I have been on a southern France wine kick lately and this month the Winophiles are exploring the wine region of Rasteau, located in the Southern Rhone region of France. I received all four of the wines featured in this article free of charge, but as always, opinions are my own.
Rasteau is unique in the fact that the AOC quality designation rules have completely changed over the years. In 1944, when the Rasteau AOC was created, only sweet, fortified wines known as Vin Doux Naturel were permitted. In 1966 the dry red wines of Rasteau were given AOC status under the larger Cotes du Rhone Villages AOC. It was not until 2010 that the Rasteau AOC allowed both Vin Doux Naturel and dry red wine production, and today, heading into its 10th anniversary of the current AOC regulations, Rasteau produces 96% dry red wines and only 4% Vin Doux Naturel wines. Wow!
Rasteau requires that the dry red wines have a minimum of 50% Grenache, and a minimum of 20% Syrah and/or Mouvedre. The Vin Doux Naturels are exclusively Grenache, but can be both Grenache Blanc or Grenache Noir.
Rasteau is a hot and dry climate with a mixture of soils ranging from pebble rich soils to marl to clay. Many vineyards have stones that surround the vines, referred to in this region as “pudding stones”, that retain the heat of the day and reflect that heat back onto the vines in the evening, allowing the grapes to develop concentrated phenolic compounds that express themselves beautifully in the wines.
So let’s explore the wines I sampled:
Lavau Rasteau 2015 (50% Grenache; 50% Syrah, 13.5% ABV, SRP <$20)
This wine. It’s been a long time since a wine has me literally waxing poetic about life, but this one stopped me in my tracks, and reminded me that wine truly teaches us how to live. This bottle demanded that I give all of my attention to it and really focus on what I was experiencing. When I first opened this wine, I thought it might have been faulty. There was an overwhelming scent that at first I thought was musty. I take no joy in finding faults – in wines or anything else for that matter – so I took a sip. I knew instantly that I was mistaken. If the wine had the fault that I was thinking of, the flavors would have been muted, the wine just wouldn’t have much to offer, just meh. Not the case here. The wine had robust flavors of blackberry, spice, licorice and menthol. As it opened up, I realized the aroma was not mustiness but an intense earthiness, with herbal notes, and eventually black fruit, cherry and vanilla came through as well.
I was so intrigued by this wine and I wanted to know if I was way off base, or if other’s had the same experience. The winemaker tell us that there should be “crisp blackberry and cherry flavors, contrasted with savory notes of smoke, garrigue, and mushroom.” Ah. Mushroom. I also scoured the internet on this one and found many online reviews that included damp earth. I share this experience because this is exactly the kind of thing that keeps me so enamored with wine. Not jumping to conclusions. Second impressions. Listening instead of talking. This wine is truly a metaphor for life.
Ok, enough philosophizing. Aged in oak for 12 months prior to bottling – 25% of the wine is aged in larger 450L used oak barrels. The grapes are grown in both pebbly soil and marl soil. The wine making philosophy of Maison Lavau is to reflect the terroir and, as noted above, it does come shining through in this one. With bright acidity and bold tannins, it still manages to have a plush mouthfeel and an incredibly long finish that has a savory note. Truly this wine is complex with so many layers that change as it opens up.
I was so enamored with this bottle that I didn’t get a picture of of the braised short ribs or the slice of “the works” pizza I paired with this wine, both were delicious. I believe this wine would be great with any type of braised or roasted meat, as well as with earthy mushroom or rustic pasta dishes. I literally can’t wait to find out what the other Winophiles impressions of this wine were.
Famille Perrin L’Andeol Rasteau 2016 (Grenache; Syrah; 13.5% ABV; SRP $24)
The grapes for this wine grow on a mere 5 acres of vineyards at Chateau de Beaucastel, owned by the same family since 1909. The grapes are completely hand harvested and sorted. Fermentation occurs primarily in stainless steel, with 10% of the fermentation occurring in foudres. Once fermentation is complete, the wine rests for 6 months prior to bottling.
This wine gave aromas of earth, herbs and spice, with flavors of anise, licorice, cocoa and black fruit. It has very structured tannins and a bright acidity, making it a great food wine. It feels somehow big and bold, yet light weight at the same time. I paired this wine with grilled (smoked) salmon and roasted green beans and Brussels sprouts. Delish!
Domaine Elodie Balme 2017 Rasteau (50% Grenache; 20% Syrah; 15% Mouvedre; 10% Carignan; SRP $25)
Elodie Balme is the winemaker and proprietress of Domaine Elodie Balme – a venture she began at just 23 years old, with her first vintage in 2006. She is working towards organic certification for her vineyards. This wine is beautifully clear and left no sediment despite undergoing a light filtration. Vintification occurred in 90% cement vats and 10% used oak barrels and demi-muids.
This wine has aromas of dark fruit, herb and a slight smoke note. On the palate the flavors are bold and slightly complex in that I got a lot of them: black fruit, garrigue, licorice, spice and perhaps a hint of mocha. The wine feels big because of the flavors but the tannins are smooth and silky. The acidity is bright but well balanced and was magnificent with a salmon salad with bleu cheese. And again the next day with just some cheese, olives, and hummus.
Chateau du Trignon 2015 Rasteau (60% Grenache, 40% Mouvedre; SRP $25)
The Quiot family owns many acres of vines within the Rhone Valley, but this wine comes from just 12 acres that fall within the Rasteau AOC, The grapes are completely destemmed, undergo a 17-21 day maceration and then 12 months of aging in a combination of cement vats and oak foudres.
The wine had intense aromas of fruit, herb and earth, with pepper and minerality showing up as the wine opened up a bit. The aromas were reflected on the palate with the a tobacco spice note revealing itself. The wine is both juicy and silky and provides a long finish with notes eucalyptus/menthol.
I paired this wine with smoked pork tenderloin and charred broccoli and it was perfect. I often hear about green veggies being hard to pair with wine – if you roast those veggies until they reach carmelization, they will be beautiful with most wine. In this case I went a little further and charred the broccoli (one of my all time favorite dishes) and it was really great with this wine, as was the smoked pork tenderloin
I have had an amazing time exploring the southern Rhone Valley with the Winophiles these past two months – in fact, I am on a Rhone wine kick now that I can’t seem to satiate no matter how hard I try! If you are not familiar with Rasteau or other wines of the southern Rhone, I hope you will be inspired to go out and try one — or three!
If I haven’t convinced, check out what the rest of the Winophiles thought by clicking through to these great articles:
Camilla from Culinary Adventures with Cam Shares “A Birthday Tradition + Side-by-Side Sips of Domaine de Verquière Rasteau”
David from Cooking Chat Food Writes About “Chicken Lentil Stew and Rhone Wine from Rasteau”
Deanna from Asian Test Kitchen tells us how to “Become a Rasteau—farian”
Gwendolyn from Wine Predator says “Go Grenache, Go Rasteau”
Jane from Always Ravenous Writes About “Flavors of Provence Paired with Rhône Rasteau Wines”
Jeff from Food Wine Click Explains “Rasteau and the Côtes du Rhône Quality Pyramid”
Kat from The Corkscrew Concierge Explain How She is “Expanding my Rhône Valley Palate with Rasteau Wine”
Linda from My Full Wine Glass Writes about “Basking in the Glow of Rasteau” #Winophiles
Liz from What’s in That Bottle Says, “You Like Big Reds? Get to Know Rasteau”
Lynn from Savor the Harvest writes about “Rhone Valley Rasteau Cru – A New Generation Wine With Duck Confit #winophiles”
Martin from Enofylz Writes About “Getting To Know Rasteau”
Nicole from Somm’s Table Shares “Five Nights of Rasteau”
Pinny from Chinese Food & Wine Pairings Writes About “One Rabbit, Two Turkey Drumsticks and Four Rasteau Wines”
Payal from Keep the Peas writes about “Rasteau: Not So Rustic in the Southern Rhone”
Robin from Crushed Grape Chronicles writes about “Fall, Thanksgiving and the flavors of Rasteau”
Rupal from Syrah Queen writes, “Rasteau – Exploring The Gems of Southern Rhone”
Wendy from A Day in the Life on the Farm Shares “A German-Style Shepherds Pie with a French Rasteau”
20 Comments Add yours
Going to look for the Lavau after reading about your experience! When I first opened up the Balme wine it was a bit reductive but aerated off. Wines can be so mysterious yet compelling.
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Mysterious but compelling – that’s why we love them and never tire of the subject! The Lavau is definitely one I would like to try again just to see if I get the same impressions!
You brought me right into your experience with your description of how enraptured you were with the Lavau. I love those moments. And I couldn’t agree with you more re. caramelizing veggies — I also love a good amount of char on my broccoli!
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Thanks Nicole! I do love my veggies so I had to find a way to make them work with wine and once carmelized they are so good! Cheers 🍷
I recall a similar musty nose on at least one of the wines. Curious to taste a Rasteau with just 50% Grenache, all the bottles I sampled were 70 to 80% Grenache.
I definitely picked up the garrigue/herbal notes on these wines and would really like to try the Lavau again just to see if I get the same impressions. Another of mine – the Elodie Balme was 50% Granache as well. It’s definitely a region I would like to spend more time getting to know.
I really enjoyed seeing some variety in the wines from this small area, looks like you had a good bunch!
I agree Jeff – it was great to read everyone’s impressions of other Rasteau wines, as well as read different impressions on the overlapping ones! I will definitely explore this region anytime I have the opportunity..
I love hearing the evolution of your tasting! It is a good reminder to not jump to conclusions. I too have a habit of tasting, and then going to look at other’s impressions of a wine. Did what I smell match what the winemaker smelled, or others who have popped their noses into a similar bottle? I really want to go find the Elodie Balme and try your pairing which sounds so interesting and delicious!
My palate development is a very slow work in progress so I often will “check” my answers if I’m not sure lol! I was absolutely surprised to learn that the Elodie Balme was 15% ABV – I’m sure it worked because of the bleu cheese and salmon, the salad came in to the picture only because I had left over salmon (which was smoked on the grill so it had that smoky bbq flavor that might’ve helped make it a good match! Not sure, but I really enjoyed it!
Love that you were able to pair with a salmon salad!
While you were appreciating Lavau (I didn’t have this wine but am curious to try!) I was relishing Domaine La Font de Nortre Dame Le Chêne with a provencal pasta dish. I was so happy, I was dreaming of my next holiday to the Southern Rhône!
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What a wonderful post Cathie! I specially enjoyed your description of your experience with the first wine (and I forgive you for not having a picture of the braised short ribs, it just would’ve made me hungrier than I already am after reading about your pairings). Cheers!
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Thank you so much Martin! It was a great pairing – I’ll have to have a redo and get the pic!