In the hills above Provence, Domaine de Trévallon set out from inception in 1973 to tell the story of place despite rigorous opposition. 44 years later Eloi Dürrbach's vision of a Cabernet Sauvignon/Syrah blend from his family's estate has won the hearts of collectors across the globe. Burgundy, Rhone, Bordeaux, and Loire have taken the lion’s share of my most significant experiences drinking French reds over the years, but the consistency and heights that Trévallon achieves each vintage is unsurpassed. These are Grand Cru level wines in all but name, with pricing that’s a welcomed reminder of its humble origins.

 Eloi Dürrbach planted these two varieties in the remote village of Saint-Etienne-du-Grès, a limestone goldmine on the north side of Alpilles mountains. Before phylloxera ravaged vineyards throughout France in the late 19th century Cabernet Sauvignon had been widely planted here. The appellation system set rules in the 1930's to establish which varieties could be labeled under particular zones, and Cabernet Sauvignon was given the boot. Dürbach understood his unique terroir offered the Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah blend potential for greatness, so he chose to label his wines as France’s lowly Vin de Pays category.

Driving north into the hills of Provence from Bandol on one sweltering July afternoon I began to wonder just how Cabernet Sauvignon could strive here. As I climbed the Alpilles with the Mediterranean shrinking in my rearview the road began to narrow and the incline slowly steepened. Coming down onto the northern side temperatures quickly dropped and I immediately felt ushered into this new land, Baux de Provence. The garrigue shrubery of the south was quickly replaced by a picturesque roadway leading to Trévallon...

The Trévallon estate covers 17 hectares of almond and olive trees and vines, of which nearly all are planted to Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. A very tiny 2 hectare parcel of Marsanne, Rousanne, Clairette, Grenache Blanc, and Chardonnay go into a rare white, aged in stainless steel. It's as honeyed and tropical as it's fresh and mineral - another wine that couldn't have been made anywhere else on earth.

The reds age in large, old foudre, certainly the most crucial element in giving this wine its tremendous vivacity and brightness. While the gravel of Bordeaux is home to the greatest Cabernet Sauvignon, and the granite of northern Rhone to the greatest Syrah, Dürbach knows here on limestone the sum of both parts achieves something far greater than each posses on their own.

These are magnificent wines that call to mind the dark, graphite and tobacco-inflected wines of Pauillac, the black olive and violet of Côte Rôtie. And a seductive quality that reminds me each time of the treasure trove of older Burgundy that lined Eloi's personal cellar.

To give context to the aging curve of these wines, a bottle of 1998 opened recently was still unraveling hour after hour in the decanter.

2013 Trévallon IGP Rouge
$58 per bottle.

2011 Trévallon IGP Blanc
(Roussanne: 34%, Marsanne 34%, Clairette 12%, Grenache Blanc 10%, Chardonnay 10%)
$102 per bottle.

1998 Trévallon IGP Rouge
$139 per bottle.

1997 Trévallon IGP Rouge
$137 per bottle.

1996 Trévallon IGP Rouge
$137 per bottle.

1995 Trévallon IGP Rouge
$169 per bottle.

1994 Trévallon IGP Rouge
$127 per bottle.

1991 Trévallon IGP Rouge
$179 per bottle.

1990 Trévallon IGP Rouge
$269 per bottle.

1988 Trévallon IGP Rouge
$174 per bottle.

1988 Trévallon IGP Rouge 1.5L
$369 per bottle.