Le Clos Des Grillons
(Rhone Valley, France)
Born atop the soils of the region, Nicolas Renaud was the perfect candidate for professor to young geography and history students. This role he filled for many years as his day job, but the love of wine gave him an adequate endurance for his second. For many years he worked nights and weekends (luckily, school is out during harvests!) for Domaine de Vieille Julienne. Not satisfied with two employers, he rented vines in 2005 to begin what he terms his ‘Clos des Grillons’. His encompassing knowledge of almost every rock and soil, as well as where the forgotten older vines reside, Nicolas was able to piece together a magnificent string of parcels throughout the area. Now, tossing the bosses aside, he and his wife are working around the clock to reveal the stories of our stony earth. He does so first by using organic measures when working the vineyards: no chemicals are used, and soil maintenance is done by hand. In the cellar, a natural course is followed as well, with wild yeast fermentations and low SO2 usage. There is continual, patient research. Nicolas uses a clever assemblage of tanks and barrels from single vineyard and mixed vineyard designation to form the lesson he is learning. A teacher turned student, he is keeping up with the study to see what works best. The ‘Clos’ is a good study to preside over: many of his students have returned to Nicolas to witness his theory and application. It seems the tasks for Nicolas never quite end; justifiably, though, he can call himself boss and be proud of that for which he has worked.
Côtes du Rhône Blanc
70% Grenache Blanc, 30% Bourboulenc, Clairette and Ugni Blanc
Here Nicolas creates a refreshing blend of mostly Grenache Blanc with Bourboulenc, Clairette and Ugni Blanc. This blend is particularly interesting because of the difference between the terroirs on which the grapes are grown: the Grenache Blanc is handpicked from sandy, stony slopes with a northern exposure, while the Bourboulenc comes from white clay with a southern exposure. Nicolas blends here four different parcels, which are located in the communes of Saze and Rochefort. One parcel of Grenache Blanc is pressed and destemmed, and the grapes are left to settle overnight under cool temperatures. The Grenache Blanc is fermented separately, in casks, while the Bourboulenc, Clairette, and Ugni Blanc are fermented in vats, and then moved to a stainless steel tank for ageing. The wine does complete malolactic fermentation, and is bottled with very little SO2. Vines are, on average, 35 years old.
Côtes du Rhône Blanc, “1901”
85% Bourboulenc, 15% Ugni Blanc
From a vineyard planted in 1901, this wine is a blend of Bourboulenc and Ugni Blanc from vines planted in white clay with a Northeast exposure. Grapes are handpicked and then pressed with stems and left to settle overnight under cool, evening temperatures. It is fermented in vats and then aged in cask and cement agg for 5mths. Practicing Biodynamic
Côtes du Rhône Rouge, ‘Les Terres Blanches
50% Grenache Noir, 50% Carignan
From 60 year old vines grown in white shale and rolled pebbles, vines receive southern exposure and are made using a combination of traditional vinification methods and of carbonic maceration in stainless steel. This cuvée undergoes malolactic fermentation and is aged half in tank and half in barrique. The Carignan is lightly crushed and fermented for 6-7 days, with stems intact, at low temperatures, while the Grenache from old vines is destemmed and then fermented for 15-21 days. A portion of Grenache (destemmed) and Carignan (non-destemmed) is also blended in a concrete vat for fermentation to be added to the final blend.
Côtes du Rhône Rouge
50% Grenache Noir 50% Cinsault
From 60 year old Grenache Noir vines with a northeastern exposure and 30 year old Cinsault vines with a southwestern exposure, this wine is a blend of two cuvées. One portion undergoes carbonic maceration for about twelve days before being fermented in vats while the other is slowly crushed and then fermented in vats.