| CÔTES DU RHÔNE VILLAGES
Sablet Vieilles Vignes
Sablet, in the Vaucluse département, is the most recent addition to the villages, gaining its Côtes du Rhône Villages status in 1974. The vines of Sablet were first cultivated by their former owners, the counts of Toulouse and during the 14th century they became a papal possession when the papacy moved to Avignon. By the early 16th century Sablet was producing wine on a regular basis and by 1833 there was 176 hectares around the village planted with vines.
During the 19th century Sablet had its "15 minutes" when local
resident Francois-Frédéric Leydier invented a device that
enabled American rootstocks to be grafted onto French vines, thus thwarting
the phylloxera epidemic. Ironically, Sablet is one of the few places in
France that did not require phylloxera resistant rootstock.
Wines Éric's Sablet, made from very year old Grenache vines, is a dark purple-violet color and almost unctuous wine. The nose features ripe dark fruit, pepper and is reminiscent of the spices found in the best Gigondas. This is a full-bodied wine with round well-structured tannins in perfect balance with the crisp acidity. It will age gracefully for 2-10 years and pairs well with any game (pigeon, lamb, venison) and can be especially enjoyed with wild mushroom risotto.
Vineyards Éric's very old ungrafted Grenache vines are located on the côteau just behind the ancient village of Sablet on a northwest-facing hillside. From the vineyard, the view of the entire Southern Rhône valley is simply breathtaking. The vines are planted at 3000 vines per hectare.
Terroir Located 30 kilometers east of Orange, Sablet is tucked between Séguret and Gigondas with the Detelles de Montmirail looming over the vineyards. The sandy soil is pure limestone with yellow, earthy jagged rocks of various sizes and as the vineyard climbs the côteau less clay is found. Because of the large amount of sand in the soil, there is little risk of phylloxera and the vines did not need to be grafted to American root.
The climate is Mediterranean with the exception that le mistral will
blow her gusts. Nights and early mornings are often very cold with intense
heat in the afternoon. As a result, the ripening of the Grenache is delayed
and normally a few weeks later than near by Châteauneuf du Pape.
Côtes du Rhône Villages
In 1953 four villages in the Southern Rhône were making wines considered
to be of higher quality than those usually produced under the generic
Côtes du Rhône label. These four villages - Cairanne, Laudun,
Chusclan and Gigondas were not considered to be ready for full appellation
status (like those of Châteauneuf du Pape, Côte Rotie, Hermitage,
etc.) but were certainly superior to the many Côtes du Rhône
wines produced. Therefore the INAO (National Institute of Appellations
of Origin) decided that if these villages followed agreed upon rules they
would create a new status to identify their higher quality wines. Rules
were laid out that governed grape varieties, yields per hectare and the
minimum alcohol strength of their red wines raised from 11% to 12.5%.
Producers following these rules were then allowed to market their wine
as Côtes du Rhône - "Cairanne" for example and therefore
to promote the distinctive characteristics of their local terroir. After
two additional villages joined this illustrious group (Vacqueyras in 1955
and Vinsobres in 1957) a common title was created in 1967 to apply to
all of the wines: Côtes du Rhône Villages. Today there are
16 villages with this status
2001 began with a mild winter that was followed by a warm and wet spring with above average temperatures. Flowering started towards the beginning of May and June and July continued to be warm with heavy rainfall in July. August was hot and dry with temperatures reaching 33°C resulting in the grapes reaching a good maturity. September brought le mistral, which continued for nearly 2 weeks. Harvest commenced in early October.
© 2003 Éric Texier