, is different to Gourt de Mautens, just up the road, which makes wines to be aged. Marcel Richaud makes wines to be drunk young but nevertheless they want the wines to reflect the terroir. Marie herself likes wines which are young and tannic as she thinks this style matches southern French food which uses herbs and spices. She says 90% of wine in the region is made to be drunk within the first 12 months after bottling. Having said that, most of their reds (with notable exception of Terres a’Aigles) will age 5 years and some well beyond.
Their own wines shouldn’t be judged against other vins de garde, with the exception of L’Ebrescade and Les Estrambords which are made with ageing in mind.
The wines we tasted
Cairanne White, 2012
This is a delightful, simple wine of the region made from Clairette. It is light in colour with white fruits and a little spice and pepper on the nose and palate. It could be drunk as an apéritif or with a light dish. To be drunk within 1-2 years.
CdR Terres d’Aigles, Red 2012
This has hardly any sulphur added at bottling and you notice a little spritz of CO2 on the palate which has been left in to help kill any bacteria. It is aged entirely in concrete vats. It is mainly Grenache with some other typical southern Rhone varieties. It has summery strawberry fruits on the nose and palate. It is a delightful vin de terroir which could be drunk on its own or with a light dish. Another delightful, easy drinking wine which should be consumed within 1-2 years.
CdR, Terres des Galets, Red 2011
This comes from Grenache and Carignan grapes from the plain where the soil is tougher. It has some warm kirsch and licorice on the nose and palate. It needs food to soften the tougher tannins. Another lovely vin de terroir which would go very well with simple southern roast meats with herbs.
L’Ebrescade, Red 2010
This is only made in the better vintages from and even mix of Grenache, Mourvèdre and Syrah. It has a deep garnet colour and is more baked on the nose with ripe blackberry fruit and fine, soft tannins on the palate. It has that spicy note which is so typical of wines in this area. The fruit is ripe, expressive and to the fore. It is a wine to be enjoyed with fine food.
Les Estrambords, Red 2011
This isn’t made every year and is made with predominantly Mourvèdre with some Grenache and Syrah. The age of vines is 50-60 years. The wines are aged in foudres until they are bottled. The intention is to create a style of wine more in keeping with the New World, so there is more wood the fruit is clearly riper.
Rasteau, Red 2012. Simple but delightful wine, quite rich and opulent. Some pain grillé, kirsch, spice and tobacco too on the nose and palate. Its tannins are well integrated and soft. A lovely, wine, typical of this area. Very easy to drink.