Excursion this afternoon to the village of Vinsobre, one of the 7 Crus of the Southern Rhone and for me the least well known. I visited Philippe Chaume of Domaine Chaume-Arnauld. This is a producer that I came to know via their excellent white wine La Cadène as its on L’Oustalet’s list at Gigondas and I’ve often selected it as the apertif for clients when we’ve had dinners there.
The domaine is on the long straight road going up to Nyons via St. Maurice, though their best plots are up on the hill, to an altitude of 400 m overlooking the road and across to Mt. Ventoux. There is no marketing pretension here. Having been to Mourchon at the weekend the contrast is what first strikes one…the tasting room compises a barn housing the fermentation tanks, an old barrel positioned inside the barn door in front of the tanks (the only wood as it turns out in the winery as Philippe is strictly a beton/innox man) with some bottles arranged on it, no brochures, literature or other flim flam, not even a sell for their organic/bio-dynamic status. The wine here speaks for itself. Philippe who I disturbed tinkering with the tanks along with his rugby playing son – off soon to Ireland to complete his studies, learn english and play some rugby – talked me through the gamme, and I tasted the 2007 blanc, so popular it seems that there is a quota system, you need to buy two reds to every white purchased, then the 2005/2006 Vinsobre and then the haute gamme “La Cadène” reds, the 2000 and the 2004, these are old vine Granache + Syrah, Mourvedre, very concentrated and long, the 2000 animal/herbal the 2004 a little closed but very pure red berried fruit and great structure, will be a treat in a few more years. Great value is to be found here, the white (a 50:50 Marsanne/Viognier with a hint of Clairette – rich stone fruit cut with remarkable acidity for this part of the world) is just €10, the Vinsobre 2005 that I bought was €8.50 and the La Cadène, equal of many top Gigondas was €14. I regretted not buying more as soon as I drove away. By the way Philippe and his wife Valèrie who is equal partner in the wine making itself are part of the fascinating group of like minded (many organic, all fiercely independent artisans) known as the “Toques des Dentelles”…literally the Dentelles crazies!