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Biodynamic Rhone

Les Galets at Domaine de Villeneuve Chateauneuf du Pape Les Galets at Domaine de Villeneuve Chateauneuf du Pape

Some wines from the Rhone...................

People think if us here at Buon Vino as Italian wine nuts, which we are but we love our French stuff too and at the moment, i am mad for Les Francais, here are some beautiful new wines.

Domaine de Villeneuve make pretty spectacular wines but like all great biodynamic producers, they are unexpected.  I have always tasted plenty of dried fruits, prunes, heavy earthy woodiness, hearty firm tannins and a good deal of oak in Chateauneuf du Pape, nice but well, a bit hard work.  I had a half bottle of Vieux Telegraphe 2009 quite recently, a renowned producer, a good vintage but well frankly, a bit dull.  Ok, it was only a half but i didn't even finish it.  I am not one to say this is rubbish, this is great only i have my own ideas about what i like and i always want to drink 'fresh', even when it is Grenache, even when the alcohol is 15% and even when it is Chateauneuf du Pape.

Stanislas Wallut has 13 hectares in Chateauneuf, a tiny dilapidated cellar (according to my colleague Phil who visited last summer) and is a really nice guy.  The vineyard yields are very low so he doesn't make much and he sells all the wine no problems.  He has built a reputation amongst the natural wine making fraternity of being one of the best producers in the Southern Rhone.  He has all he needs to do so, in very old vines of Grenache, beautiful Terroir untouched by chemicals for over a decade and the sensitivity to produce great wine.  The result for me is the best Chateauneuf i have ever tasted, rich and raw, very very fresh and subtle yet with underlying power. The new 2011 vintage just shipped direct from the vineyard will ideally need some time in bottle to find itself and this is a wine that at 4-5 years old, is an infant.  But it is a charming infant, vibrant and fun, very enjoyable and with the potential for serious intellectual discovery in later life.

Stanislas also has a little vineyard called simply and rather menacingly 'La Griffe', The Claw!  I know the production here is tiny because i got the last 120 bottles of the 1012 which has just been released.  Here the vines are 50 years old, the vineyard is just outside the Chateauneuf area and so it is labelled on the back as Cotes du Rhone but this is not Cotes du Rhone, nor is it really Chateauneuf, it is just La Griffe.  Superb wild red wine, beguiling and complex, amazing light and heavy at the same time.  I am sure i had a taste of the 2001 last year in the Loire (had been drinking all day so maybe i was wrong about the vintage) and it sticks it my mind as one of the wow factor wines you remember for ages.

Domaine de Coulet

Syrah is always thought of as big, bold, rich, dark, crimson, and to many of us who like finesse, often clumsy.  Shiraz from the New World i have to say rarely floats my boat.  There are some which are nice but most lack subtly and very few offer regional Typicity or a sense of Terroir.  Admittedly, there's tons i haven't tasted so i am sure there are some producers out there in the Barossa who are making really good wine which reflects their region.  But for real finesse and real Typicity with your Syrah, the Northern Rhone is the place.

Mattieu Barret is young.  His nickname is 'Le Petit Ours Brun', after the popular French children's cartoon.  Apparently the guy looks like this cuddly little bear?  See for yourselves below.....(if you fancy a look at the cartoon, its on you tube!

Petit Ours Brun!
Matthieu BARRET, Viticulteur. Domaine du Coulet. Cornas. France. Matthieu Barret

Anyway despite this slightly laughable intro, Mattieu is building a reputation for being one of the greats of his region.  The Region is Cornas to the south of the Northern Rhone where the old vines cling to terraces above the river (see below) and the Terroir ranges from 'Gore' degraded granite, to silty loam, limestone deposits and clay.  Mattieu's wines come from incredibly low yields of Syrah, even the entry level Cotes du Rhone called coincidentally the 'Petit Ours Brun' has yields of only 18 hectoliters per hectare.  This is not due to green harvesting but due to Bio production on fantastic Terroir.  You taste the concentration in this beautiful Syrah, sweet red and black fruits at the core of zingy fresh acidity with uplifting nostril tingling aromas of black pepper and fresh blackberry.  His Cornas tasted a long time ago (and again after a day's bio tasting in pursuit of natural perfection, no hangover next day by the way, the fringe benefit of drinking natural!) is one of the most sublime bottles of red you will ever taste.  Although not cheap, for those of you who like to lay wine down, i highly recommend this one.  Brise Cailloux 2011 at £36 a bottle is a belting bottle of red.

He makes a tiny quantity of white as well from the classic varieties of the region, Viognier and Roussanne.  The 2013 has just landed and i think needs a little time to settle and start to sing but the potential is there.  From degraded granite soils over a 1000 feet up on the terraces (basically next to the Cornas), it is held down firmly by steely minerality and rigid acidity.  At present the lovely ripe aroma of viognier are just a squeak in the background but they are ready to start oozing out in a couple of months and in a year the wine will be beautiful.

So there we have it, four super wines from two Biodynamic warriors blazing a natural trail in the Rhone Valley.  For those of you who want to know more and taste more, we are doing a tasting in shop on Sat the 24th Jan, £20 a ticket and 8 fabulous natural Rhone wines on display with cheese and charcuterie.

On Taste

Cuvee des Galets Rouge Vignerons d'Estezargues 2013
Cotes du Rhone Terre de Mistral 2013
Cotes du Rhone Blanc Clementia Aphillantes 2013
Cotes du Rhone Rouge Aphillantes 2012
Petit Ours Blanc Coulet 2013
Petit Ours Brun Coulet 2013
La Griffe Villeneuve 2012
Chateauneuf du Pape Villeneuve 2011

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Domaine de Coulet Domaine du Coulet.