Our first encounter with Mikael Boutin occurred last February in the tiny and charming village of Rasteau. Mikael, who was directed to us through an acquaintance from New Orleans, solicited us out of the blue, via email. Intrigued by the details of his small domaine and excited at the prospect of adding this appellation to our portfolio, we happily made some time in our schedule to stop by and take a look. We might have walked right by his unassuming place, located just off the town square, if not for the small plaque affixed to the side of the building. Making our way inside, we soon found ourselves seated around his dinner table with two bottles of Rasteau—the only wine he makes—in front of us: his 2014 and 2015. Mikael, a slightly serious but gracious fellow, briefly told his story and presented us with these two wines that showed honesty, personality and promise. A short walk up the hill brought us to a small building, barely larger than a two-car garage, which represented the totality of his production facility. The inside contained a few large concrete tanks, a small, manually operated basket press—and little else. In an area where we are frequently solicited by larger producers making wines that lack character and soul, we could not help but be captivated by Boutin’s intimate and modest venue. Needless to say, we knew we had found our man in Rasteau.
Mikael Boutin works just two of the 949 hectares within the appellation of Rasteau. His vineyards—averaging 40 years of age—are dispersed among eight different parcels located in several different parts of the appellation. The diversity of his small holdings captures the multiplicity of soils and varying exposures that make up Rasteau, thus insuring that his wine reflects the true expression of Rasteau. The soils in Rasteau are mainly a mixture of limestone and clay, with the steeper hillside sites (which comprise 80% of his holdings) offering a greater percentage of limestone, and the flatter parcels containing a higher percentage of clay. A fifth-generation vigneron, Mikael gained access to his parcels after his uncle retired in 2008. A few of the holdings his uncle was selling had belonged to Mikael’s father and were also passed down to Mikael for him to farm. He bottled his first wine in 2011. Because of the microscopic size of his holdings, there is only one wine made each year, with an annual production of about 800 cases. Working on this scale, he is fortunate to have a day job as the winemaker for Clos de Caveau in Vacqueyras, which helps provide a living for him and his family.
All work in Mikael’s vineyard is done organically (he was certified in 2012) and the harvest, which takes only a few days with a small team, is all done by hand. Mikael’s professed love for Burgundy motivates him to work as gently and naturally as possible in the cellar. He is not inclined to intervene or depend on the outside help of an oenologue, confident that the good work he does in the vineyard will carry the wine through its elevage. Fermentations begin spontaneously, with no addition of yeast, and typically last fifteen to eighteen days in concrete tanks, with pumping over performed once per day. The wines are then pressed manually, using the aforementioned basket press, and are left to age on the fine lees for another six months. Once bottled (usually right before harvest), he holds the wine for another half a year or so before bringing it to market.
RASTEAU: Our first release from Domaine Mikael Boutin: the 2014 Rasteau. A blend of Grenache (60%), Syrah (10%), Mourvedre (10%), Carignan (10%), and Cinsault (10%), it weighs in at a modest 13.5% alcohol. The 2014 shows a balance and purity of fruit that is especially attractive compared to the many over-ripe and heavily extracted wines found in the Southern Rhone. The bright, pure nose shows clean, fresh cherry-laced fruit undercut with warmer notes of licorice and dried herbs. Not too showy, it lets the terroir do its work. The brisk and lively acidity lends a freshness and energy to the fruit – a testament to Boutin’s love for Burgundy. 800 cases produced, 150 cases are now dedicated for export to the United States; we do not expect this new wine to spend too much time in our warehouse.