Very few producers stand out as champions of their respective regions, and even fewer take things a step further in transcending that appellation. Domaine Gramenon of Côtes du Rhône embodies this quality in a way that's led them to cult status. The production is quite small, with bottles doled out in allocations, but their impact is nothing short of monumental.
Michèle Aubèry-Laurent and her husband Philippe founded the Gramenon estate in the northern sector of the Côtes du Rhône appellation in 1979. Eleven years later the couple bottled their very first wine. Their vision for the estate was a grand one: a place where organic farming and biodynamic principles extended beyond wine, incorporating growing their own produce and raising animals. Sadly, in 1999 Philippe passed away in an accident and Michèle was left to take over full control of the domaine with her three children. The family came out of this difficult stretch and took the estate to its greatest heights.
The land where the Mediterranean meets the southern Rhone valley is home to blazing hot days and incredibly ripe and fruit-forward Grenache-based wines. Gramenon's brilliance comes in harnessing these fleshy, concentrated, and full-throttle wines and endowing them with a level of briskness and refreshment that's simply unrivaled here. The wines never delve into the overly jammy register, instead highlighting those inherent juicy fruit qualities with a defined vivacious drinkability. The northern section of the region plays a role in this, but truth be told it's the attention to detail in the vineyard and utilization of partial whole cluster ferments with large vessel aging that bear most responsibility.
2015 was a hot and dry growing season. Gramenon's astute protocol of early bottling is another way these wines combat the heat that can regularly plague others in the appellation. While critics will begin to wax poetic in the coming year about the 2015's spectacular concentration, now is the time to get to know the star who's always a step ahead. One that produces the single most delicious and drinkable wines from this cherished sun-baked land.
2015 Gramenon Côtes du Rhône Poignée de Raisins
$28 per bottle.
100% Grenache from a mix of clay, limestone, gravel, and sand.
Strawberry and plum with white pepper and a finish that always personally calls to mind a hint of the chocolate quality in a tootsie roll.
2015 Gramenon Côtes du Rhône Sierra du Sud
$35 per bottle.
100% Syrah from a mix of clay, limestone, gravel, and sand.
Inky purple, with blackberry fruit notes and aromas of violets and lavender.
2015 Gramenon Côtes du Rhône La Sagesse
$39 per bottle.
The top wine of Gramenon. 100% Grenache from 60+ year-old vines from a mix of clay, limestone, gravel, and sand.
This takes similar notes of the Poignée de Raisins, but offers a deeper concentration, more dark
fruits, with intense aromas coming from the wild garrigue growing throughout the hillsides. Bottles tasted from the early 1990's are still fluorescent in color and fresh on the palate.
2014 Gramenon Côtes du Rhône Sierra du Sud
$35 per bottle.