The key to elevating Côtes du Rhône from good to great is balance. Only the best producers are able to match the ample fruit and plush body Southern Rhône blends are famous for with a brilliant sense of tension and vivacity. The Faravel brothers behind Domaine la Bouïssiere pull off that rare trick deftly. When he founded the family winery in the 1960s, their father Antonin staked out vineyards higher than any other in the Gigondas appellation.
Now, with ever-warmer vintages, the Bouïssiere address is one of the few we look to for true elegance in the Southern Rhône. The vineyards that go into the Faravel’s Côtes du Rhône are technically in Beaumes-de-Venise, right next door to Gigondas, but the story is the same here. Elevations over 1,000 feet mean this cuvée hits the ripeness bullseye with shimmering, fresh fruits rather than the stewed or cooked aromatics/flavors we so often see down here.
When Antonin Faravel began planting his vineyard in 1963, he chose some of the most forbidding terroir in the appellation. The Bouïssiere vines are planted more or less directly into the cliffs of the Dentelles de Montmirail, on slopes so steep Antonin was forced to build terraces for them. The neighbors thought he was crazy, but he knew what he was doing; Antonin had worked at the famous Domaine Pierre Amadieu for more than three decades before he struck out on his own, and knew the lay of Gigondas’ land like few others. He’s now passed that knowledge to his sons who take every step to preserve the noble refinement their father sought.
After hand harvesting the sustainably farmed fruit—80% Grenache and 20% Syrah—for their Côtes du Rhône cuvée, the Faravel brothers ferment it with 50% whole clusters and age the wine entirely in cement. Served in Bordeaux stems, the deep ruby wine offers up a nose of cherry liqueur, wild blackberries, crushed raspberries, violets, scorched black rock, sandalwood, anise seed, Mediterranean scrub brush, and baked earth. It’s certainly powerful and deep on the palate, but it’s also lithe and refreshing, with waves of scintillating acids and just-there tannin making for a vibrant, rather than plodding, drinking experience. I’d even wager that unlike most wines in this category, Bouïssiere’s Côtes du Rhône will improve with a couple years in your cellar. Good luck keeping your hands off of it in the meantime!
Heard It Through The Grapevine
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