Plan de Dieu GSM

Bookended to the top and bottom by its equally renowned neighbours, Burgundy and Provence, the Côtes du Rhône region straddles the namesake river’s banks for approximately 200kms from Vienne in the north to just below Avignon in the south. Part of Narbonese Gaul, Romans founded terraced vineyards here late in the 2nd century BC, though some significant development in wine-making history corresponds with the arrival of Popes in the 14th century. Displaced from their traditional seat in Rome due to the so-called western-schism, a splitting of the Catholic Church, and hemmed in by the upheaval of France and England’s 100 Years’ War, the temporary papal retreat to Avignon would be prolonged for 9 successions. Competitively inclined, the Popes and Cardinals established farm estates on tracts of Côtes du Rhône lands that had been ceded to the church. Gradually expanding the vineyard plantings secured a local wine source and provided revenue in the exporting of surplus production. 500 years onward, long after the Popes had left to reoccupy the Vatican, Avignon was again anointed in 1966 – this time with the secular designation of ‘Capital City’ of all Rhône wines.

Vintners along the somewhat cooler stretch of the valley north of Montelimar make varietal wines exclusively with Syrah grapes, whereas wineries in southern zones produce the classic GSM blends built with GrenacheSyrahMourvèdre – or GSMC in which Carignan rounds out the recipe. This DéClassé recommended, Château Le Grand Retour – Plan de Dieu is a robust 60/30/10% GSM blend extracted from 45-year-old vine stock. Rooted in stony limestone or red clay soils typical of the Plan de Dieu sub-region, this geographic ‘God’s Plain’ has a localized, hot and dry climate, making the terroir ideal for the full maturation of its signature grape varieties. Lying at the base of the Dentelles de Montmirail foothills, the plain encompasses vineyards that surround the towns of Camaret-sur-Aigues, Violes, Jonquieres, as well as, the source of this week’s feature bottle from Travaillan. Despite being a relatively new appellation created in 2005, the Plan de Dieu AOP classification with the ‘Villages’ qualifier, indicates a more distinctive quality of wine than that of the generic Côtes du Rhône AOP. The unique bottle style also features Plan de Dieu as an embossed coat-of-arms: a cluster of grapes framed by a halo!

Château Le Grand Retour is one of a trio of winemaking estates that the three Aubert brothers have overseen since the 1980’s, carrying forward and further developing the foundation and traditions begun by their father. 150 hectares of this property was originally established by Algerian immigrants, who again left France for a time. On returning, they found the now mature plantings ready to bear fruit–providing the inspiration for the Domaine’s name, ‘the major return.’

The same sentiment can also be applied here to this bottling since it’s become a yearly Vintages release that always seems to exceed the generalized pedigree as an entry-level, southern Rhône wine. In my pocketbook, this Plan de Dieu trumps lower end offerings of Châteauneuf-du-Pape – and for the same price, I can buy 3!

CHATEAU LE GRAND RETOUR PLAN DE DIEU 2015
VINTAGES – LCBO Product #224592 | 750 mL bottle
Price $ 14.95
14.5% Alcohol/Vol.
Sugar Content Descriptor: XD

Made in: Rhône, France
By: Sarl Aubert
Release Date: September 16, 2017

Tasting Note
Dark, silky-smooth with juicy fruit and savory notes, the complexity of aromas and flavours in this bottling exceeds its general pedigree of an ‘entry level,’ southern Rhône wine. Try serving with roasted poultry, duck, lamb, stuffed eggplant, bean stew with sage or sharp flavoured, hard cheeses.

Côtes du Rhône GSM

Not only a natural kingdom populated with oak, aromatic Mediterranean shrub, and stands of Aleppo pines, the small and rumpled mountain chain called the Dentelles de Montmirail is also home to a group of historically and culturally preserved hamlets like Séguret, Gigondas, and this week’s featured wine source, Sablet. Anchored as a former bastion on a prominence nearby to the lacework of limestone outcrops (‘dentelles’), the ringed cluster of terra cotta-roofed stone houses, shops, and cobbled alleys personify the town’s medieval history, but also hint at its roots in antiquity. For 500 years as of 1274, the surrounding land and connecting waterways were part of a Papal realm known as the Comtat Venaissin. Ceded to the Catholic Church by various, minor French kings, the enclave was home for a succession of nine displaced Popes who had fled Rome due to political revolt. It remained in their control up until 1791 when all the holdings were reintegrated into France as a part of the new order that followed the French revolution. Framed by the Rhône River to the west and Provence to the south, this desirable territory also includes the prestigious Châteauneuf-du-Pape (‘the Papal Castle’). Globally renowned, this AOC (appellation d’origin controlee) still anchors the region’s modern-day reputation, though it was the visionary Romans who adapted the early grape varieties; who introduced the technology of terraced vineyards — and then went on to launch the area’s export trade via barges; down the Rhône, its tributaries, and out to sea onto their thirsty empire!

sablet

Vintners in the Southern Rhône have been cultivating Grenache Noir, Syrah and Mourvèdre vines for 14 centuries. Being well-suited to a regional climate in which the daytime heat of summer is tempered by the cooling Mistral breezes, and where a very long growing season promotes full maturity of the fruit, these three plump and prolific varieties form the backbone for the Rhône’s signature blends of red wine known as GSM. In the region’s more recent history, Cave Le Gravillas is among a group of small producers who, with a steadfast commitment to refining terroir-specific wines in the peripheral shadow of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, have also developed an international profile by offering their bottlings at a fraction of their famous neighbour’s prices. Sablet is one of 18 villages that’s permitted to add its name to the AOC Côtes du Rhône – Villages. Generally, ‘Villages’ references a more rigorous regime of planting density, harvest yields, blend proportions, and minimum alcohol levels. Whether these factors translate into a consistently better grade of wine than the generic standard is debatable, and variable from year-to-year. What’s less uncertain is that the vineyards which surround each village, coupled with their local wine finishing traditions, does yield a distinctive flavour profile for their unique recipes of GSM.

For my baseline tastes, as an admitted fan of medium to full-bodied, somewhat earthy, berry-forward red wine with polished tannins and less oak influence, this 2nd release of Villages Sablet 2014 is a balanced bottling that’s equally satisfying as apéritif or with dinner fare. This is a perennial LCBO Vintages favourite, so the available stock will evaporate from shelves quickly. As for sidestepping the impending mid-Winter blues, I suggest that you try to buy and stow away half a case!

le-gravillas-sablet

LE GRAVILLAS SABLET COTES DU RHONE-VILLAGES 2014
VINTAGES – LCBO Product #78790 | 750 mL bottle
Price $ 15.95
14.5% Alcohol/Vol.
Sugar Content Descriptor: D

Made in Rhône, France
By: Le Gravillas
Release Date: January 7, 2017

Tasting Note
As Grenache Noir makes up most of the blend (70%), its rich blackberry aromas and flavours dominate — with the Syrah (25%) and Mourvèdre (5%) adding subtle spice and pepper notes. Try this alongside wine-braised lamb and pearl onions, stir-fried pork and cabbage, beef Kefta brochettes, a savoury stew or spicy squash tagine.

Côtes du Rhône GSM

Bookended to the top and bottom by its equally renowned neighbours, Burgundy
and Provence, the Côtes du Rhône region straddles the namesake river’s banks
for approximately 200kms from Vienne in the north to just below Avignon in the
south. Part of Narbonese Gaul, Romans founded terraced vineyards here late in
the 2nd century BC, though some significant development in winemaking history
corresponds with the arrival of Popes in the 14th century. Displaced from their
traditional seat in Rome due to the so-called western-schism, a splitting of the
Catholic Church, and hemmed in by the upheaval of France and England’s 100
Years’ War, the temporary papal retreat to Avignon would be prolonged for 9
successions. Competitively inclined, the Popes and Cardinals established farm
estates on tracts of Côtes du Rhône lands that had been ceded to the church.
Gradually expanding the vineyard plantings secured a local wine source and
provided revenue in the exporting of surplus production. 500 years onward, long
after the Popes had left to reoccupy the Vatican, Avignon was again anointed in
1966. This time with the secular designation of ‘Capital City’ of all Rhône wines.

Vintners along the somewhat cooler stretch of the valley north of Montelimar
make varietal wines exclusively with Syrah grapes, whereas wineries in southern
zones produce the now classic GSM blends of Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre, or
GSMC in which Carignan rounds out the recipe. This DéClassé recommended,
Domaine Le Grand Retour – Plan de Dieu is a robust 70/20/10% GSM blend
extracted from 45-year-old vine stock. Rooted in stony limestone or red clay soils
typical of the Plan de Dieu sub-region, this geographic ‘God’s Plain’ has a localized,
hot and dry climate, making the terroir ideal for the full maturation of its signature
grape varieties. Lying at the base of the Dentelles de Montmirail foothills, the plain
encompasses vineyards that surround the towns of Camaret-sur-Aigues, Violes,
Jonquieres, as well as, the source of this week’s feature bottle from Travaillan.
Despite being a relatively new appellation created in 2005, the Plan de Dieu AOP
classification with the ‘Villages’ qualifier, indicates a more distinctive quality of wine
than that of the generic Côtes du Rhône AOP. The unique bottle style also features
Plan de Dieu as an embossed coat-of-arms: a cluster of grapes framed by a halo!

Domaine Le Grand Retour is one of a trio of winemaking estates that the three
Aubert brothers have overseen since the 1980’s, carrying forward and further
developing the foundation and traditions begun by their father. 150 hectares of
this property were originally established by Algerian immigrants, who again left
France for a time. On returning, they found the now mature plantings ready to
bear fruit–providing the inspiration for the Domaine’s name, ‘the major return’.

The same sentiment can also be applied here to this bottling, having become a
yearly Vintages release that always seems to exceed its generalized pedigree as
an entry-level, southern Rhône wine. In my pocketbook, this Plan de Dieu trumps
lower end offerings of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, as for the same price I can buy 3!

Plan de Dieu

DOMAINE LE GRAND RETOUR / PLAN DE DIEU
COTES DU RHONE – VILLAGES 2013
VINTAGES – LCBO Product #224592 | 750 mL bottle
Price $ 14.95
14.5% Alcohol/Vol.
Sugar Content Descriptor: D

Made in: Rhône, France
By: Earl Aubert
Release Date: Jan. 9, 2016

Tasting Note
Dark Ruby coloured with a supple mouthfeel, this un-oaked and pleasingly rustic
red combines rich fruit and savory notes. The aroma and flavour complexity of
berry, chocolate and herbs make it a good match with strong cheeses, roast
duck and lamb, stuffed eggplant or a mixed bean stew with sage.

Côtes du Rhône Alert

Domaine Le Grand Retour is one of a trio of estates owned and overseen by
the 3 Aubert Brothers, who since 1981 have been forwarding the foundation
and traditions begun by their father. The 150 hectares of this property were
originally established by Algerian immigrants who again left the country for a
time, then returned to find their mature plantings ready to bear wine-making
fruit – hence providing the Domaine’s namesake of ‘the major return’!

Here, due south of neighbouring Burgundy, the Rhône’s abundant vineyards
straddle the river for 125 miles from Vienne in the north: producing red wines
exclusively built on the Syrah grape – to just below Avignon in the south: where
the GSM (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre) or GSMC (add Carignan) blends are
fashioned. Significant wine-making history here dates back at least to the arrival
of the popes in the Middle Ages with Avignon, more recently, being anointed as
the ‘capital city’ of Rhône wines in 1966.

The DéClassé recommended red this week, is a bold, classic version of a 70%,
20%, 10% GSM extracted from 45yr.-old vine stock rooted in the warm, stony
limestone soils typical of the ‘Plan de Dieu’ sub-region within the larger Côtes
du Rhône Villages appellation. Enjoying a relatively hot and dry, localized climate
that’s ideal for the full maturation of these grape varieties, the geographic plain
which frames this designation of origin encompasses the towns of Jonquieres,
Camaret-sur-Aigues, Violes, as well as, the source of this week’s wine: Travaillan.
Though being a relatively new appellation (having only been created in 2005),
the classification nonetheless indicates the production of better quality wine
than from the fields of the nearby, generic Côtes du Rhône AOC.

This is a secondary release of the same vintage seen on shelves last year at this
time – a Gold Medal winner at the Concours Général Agricole de Paris 2012.

Le Grand Retour

DOMAINE LE GRAND RETOUR PLAN DE DIEU 2011
VINTAGES – LCBO Product #224592 | 750 mL bottle
Price $ 13.95
14.5% Alcohol/Vol.
Sugar Content Descriptor: XD

Made in: Rhône, France
By: Aubert Frères, Prop.-Récolt.
Release Date: Aug 16, 2014

Tasting Note
Dark, silky-smooth with rich fruit and savory notes, the complexity of aromas and
flavours in this bottling exceeds its general pedigree of an ‘entry level’, southern
Rhône wine. Try serving with duck, lamb, stuffed eggplant, bean stew with sage or
strong cheeses.