2013 Anne Gros & Jean-Paul Tollot “Les Fontanilles”
For decades Anne Gros has helmed her own estate in the fabulous terroir of Vosne Romanee, home to the beloved vineyards of La Romanee, La Romanee Conti, Romanee Saint Vivant, Richebourg and La Tache. This is sacred ground to be doing some serious grape-growing. And Anne Gros, well, she’s the Queen Bee around Vosne – some of her wines now go for $900 a bottle – if you can even find them at all.
But for all her fame, and how beautiful her Burgundies are, life found her “poking around” in the south of France with her relative Jean-Paul Tollot. Maybe they were on a family vacation, maybe they were just enjoying a day on the Mediterranean beach, I don’t know. But I do know that this poking around found them looking intensely at a plot of nearly 100-year-old vines in the region of Cazelles in eastern Minervois, planted entirely on a rocky limestone outcropping.
For years the Languedoc, the larger area that encompasses Minervois, has been the Wild West of French wine. While not everything goes, just about everything does go in terms of vineyard, winemaking, planting, harvesting, you name it. It’s much different than in Burgundy. For Anne, this allowed her to pursue a simple strategy of “happy vineyards, interesting grape varieties”—yielding utterly pleasurable wines.
That was the initial description of the project in 2006, and while it still holds true, there is so much more today. Here are wines that capture the cool elegance of Burgundy, and also the warm soul of southern France. We have three as a sampling of Minervois’s stunning terroirs:
50/50 describes the partnership between Anne Gros and Jean-Paul Tollot. A field blend with a majority of Grenache and then Syrah and Carignan, it is described by Anne as a “table wine, for simple pleasure and drinking.” Simple pleasure it does bring, but simple it is not. Aromas of blackberries, rocks, black cherries and plums exuberantly fill the glass. The Grenache offers a ripeness of fruit while Syrah brings structure and intensity, and Carignan provides a mineral lift. If this is your “table” wine, then you’re at a lucky table indeed.
Les Fontanilles is a single plot of 50-year-old vines surrounded by a stone wall, much like a clos in Burgundy. 40% Grenache, and then equal parts Syrah, Carignan, Cinsault. Here the wine becomes more black-fruited: black raspberries, cassis, and plums all commingle with notes of baking spices, clove, cinnamon, vanilla and nutmeg. While it’s got the concentration of a southern French wine, it still remains silky and refined, bright and freshly mineral on the finish.
La Ciaude is “Anne’s ‘great terroir’ wine, one that benefits from a unique vein of limestone, à la Burgundy. ‘Ciaude’ in the local dialect means sun; every sip is saturated with rich red /black summer fruits,” notes her American importer. This is made up of 100-year-old vines with the cepage being split equally among Grenache, Syrah and Carignan. Haunting aromas of black cherry, raspberry and a high-toned complexity of floral, mineral and savory influences all waft from the glass. There is great subtlety to this wine with its enchanting mineral savor. Elegant.
What could be better than a master Burgundian winemaker spreading her wings in exciting new terroir? Well, let’s frost this cake – these wines are all back-vintage, now six years old, and are right in the heart of their drinking window. If you’ve never tasted a perfectly matured wine before, here is your perfect chance. And the cherry on top? We got them at an extreme discount. Like many wines at Waterford, we didn’t get much, so snap up a sampler while you can.