These wines voluntarily decommissioned
The AOC label was created in France following the First World War, a period defined by a lowering of the quality of the wines. The Arbois vineyards were the first in the country to have obtained the AOC classification in 1936. Today, most of wine-producing regions of France are matched with an AOC to which winemakers must respect the numerous conditions to be certified: a geographical area and a dedicated parcel area, a specific varietal set, the administration of the vineyard, the production, etc. These criteria were established to ensure the quality of the wine according to its region of origin and its production. Through time, the conditions have grown more and more restrictive, which sparked a trend of winemakers exiting the AOC to ensure that they can produce exceptional wines that remain representative of their region. Today, I will outline domains that have voluntarily decided to decommission their wines to preserve the unique identity and character of their products.
Have you heard of the Trévallon domain and its exceptional wines from the Alpilles? Eloi Durrbach, flagship winemaker of Provence, is at the head of this small family domain of 17 ha in the heart of a white calcareous rocks and scrubland landscape. To benefit from the Baux de Provence AOC, he would be restricted to a portion of Cabernet-Sauvignon lower or equal to 20% for his red wines. Therefore, he decided to voluntarily leave the classification to produce his wines elaborated from 50% Cabernet-Sauvignon and 50% Syrah. After all, the Cabernet-Sauvignon varietal was present in this region before the phylloxera. Its this desire of authenticity that has granted him a reputation and an original style to his wines that have brought happiness to wine enthusiasts all around the world. The red and whites, both with great cellaring potential, are better enjoyed after around ten years of waiting to fully enjoy their complexity.
Another talented winemaker that saw his AOC certification removed, this time in Rasteau, is Jérôme Bressy of the Domaine Gourt de Mautens. Since the 2010 vintage, his wines are offered as Vins de Pays de Vaucluse for the simple reason that he uses rare varietals of the Rasteau terroir. This does not affect the popularity of his wines that have been quite singular since leaving the appellation. Around 12 ha are owned and cultivated following the biodynamic trend with a large selection of old Rhone varietals: Counoise, Vaccarèse, Terret, Cinsault, Picpoul, etc. The vines of the domain are aged of 30 to 100 years old and, therefore, do not produce much. The harvest and wine making processes are done carefully (sorting during the harvest and aging periods of 30 to 35 months). It is needless to say that Jérôme Bressy has mastered the art of creating unique wines from the most expressive parcels of this unique argyles and calcareous terroir.
Excellent wines that have been flagship products for the Savoie region in the past few years have originated from the Domaine des Ardoisères. This domain is the result of the collaboration between Michel Grisard, winemaker and pioneer of the region and the agronomic engineer Brice Omont. This association was born from a love for the coteaux de Cévins terroir and the Savoyard varietals. These mountainous wines (slopes of up to 70%) represent the renaissance of the wines of this region. It is not a coincidence that the names of their cuvees are all referring to the soils: schist, quartz and white clay… These terroir products are blessed with a grand purity and minerality. In the IGP Vins des Allobroges appellation, granted it cannot benefit from the varietals on their label just like the AOC Savoie products can, these wines have thrived and are now very hard to come by. Today, the Domaine des Ardoisères are the flagship products of the Savoie region everywhere in France, notably on the wine lists of the Michelin star restaurants. They are offered in the province of Quebec in private importation at the QV.
To this date, numerous French winemakers have decided to produce wines without appellations to gain more liberty and creativity. Are the criteria to fit in those appellations, nowadays, so restrictive that they encourage wines with no character over expressive wines? One thing is certain; on less expensive lands compared to the prestigious regions of Bordeaux and Burgundy, it is quite possibly more advantageous to not include the appellation on the label. A good wine with a less prestigious AOC will be sold at a lesser price than a good wine with no appellation on its label. To end my blog this week, here is one of my favorite products of the Domaine de Trévallon that will certainly not leave you indifferent.