2011 Hospice du Rhone Seminar – The Rhone Valley

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The first seminar from the 2011 Hospice du Rhone, was designed as an introduction to the Rhone Valley at large, the 2nd largest wine producing region in France. As with an introduction to anything, there is no way to fully cover the Rhone Valley in a single seminar. Thus, three producers were selected to discuss the region and present some of their wines.

Michel Gassier discussed his Château De Nages. Michel described how his 70-hectares of Château de Nages is planted with Syrah, which seems to excel in the soil, creating dark, concentrated, tannic grapes, while the Grenache is reserved for the poorer soils which temper its natural growth. In addition, Mourvèdre seems to add a spicy complexity to the finished wines. Michel discovered that certain parcels of his had a predilection for Roussanne, as well as Grenache Blanc to round out his white blends. He also described Costières de Nîmes at the southern most vineyard of the Rhone Valley, where Rhone varieties are planted on the stony alluvial despoits of the Rhone River, and dry winds of the Mistral blow regularly. He also explained something less intuitive than you might think – how the heat of the day becomes cool at night to help keep the wines from this region fresh. Apparently, the top layer of stones stores up the heat of the sun. Then at night, the heat is released by the stones accentuating the natural convection caused by the cool sea air that comes in from the Rhone Delta called the Petite Camargue. The warm rising air displaces the cooler air above it, forcing the cool air downward. As a result, the temperature range between day and night is increased.

Next up was Nicolas Haeni, of Domaine de Cabasse. The Alfred Haeni family moved from Switzerland to Séguret in 1990, and operate both a winery and a hotel. In 2004, Nicolas took over management of the winery, and continued in his father’s tradition. The growing area extends across twenty hectares and various appellations: Séguret, Sablet Côtes du Rhône Villages A.O.C., and Gigondas AOC. He seemed to love their location in Séguret in the Provençe, a region where the Romans planted vineyards. Jucunditas (Latin for “joie de vivre”), is now known as Gigondas. Nicolas described their most recent challenge – the terracing encompassing 3.7 hectares in Séguret, which were laid out in 2005 and planted in 2006. They were able to terrace the mountain slope while at the same time taking into consideration the landscape’s view and the risk of erosion. All steps of the terracing were measured by laser and have a slope of three percent. The drainage is first led to the crest of the hill before it flows over the terracing. These specifications qualified them for the EU-supported Priorat Life Project. The terracing also afforded very dense planting.

The last panelist was Albéric Mazoyer, of Domaine Alain Voge in Cornas. Albéric is Alain Voge’s partner and operating winemaker. Albéric now runs the estate. Alain excelled in conventional grape-growing, but Albéric convinced him to go biodynamic. Voge has 6.5 ha of Syrah in Cornas AOC, 4 ha of Marsanne in St Péray AOC, 1 ha of Syrah in St. Joseph AOC, and a few more Syrah vines in the CdR. The Syrah vines are planted in decomposed granite, known locally as gore, on some of the most beautiful hillsides in the Cornas appellation. In the winery, the Syrah grapes used for the red wines are destemmed. Fermentation is done in small (30-50 hl) stainless-steel vats; temperatures are controlled, and caps are punched once or twice daily. Ageing is done in oak barrels for 14-24 months, according to the “strength” and requirements of each wine. For the white wines, the grapes are pressed whole. Alcoholic and malolactic fermentation is done in barrels for Fleur de Crussol and Terres Boisées, then the wine is aged on lees for 12-16 months. The Harmonie cuvée is vinified then aged on lees in vats only for 10 months.

For More Information:

Hospice do Rhone www.hospicedurhone.com

Sponsor: Pinpoint Technologies – Mailing List Source: www.pinpoint-tech.com

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2 Responses to “2011 Hospice du Rhone Seminar – The Rhone Valley”


  1. 1 Rich Nov 3rd, 2011 at 11:41 am

    Really interesting article, I’m fascinated by science of viticulture. Love the fact that the slope has been measured by lasers!

  1. 1 The Mourv pingback on Nov 10th, 2011 at 9:15 pm

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