The first days of sunshine that we enjoyed in Provence last week did not make spring, but how pleasing it is to feel the season is just a few nights’ sleep away. In the same week, bottlings began. And one of the first wines to be imprisoned was the 2016 rosé from Domaine Les Pallières.
Since the 2014 vintage, we have had a real struggle to obtain the AOP Gigondas label for this cuvée, with temporary rejections, exam retakes, phoney approvals and disparaging remarks – all because of its colour. It was too light, assuredly too “natural”, and not “pink” enough either. So this year, we have decided to stop putting in the effort, and to simply no longer seek Gigondas appellation status. Instead, we will make a Vin de France, be it pink, grey or golden – an Au Petit Bonheur les Pallières the way we like it, however our soil yields it, with its qualities and flaws, but, above all, its rounded personality. We will have no truck with standardisation.
The philosophy that we put in place for this wine a few years ago is, of course, very much alive – as are the core vinification and ageing principles: the grapes are hand picked, directly pressed at low pressure, then the must deposit is left to settle naturally overnight prior to racking. To induce fermentation, a pied de cuve (indigenous yeast starter) is used; alcoholic fermentation is done entirely in oak, and lasts for more than a month; after which malolactic fermentation is triggered, typically ending during the period of ageing on the lees – which, in turn, is ended by bottling. It is a fairly short cycle, during which Clairette, Grenache and Cinsault (a third of each) come together in a hands?off, utterly natural environment in which grapes and juice hold sway and the winemaker merely accompanies the process.
The 2016 has an attractive “onion skin” colour, influenced by the strong presence of Clairette, which adds a touch of gold; once combined with the “pinker” shades of the red varieties, this is the result. The bouquet is saline, fresh, fairly discreet for now, and slightly chalky. On the palate, citrus notes dominate; it is both fresh and full. The finish is silky, airy and fairly long, with a hint of aniseed and no bitterness. A personality very much in line with the previous vintages.