wines of Chêne Bleu
'Super Rhônes' from Domaine de la Verrière, Provence, France
Domaine de la Verrière, high up
in the hills near Gigondas in the Rhône valley (Vaucluse, Provence), is home
to a new wine project, called Chêne Bleu (the name comes from an oak tree
on the property). I met with owner Nicole Sierra-Rolet and winemaker
Jean-Louis Gallucci to taste these wines.
Vines have been grown at Verrière since the
9th century. The property, which was built as a medieval priory, was
bought by Nicole’s husband Xavier Rolet in 1993, just before she
met him. It had been abandoned for 40 years in an inheritance feud,
with the vines being leased out to others.
The main house was completely abandoned,
and the vines were a disaster, so there was a lot of work to be
done. It now looks pristine. Xavier, whose background is in finance,
used his lucrative day job to earn the large sums of cash needed for
this renovation, and he leaves the day-to-day running of the
property in the hands of Nicole, his sister Benedicte Gallucci
(viticulturist) and brother-in-law Jean-Louis Gallucci
Gallucci, Laura Iverson and Nicole Rolet
The vineyards are on the same latitude as
du Pape, but are in the mountains above Gigondas at an altitude of
550–600 metres. It’s an isolated, private valley, without
neighbours. ‘We built the logic of the project around this micro-terroir,’
says Nicole. The vines grow into hard schist, and it’s difficult
to get them established. But once they are, the roots grow deep.
There are currently 30 hectares planted.
Surrounding the vineyards there’s some
garrigue, but also semi-Alpine evergreens. ‘The last 50–100
metres makes a huge difference in the change of flora,’ reveals
Nicole. It’s an area where four appellations meet, so the wines
are simply described on the label as Vin de Pays. Nicole is
delighted that one journalist described them as the world’s first
estate, alluding to the super Tuscan movement.
The four-storey gravity-fed winery was
completed in time for the 2006 vintage, which was the first made on
Chêne Bleu Rosé 2009 Vin de Pays de Vaucluse, France
Salmon pink colour. Attractive textured palate with smooth, gentle
strawberry fruit and a supple personality. Dry with no rough edges
and some minerality. Grown-up rosé.
Chêne Bleu Aliot 2008 Vin de Pays de
A blend of Rousanne and Grenache Blanc with a hint of Marsanne.
Spends 7 months in oak. Fresh grapefruit and citrus lift to the
nose. Fine with white peach and a hint of apricot. The palate is
lively and bright with some vanilla and spice notes, as well as some
richness. Quite serious and could do with a couple of years for all
the components to integrate more. 92/100
Chêne Bleu Viognier 2007 Vin de Pays de
From 6 year old vines. 14% alcohol. Nicely elegant nose with
ripe peach and pear notes as well as spicy vanilla oak. Fresh,
textured palate with bright fruit and woody notes. Serious Viognier,
if a little oaky at the moment. 91/100
Chêne Bleu Héloïse 2006 Vin de Pays de Vaucluse,
Syrah/Grenache blend with a touch of Viognier. Ripe, sweet lush
nose of berry and blackberry fruit. The palate is ripe and lush with
sweet berry fruits and a hint of meatiness. Nicely savoury with
appealing bright berry fruits. Fresh and with some personality.
Chêne Bleu Abelard 2006 Vin de Pays de
80% Grenache, 20% Syrah. Rich, spicy, meaty nose is lush and
intense. The palate is bold and rich with nice density and warm,
sweet, spicy fruit, backed up by some grippy structure. There’s
lovely sweetness to the fruit and an attractive warm, savoury
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