Cassis was first planted to the vine in the 12th century and the vineyards were developed on the north, east and southeast slopes that surround the village which sits immediately on a little bay on the Mediterranean; thus, the perfect circumstances for marrying wine to the bounty of the sea! Phylloxera wiped out the vineyards in 1870 but by 1892 the citizens of Cassis had re-established their vineyards but this time without the Muscatel variety.
We worked together with Madame Lefevre from the early 1980s through the early 1990s when she passed away having reached her mid ‘80s and having generously immersed us in the culture of this small, charming and terribly chic fishing village. We were despondent for losing a good friend but equally saddened because none of her immediate family had the time or the energy to follow in her footsteps. So, the Domaine du Bagnol staggered through a few vintages and eventually was sold.
That, in fact, was a stroke of good fortune for us as we eventually made the acquaintance of the new owner, Jean-Louis Genovesi, a native of Cassis who had departed for Paris and made his fame (and a few centimes as well) in the capital. Jean-Louis and his son, Sébastien, have revived the domaine and the wines, both blanc and rosé, are more compelling than ever. The domaine sits just beneath the imposing limestone outcropping of Cap Canaille and is a mere 200 meters distance from the shores of the Mediterranean. Thus situated, the Domaine du Bagnol is the beneficiary of the cooling winds from the north, northwest and northeast (Tramontane, Mistral and grégal) as well as the gentle sea breezes that come ashore.
|Cassis Blanc Marsanne: (51%) is the dominant grape variety complemented by Clairette Blanc (31%) and some Ugni Blanc (18%). The vineyards to produce the white wine at Bagnol cover a bit less than 9 hectares and are planted on a gentle slope of clay and limestone soil with a north – northwest exposure. After a manual harvest, the grapes are destemmed and pressed; the fermentation continues for three weeks in cement cuves at a temperature controlled 18 degrees Celsius; the wine is vinified completely dry. The malo-lactic fermentation is blocked to preserve the freshness of the wine and the wine is normally bottled at some point between May and July of the following year. Total annual production is on the order of 40,000 bottles; somewhere between 6,000 and 9,000 bottles per year are dedicated to the US market.|
|Cassis Rosé: The Rosé is produced from several parcels that comprise slightly less than 7 hectares of vineyards. The vineyards are clay and limestone, situated on a gentle slope with a north – northwest exposure. The blend is Grenache (55%), Mourvedre (31%) and Cinsault (14%). This Rosé is vinified by “pressurage direct, the must is chilled to 12 degrees Celsius, the wine ferments at 18 degrees Celsius until it is completely dry; then, the wine is bottled during the first three months of the following year after a light filtration. Production tops out at about 40,000 bottles per annum; approximately 6000 bottles are allocated to the US market.|
|Cassis Rouge: First vintage 2016, released in 2018. Its encepagement of 80% Mourvedre and 20% Grenache recalls Bandol (which sits just 19 miles to the east of Cassis), but its personality is friendlier—its fruits redder and crunchier, its tannins a charged caress rather than a boot to the throat. Still, it is an amply concentrated wine, full of dusty Mourvedre spice and with a vivacious sappiness that speaks of its low-yielding 50-year-old vines. There is something very pure and pretty at its core, a joyousness that underlines its kinship with the Blanc and the Rosé, and it is a thrill to taste a wine that combines intensity and lift in such a fashion. In producing this beauty, Sebastien Genovesi destemmed the grapes entirely, allowed them to ferment spontaneously, and employed a lengthy three-week maceration with daily pigeage and remontage. It was raised in previously used 600-liter oak barrels, and bottled in February of this year. While nobody should be judged for opening it right away, the wine will undoubtedly develop a savory southern swagger with bottle age as its Mourvedre-driven fruits learn umami.|
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.
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.
BY THE GLASS || By Ellen Bhang || GLOBE CORRESPONDENT || MAY 28, 2018 || The Mediterranean-hugging region of Provence in the sunny French South is arguably the most rosé-associated place on the planet. And while there is plenty of pink to be had, don’t let glossy ad campaigns lull you into thinking that’s all […]