Chateau Pradeaux

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There is the appellation of Bandol with its plethora of producers, some good, some mediocre; and then there is Château Pradeaux, the unique, inimitable, standard-bearer for this ancient wine-growing district. The Château Pradeaux is situated on the outskirts of the town of Saint Cyr-sur-Mer that lies directly on the Mediterranean Ocean between Toulon and Marseilles. The estate has been in the hands of the Portalis family since before the French Revolution. In fact, Jean-Marie-Etienne Portalis, who inherited the estate in 1752, helped draft the Napoleonic Code and assisted at the negotiation of the Concordat under Napoleon the First. The estate was devastated during the French Revolution and suffered the effects of the phylloxera epidemic in the 19th century. Suzanne Portalis and her daughter, Arlette, retreated to the domaine during World War II and undertook to revive the domaine. The domaine is currently under the direction of Cyrille Portalis, the sole direct descendant of Suzanne and Arlette. He continues to maintain the great traditions of this estate and is assisted by his wife, Magali, and now his two sons, Etienne and Edouard.

The vineyards are cultivated in as natural a manner as possible with reliance on organic methods. In fact, for many years during the spring months sheep grazed in the vineyards thereby eliminating any need to use herbicides and at the same time providing a natural compost. The wines of Pradeaux are brooding and difficult. Produced on the back of the noble Mourvèdre, Pradeaux in its youthful stages is tannic, backward and sometimes ornery. The wines are not destemmed; élevage in large oak foudres can last as long as four years; vines of less than 25 years of age are not used for the reds.

Château Pradeaux Bandol is composed of no less than 95% Mourvèdre (old vines). The nose is a mix of honey and white flowers with a hint of animal fur; the color is ruby red; the fruit stains the palate and is lengthened by a near-perfect sense of roundness; the final attack is of ripe tannins that are dusty and sweet. Château Pradeaux “Cuvée Longue Garde” is born exclusively of the oldest Mourvèdre vines on the estate (average age 45 years). Extraordinarily dense, with black notes to the color, the “Longue Garde” is marked by a strong scent of Provençal herbs combined with smoked red meat. This is a complete wine with incredible length; the flavors remind one of macerated plums and black currants. The super-ripe tannins are powerful and in perfect balance with the high fruit extract. This is the wine for the ages.

Although the major part of the vineyards is planted to Mourvèdre, the Château Pradeaux Bandol Rosé is composed of Cinsault as well as Mourvèdre. After a short maceration on the skins, in order to extract a light color, the juice is fermented at low temperatures to retain freshness, fruit and bouquet. After being aged in cement cuves, the wine is normally bottled in late spring of the year following the harvest. It is one of the richest of the rosés of France, dry but full-bodied with a floral bouquet.

Pradeaux-Bandol-Rose Chateaux Pradeaux Bandol Rosé: The Bandol Rosé from Pradeaux is perhaps the most serious wine in this category. Robust, rich, and complex with an ability to age gracefully, this wine is based on Cinsault (50%) and Mourvèdre (50%), taking its slight orange tint from the latter cépage. The younger vines of the domaine (average age: 25 years) are utilized to produce a rare rosé with staying power and exceptional complexity. The Rosé is vinified by a direct pressing for 24 hours followed by fermentation in cement tanks at a controlled temperature of 18 degrees Celsius for about 15 days; the malo-lactic fermentation is blocked and the wine is usually bottled in mid-April of the following year. We import approximately 600 cases (7200 bottles) annually of this exceptional wine.
Côtes de Provence: Made from 45% Cinsault and 40% Mourvedre, with the balance split among Grenache and Carignan, a core of sappy, glycerol red-cherry fruit anchors a firm, punchy minerality, and the finish is remarkably persistent. The vineyards that comprise this wine were, in fact, classified as Bandol AOC as recently as 2012, and this 2017 clearly distinguishes itself from among the vast ocean of Côtes de Provence rose by virtue of its terroir’s unique pedigree
Vesprée: “Vespree,” meaning evening in Provençal and Occitan, presents a full, swaggering nose of quince paste, white pepper, and coarse-ground Indian spices, and the big, richly textured palate possesses a structural tension that heavily underlines its potential for aging—though it is fresh, tense, and very delicious right in its youth. It is exceedingly difficult to find rosé of this caliber and character, even from Bandol—and, in a twist of irony, this wine which is so purely and deeply Bandol to its very core was denied appellation status on three separate occasions, and is thus labeled a “Vin de France.” But, in an appellation that has seen production shift from 70% red wine to 85% rosé over the years in response to market trends, this is perhaps more depressing than surprising. In any event, we are proud of the wine, and proud to work with such a courageous and iconoclastic family—and we know “Vespree” will delight those who appreciate Pradeaux’s ruggedly uncompromising sensibility.
Pradeaux-Bandol Chateau Pradeaux Bandol Rouge: The Bandol from Pradeaux is a creature whose soul emerges from Mourvèdre. The classic cuvée is 95% Mourvèdre and 5% Grenache, with the Grenache adding spice to the bouquet and leavening some of the drama provided by the intimidating structure of the Mourvèdre. One of the hallmarks of Pradeaux is that the grapes are never destemmed. The result is a wine of ferocious tannin in its youth, another reason for the prolonged aging in these large wooden barrels, a time for the wine to repose and find its identity as it emerges from the cocoon of tannins to reveal an exceptionally complex crowd of aromas and flavors. Although situated mere steps from the Mediterranean, harvest at Pradeaux (always manual) frequently starts in earnest for the Mourvedre during the first weeks of October. The average age of the vines is approximately 35 years and harvest levels are quite low, often in the range of 25 hectoliters per hectare. Fermentation occurs at temperatures between 28 and 30 degrees Celsius and the wines are racked into large oak ovals and foudres where they rest with occasional rackings for four years before being bottled. Neither new oak nor small barrels are ever used at Pradeaux and the red wines are never fined nor filtered. Depending on the vintage, we import between 300 and 500 cases per annum for the US market.
Pradeaux-Longue-Garde-2004 Chateau Pradeaux Bandol Rouge Cuvee Longue Garde: In particularly exceptional vintages, Cyrille Portalis permits us to draw off a small portion of the juice from the oldest Mourvèdre vines to create the “Cuvée Longue Garde”, exclusively Mourvèdre from vines in excess of 45 years of age. Both cuvées are aged at least 4 years in large, old oak ovals and older foudres before being bottled unfined and unfiltered. Suffice to say, this is one of our favorite wines, a special creation, inimitable in all ways and worthy of the attentions of anyone serious about wine. This cuvée is made exclusively for our use and, when produced, is limited to approximately 600 bottles.
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Rosé Offering: Spring 2020

PROVENCE

Commanderie de Peyrassol
Our longstanding partnership with the Commanderie de Peyrassol provides us with our most plentiful source of classically rendered Provence rosés—wines which the market justifiably awaits eagerly as warmer weather draws nearer. The 2019 growing season saddled Peyrassol with high temperatures and dry conditions—factors increasingly becoming the “new normal” in a post-climate-change France—but a bit of well-timed gentle rainfall during harvest brought welcome balance to the fruit and neutralized the looming threat of heavy, hydric-stress-affected rosés. Varieties and parcels at Peyrassol are all vinified individually, which allows the estate great flexibility in the blending of their various cuvées. Indeed, one of the most remarkable things about the range of rosés at Peyrassol is how well-measured and notable the “steps up the ladder” are in the lineup. The wines do not get more boisterous or rich as one climbs; rather, they become more filigree, detailed, and fine—each progressive rung a further zoom-in on a sort of Platonic ideal of Provence rosé. This collection of 2019s sees Peyrassol firing on all cylinders in a vintage exceedingly favorable to their style of wine.

2019 “La Croix” IGP Méditerranée Rosé
Produced from roughly equal parts Grenache and Cinsault, plus a splash of Rolle (Vermentino), the 2019 “La Croix” blends 50% estate holdings with fruit sourced from the Côtes de Provence as well as further north toward Mont Sainte-Victoire. An exemplar of Peyrassol’s blending acumen, it offers the precision and elegance that characterizes all the estate’s rosés, albeit in a more direct, fruit-forward manner than its stablemates below.

2019 “Cuvée de la Commanderie” Côtes de Provence Rosé
Peyrassol’s perennial workhorse hits a bullseye in 2019. Comprising 30% each Grenache, Cinsault, and Syrah, with small amounts of Tibouren and Mourvèdre completing the blend, the beloved “Commanderie” offers the tension, salinity, and crystalline fruit that characterize this wine every year, with greater lift than the 2018 and a vinous core that does nothing to detract from the wine’s breezy deliciousness. This cuvée blends 70% estate-grown fruit with 30% purchased from several growers in nearby Flassans-sur-Isole with whom Peyrassol has multi-year contracts; Peyrassol’s team oversees the harvest and vinification of these sources.

2019 “Château Peyrassol” Côtes de Provence Rosé
Produced entirely from fruit grown on the estate, the 2019 “Château Peyrassol” is no weightier than the “Commanderie” above, differentiating itself instead through more marked salinity and greater palate persistence. It seamlessly interweaves taut, bright red fruit and vivacious acidity into a texture both cool and layered, and its overall personality is slightly lighter and more focused than that of the 2018. The 2019 is comprised of 65% Cinsault, 30% Grenache, and 5% each Tibouren and Mourvèdre.

2019 “Le Clos Peyrassol” Côtes de Provence Rosé
Taking the crystalline focus of the “Château” above even further, the 2019 “Le Clos” is stupendous in its textural elegance and purity of fruit. It combines roughly equal parts Tibouren, Grenache, and Cinsault from the most favorably situated section within Peyrassol’s holdings, and this 2019 sees the estate experimenting in the cellar to great effect: 20% of the wine was vinified and aged in 10-hectoliter terracotta jars, which contribute a texturally caressing quality to the final blend without sacrificing its sense of laser-like precision.

Domaine du Bagnol

2019 Cassis Rosé
The dynamic Sébastien Genovesi describes 2019 as a beautiful harvest, one for which a sorting table was virtually unnecessary, and his family’s domaine produced 15% more wine than in the similarly warm and dry 2018. Domaine du Bagnol’s rigorous vineyard practices (organic-certified since 2014) and careful, precise cellar work have resulted in wines of increased harmony and complexity with each passing year, and this vintage of their Cassis Rosé represents a new pinnacle for a justly beloved cuvée. Comprising 50% Grenache, 30% Cinsault, and 20% Mourvèdre, the rose-petal-colored 2019 was pressed directly and rapidly (in under two hours) to extract as little color as possible, and the bottled wine contains only 20 milligrams per liter of total sulfur—a factor which contributes to its gorgeous purity of texture and precise, intense evocation of limestone soil.

Château Pradeaux
Ninth-generation Etienne Portalis displays ever-greater confidence and mastery of craft with each vintage, and his rosés reach new heights with the below range of 2019s. Employing only spontaneous fermentations and using a variety of casks for vinification and aging (cement, steel, foudre), Etienne produces rosés of vinous complexity and impressive concentration, all with an evocative salinity at their core. These are wines which justify Bandol’s lofty reputation near the top of the rosé genre, while simultaneously reinforcing Pradeaux’s peerless position within this singular seaside appellation. Etienne began harvesting on September 20th under warm, dry conditions, but the overall year’s water supply was greater than in 2018, resulting in rosés of riveting acidity and excellent balance. As is ever the case, these rosés will drink great young but will amply reward cellaring as well.

2019 Côtes de Provence Rosé
The 2019 Pradeaux Côtes de Provence Rosé carries less Mourvèdre than last year’s: 65% (compared to 75% in the 2018), with 25% Cinsault and 10% Grenache completing the blend. Etienne remarks that the lower proportion of Mourvèdre makes the wine saltier, and indeed this vintage offers a mouthwatering, acid-driven palate of intense mineral cling, with honest, non-confected flavors of dried strawberries and Provençal herbs. Vinified and aged entirely in steel, this wine comes within striking distance of the Bandol in its complexity, yet is brisker and lighter on its feet overall.

2019 Bandol Rosé
As the last bastion of ultra-traditional Bandol, Château Pradeaux never allocates more than 30% of its total harvest toward rosé, even as other growers in the appellation convert ever-greater proportions of their production to pink in order to satisfy the demands of the market. The Bandol Rosé they do produce is a standard-bearer, always among the most magisterial rosés in all of France and a fixture of our portfolio for nearly four decades. Comprising equal proportions of Mourvèdre and Cinsault, the 2019 clocks in at 14.1% alcohol but bears not a trace of heat, instead offering a freshness exceeding that of the quite rich 2018. Jellied quince, crunchy melon, and guava vie for attention with the wine’s turbo-charged chalky core and sizzling acid profile, and an overall sense of intense concentration bodes well for its future development.

2018 “Vesprée” Vin de France
With the 2016 vintage, Etienne began producing “Vesprée”—a rosé of pure Mourvedre from among his oldest vines (60 to 70 years old), vinified and aged partly in cement egg and partly in 600-liter demi-muid. The wine spends ample time on its lees without being racked, and is bottled just before the following harvest rather than early in the year like most rosés—hence the arrival of the 2018 vintage this season. Both saltier and richer than the flagship Bandol Rosé, “Vesprée” (named after the appearance of the sun’s fading rays as dusk approaches) follows the inherent seriousness of the category to a further extreme, yet it remains lively, focused, and Provençal to its core. Despite its deeply imbedded sense of classicism, however, the wine often provokes accusations of atypicality from the woefully conservative appellation authorities, and indeed this stunning 2018 bears a Vin de France designation.

Château Simone – Palette

2018 Palette Rosé [available now]
Château Simone’s legendary Palette Rosé makes a legitimate claim as perhaps the greatest rosé in all of France, and, as is the case with their white and red wines, there is certainly nothing else quite like it. Built on the backs of Grenache and Mourvèdre, with smaller amounts of Cinsault, Syrah, Carignan, Cabernet Sauvignon, Castet, Manosquin, Théoulier, Tibouren, Picpoul Noir, and Muscat de Hambourg, Simone Rosé is produced from a blend of equal parts direct-press and saignée juice. Whereas much commercial-minded rosé is fermented with artificial yeasts and rushed into bottle well before spring’s first shoots emerge, Château Simone’s spends nearly a full year (hence the 2018 vintage here) in old foudres resting on its lees and gaining remarkable depth, with sulfur applied only at the moment of bottling. Sumptuous and utterly seamless in its texture, this 2018 bastes the palate with savory red fruits and delivers an almost viscous impression of concentration. As with all vintages of this wine, it will doubtlessly develop beautifully in bottle for well over a decade.

Bastide du Claux

2019 Luberon Rosé “Poudrière”
It’s an unlikely story: the heir to an enviable share of holdings in Chassagne-Montrachet ends up unlocking the potential of an appellation in northern Provence known more for bulk wine than nuanced expressions of terroir—yet that is precisely what we’re seeing as Sylvain Morey continues to improve and evolve at Bastide du Claux, his outpost in the Luberon which he acquired in the early 2000s. Sylvain is currently undergoing organic certification, which he will obtain in 2021 (though he has been practicing since 2015), and his commitment to harvesting by hand, fermenting without additions, and tailoring blending and élévage to the characteristics of each harvest results in wines of striking depth and purity. The 2019 “Poudrière” blends 60% Grenache, 20% Syrah, and 20% Cinsault, with the Syrah and part of the Grenache pressed directly, and the Cinsault and the other part of the Grenache bled off. With flavors of black cherries and peach skins, it presents mouthwatering textural tension and an underlying sense of minerality, as well as an unforced vinosity that shames many of its confected Provençal cousins from more market-friendly area codes.

RHÔNE VALLEY

Domaine La Manarine

2019 Côtes-du-Rhône Rosé
Gilles Gasq has had an impressive run lately, having begun producing a dynamite Châteauneuf-du-Pape in addition to his always-reliable offerings from the Côtes-du-Rhône and the Plan de Dieu. His 2019 Rosé, comprising 50% Grenache, 40% Mourvèdre, and 10% Syrah, was produced solely via direct-press and aged in stainless steel on its fine lees for several months before bottling. Sprightlier and more linear than its 2018 counterpart, it offers bright, friendly strawberry fruit, gentle but well-measured acidity, and an underlying freshness not often found in the rosés of the southern Rhône. The domaine has been certified organic for nearly a decade at this point, and the already-expert Gilles continues to hone his approach to great effect.

Château Valcombe

2019 Ventoux Rosé “Epicure”
After a brutal 2018 vintage in which Luc Guenard suffered a massive reduction in crop size, 2019’s relative bounty was a particularly welcome blessing. Steadfastly organic in his viticultural practices, Guenard reported remarkably clean and healthy fruit in 2019, and for the first time ever he added no sulfur whatsoever to the grapes at harvest time. Composed of one-third each Cinsault, Grenache, and Syrah, and produced via direct press, “Epicure” is vinified and aged in cement and given only a very light filtration at bottling. This 2019 is vivid in its fruit profile, with flavors of melon and cherry framing a ripe, round texture that nonetheless displays a refreshing and acid-driven sense of lift.

Domaine de Fenouillet

2019 Ventoux Rosé
The rock-steady Soard brothers produced a remarkable version of their Ventoux Rosé in the 2019 vintage, a season which offered a similarly warm and dry character to 2018 but without that summer’s overwhelming hydric stress. Composed of 50% Grenache, 30% Cinsault, 15% Mourvèdre, and 5% Carignan, and produced solely via direct press, this 2019 offers perkier acidity and an overall greater sense of energy than the 2018, with a sense of well-judged restraint that characterizes all the domaine’s wines. Fenouillet has been certified organic since the 2012 vintage, a fact which shows in this rosé’s vibrancy and vividness of fruit.

Domaine Gour de Chaulé

2019 Gigondas Rosé “Amour de Rose”
Our stalwart source of great Gigondas for nearly forty years, Gour de Chaulé is undergoing an exciting period, with Stephanie Fumoso’s intelligent and passionate young son Paul having recently joined the domaine full-time. Comprising 40% Grenache, 40% Cinsault, and 20% Mourvèdre, their 2019 Gigondas Rosé clocks in at 14.5% alcohol, but this lofty level belies the wine’s sense of harmony and freshness. Whereas the wine in times past was produced purely from saignée, Stephanie began incorporating a proportion of directly pressed juice some years back, and for the past few years it has been made exclusively via the direct-press method. Furthermore, Stephanie and Paul harvest those plots destined for their rosé earlier than those for their red—and always early in the morning in order to preserve freshness and minimize the use of sulfur at the time of picking.

Yves Cuilleron

2019 Syrah Rosé “Sybel” IGP Collines Rhodaniennes
The immensely talented Yves Cuilleron has amassed a towering reputation over his 33-year career for rendering northern Rhône wines of typicity, depth, and pleasure. Tucked among his formidable and expansive lineup is “Sybel”—a rosé of pure hand-harvested Syrah produced from the bled-off juice of his many cuvées, fermented spontaneously and aged in a combination of steel and large wood. Both easygoing and surprisingly terroir-expressive, it is a rosé that could come from nowhere but the northern Rhône, and it represents remarkable value year-in and year-out.

LANGUEDOC

Domaine Faillenc Sainte Marie

2019 Corbières Rosé “Rosé des Glacières”
For the even-keeled and remarkably kind Jean-Baptiste Gibert, 2019 was an even drier year overall than 2018—a not-insignificant fact given the already inherently rugged and rain-starved climate of Corbières. With assistance from some well-timed rainfall in August and early September, however,  Gibert’s organically tended vineyards yielded a relatively large crop of impeccable fruit in 2019. His always unique “Rosé des Glacières”—pure saignée Syrah from vines up to 40 years old—offers more freshness than a typical vintage, with a drier impression overall (its 1.5 grams per liter of residual sugar are undetectable). Flavors of macerated strawberries and Provençal garrigue spread generously over the palate, given definition by tangy but supple acidity and an appealing undertone of gentle bitterness.

BORDEAUX

Château La Rame

2019 Bordeaux Rosé
Husband and wife Olivier Allo and Angelique Armand produce an impressive range from their estate’s holdings in and around Sainte-Croix-du-Mont—a zone historically coveted for its finely wrought botrytised sweet wines but capable of producing excellent dry wines as well. Their restrained, beautifully balanced Bordeaux Rosé blends equal parts Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, and is produced solely via direct pressing. In keeping with its vintage-mates across France, this 2019 is lighter in color and in spirit than the 2018, both fully ripe and delicately pretty, and with a clear, focused line of acidity.

Le Puy

2018 “Rose-Marie” Vin de France [available now]
Like all of this enigmatic and iconic estate’s wines, Le Puy’s “Rose-Marie” is a true outlier. Since the 2006 harvest, the Amoreau family has bottled a rosé of pure Merlot from the bled-off juice of a single vat of “Barthélemy”—the wine they produce from their highest-altitude and most prized vineyard. “Rose-Marie” is aged in old barrels without the addition of yeasts, sulfur, or, for that matter, anything at all. The results are startling in their purity and frankness, with unmediated flavors of herb-tinged red fruits wed to a riveting acidity and a powerful underlying sense of chalk (Barthélemy has less than a foot of topsoil atop its mother-rock of solid Astrée limestone). Rare and delicious, “Rose-Marie” is produced in minuscule quantities and is only available sporadically; it is a wine that will challenge one’s notion of what rosé can be, and in the best and most satisfying way imaginable.

LOIRE VALLEY

Château Soucherie

2019 Rosé de Loire “Astrée”
2019 marks the first vintage from flowering to harvest for Soucherie’s new chef de cave Vianney de Tastes, whose skilled, delicate touch resulted in a rosé of excellent poise. Produced entirely from direct-press Gamay planted in the Astrée vineyard—a departure from the Grolleau-Gamay blend of the previous vintage—this 2019 Rosé de Loire is ethereally pale, pouring a glinting light-copper in the glass. The palate continues the theme, with vivacious acidity and a captivating combination of serenity and energy; one gets all the prettiness of Gamay without any of the excess roundness to which it is sometimes prone. Notably, the entire 6,000-bottle production of the 2019 was allotted to Rosenthal Wine Merchant, and we couldn’t be happier with the quality and value this exemplary rosé provides.

Philippe Gilbert

2019 Menetou-Salon Rosé
With each passing vintage, Philippe Gilbert cements his position at the vanguard of this eastern Loire appellation. His steadfast commitment to biodynamics (he was the first in Menetou-Salon to adopt the practice), his refusal to machine-harvest, and his minimal intervention in vinification and aging result in wines of energy, clarity, and visceral exuberance. Philippe’s ever-delightful rosé shines in 2019—a season which, like 2018, was overwhelmingly hot and dry, but which produced wines of greater equilibrium and drive. Produced from directly pressed Pinot Noir and aged on its lees in stainless steel, the 2019 carries an undetectable 1.9 grams per liter of residual sugar and clocks in at 13.4% alcohol. It offers a very pure expression of calcareous minerality, with delicate but juicy cherry fruit and a soaring but well-integrated acidity.

Lucien Crochet

2019 Sancerre Rosé
Gilles Crochet reported a particularly small Pinot Noir harvest in 2019—about half of a normal yield—due to an unusually intense late-summer heat wave which grilled a portion of bunches not shielded by leaf cover. Despite a warm and dry season, however, the 2019 Sancerre Rosé displays the rapier-like precision and scintillating minerality for which the estate is renowned, albeit with a subtle wink toward Pinot Noir succulence which cooler vintages often lack. Produced entirely from hand-harvested direct-press Pinot Noir, it spends several months on its fine lees in stainless steel before bottling, and develops interestingly in bottle for several years past vintage.

2018 Rosé Field Report

The story throughout the south of France for the 2018 growing season was similar: an inordinate amount of rainfall from February through June engendered a rash of mildew that had growers scrambling, treating between five and ten times as much as usual in many instances. The weather pulled an immediate about-face in July, turning remarkably hot and remarkably dry—conditions which persisted until harvest. This whiplash effect stressed both vines and vignerons, to be sure, but happily the quality of the rosés from Provence is generally outstanding in 2018. The higher amount of rainfall led to rosés not burdened by unwelcome heaviness due to hyper-low yields, but the dryness of the latter part of the growing season prevented a sense of dilution in the final wines. In general, the 2018 rosés from the south of France display impeccable balance, superb drinkability, and a streak of classicism that sets them above the 2017s.

Summary of Grower Visits – Part VII

Chateau Simone:
I spent a delightful morning with Florence and Jean-Francois (known as “Jeff” to Florence!) Rougier after departing from the early morning visit with Sylvain MOREY. The deep dive into Simone started with a trio of vintages of Grands Carmes Blanc.

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