The northern Rhone has received a lot of love on these pages, but today I want to swing down to the south and talk about one of the most exciting wines I’ve tasted in a long time. Surprise, surprise—It’s not Chateauneuf du Pape (which deserves it’s own space all together). Instead, today I want to talk about the little-known appellation of Rasteau and its rising star, Jérôme Bressy, who’s making wines to rival all that the Southern Rhone has to offer.
It was only in 2010 that the Rasteau appellation, located roughly 15 miles northeast of Chateauneuf du Pape, was officially given AOC status. Much like the surrounding villages of the region, most of the wines were largely unknown, bottled as Cotes du Rhone or sucked up by large cooperatives. As the popularity of Chateauneuf du Pape spread over the last 20 years, both consumers and growers began to wonder why a higher standard of wine could not be produced throughout the entire region. Hence the names Gigondas, Vacqueyras, and Lirac are now seen on retail shelves, as more farmers turn winemakers and bottlers.
This brings us back to Jérôme Bressy and Gourt de Mautens.
Jérôme Bressy grew up in a family of grape growers, who would sell their entire production to the local cooperative. However, in 1989 his father decided to switch to organic farming. This decision gave Jérôme the perfect raw materials he needed to realize his dream. In 1996, at the age of 23, Jérôme became the first winemaker of the family and began bottling their entire production; Gourt de Mautens was born. At first, the wines were made in an old converted hanger on the family’s property. Now, almost two decades later, Jérôme Bressy is considered the premier producer within the appellation.
The vines, at ages between 40 – 100-years-old, sit on steep terraced slopes and on hillside vineyards, with soils made up of chalky, clay marls, which aids in both water retention and adding the mineral thrust found throughout the entire lineup at Gourt de Mautens. Here, everything is done by hand, and Jérôme took his father’s vision a step further by switching to full biodynamic farming since 2008. In many ways, the vintage itself dictates the finished wine, and that’s exactly how Jérôme prefers it. After crush, the juice is fermented by native yeasts and then moved to neutral cask or concrete vat for 24-36 months.
The result is a wine of balanced intensity made primarily from old vine Grenache yet complemented by a mix of other indigenous Rhone varieties, which is something Jérôme takes very seriously. Both the 2010 and 2011 are labled IGP Vaucluse because of the percentage of Vaccarese, Counoise, Carignan, Cinsault and Terret Noir within the blend. At this time, the Rasteau appellation laws only permit these varieties up to 15%, yet to maintain the integrity of his vineyards and the wine they produce, Jérôme opted for the lesser classification—at least until the appellation rules catch up in 2019 (which is in the works).
This is a dark beauty of a wine that could only come from the southern Rhone, showing layer after layer of dark fruits, earth, herbs and spice. It takes hold of your palate with noticeable grip and then delivers masses of dark, saturating fruit in return, yet never losses its balance and poise.
If you are a fan of Chateauneuf du Pape or the southern Rhone in general, then these are wines that you must seek out. I can assure you that they will find a place in my cellar as well.
On to the wines:
2009 Domaine Gourt de Mautens (Jérôme Bressy) Rasteau – This dark beauty of a wine opened up in the glass to reveal rich blackberry, accentuated by notes of moist earth, animal musk, herbs, dark florals and hints of spiced cookie. It was medium-bodied on the palate, showing ripe black fruits with dark, dark herbal tones and mineral-stone. Saturating–literally, saturating black fruits carried into the long finish with lingering spice and floral tones. (94 points) Morrell
2010 Domaine Gourt de Mautens (Jérôme Bressy) Vaucluse Rouge – The nose showed focused dark fruits with pretty floral tones and black pepper in a slightly restrained display. Massive textures bullied the palate, kept in check by vibrant waves of acidity. Blackberry and herbs danced across the senses in this refined and elegant effort. Black fruit, spice and fine tannin seemed to coat the entire palate throughout the finish, like a bomb exploding in upon itself. This is in need of cellaring and may deserve a higher score down the road. (93 points)
2011 Domaine Gourt de Mautens (Jérôme Bressy) Vaucluse Rouge – The nose showed an intense, layered bouquet of ripe black fruit, olives, mineral-laden stone, pepper, licorice and a hint of barnyard. It was saturating, with dark fruits on the palate, showing tremendous energy and concentration, which seemed to touch upon all the senses. Notes of tarry tannin provided grip, while ripe, crushed blackberry and minerals notes lingered long into the finish. This was remarkable concentrated yet fresh and focused. (94 points)
Article and Tasting Notes by: Eric Guido