Chateau Fontanes Pic Saint-Loup Rouge 2018
A few minutes in the fridge elevate the fruit and acidity of this red by drawing focus to the minerality. Black currant and cherry aromas with a delightfully bright texture on the palate.
Cyriaque Rozier, the highly acclaimed winemaker and vineyard manager at Chateau La Roque, makes his own wine under the label Chateau Fontanès in Pic St-Loup in the Languedoc. A charming man with a strong sense of vocation and relentless drive, Cyriaque often works sixteen-hour days between the two domaines. He first started his domaine in 2003, and undertook the ultimate labor of love in the Languedoc—planting a vineyard. For many years, this plot of land was best known for olive trees, until the great frost of 1956 decimated groves by the hundreds. The land is hard as a rock, quite literally, and composed primarily of limestone and clay. To plant a vineyard here is a game of patience and incredibly hard work. Over the last few years, Cyriaque has been slowly building stone terraces to better protect this challenging terrain from erosion. In addition, he has taken to farming biodynamically, a noble task that forgoes the shortcuts that most vignerons have at their disposal today in favor of producing organic grapes in a rich, healthy soil. In total, he works 4.5 hectares, which are planted with forty-year-old Cabernet Sauvignon vines, as well as Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre, Carignan and Cinsault. He cannot help but love his plantings, as the original cuttings for his vines were all selected from his favorite domaines in Côte-Rôtie, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, and Bandol.
Though Cyriaque is within the boundaries of the appellation Pic St-Loup, the lion’s share of his production is Cabernet Sauvignon, a grape varietal that is outside of the constraints set for the A.O.C. in the Languedoc. This means that in lieu of getting an A.O.C. cru status, he must take a Vin de Pays d’Oc designation. The trade-off for Cyriaque is that he gets to make his wines his way, and we, in turn, get an incredible price—a mutually beneficial trade-off. Being rebellious seems to come naturally to a man of such innate talent, and the elegance of his wines are proof enough in a region where bigger is often considered better. Make no mistake, raw terroirand spicy garrigue abound in these wines, with rich, juicy fruit and silky tannins.
With bold fruit flavors and accents of sweet spice, Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre form the base of the classic Rhône Red Blend, while Carignan, Cinsault and Counoise often come in to play. Though they originated from France’s southern Rhône Valley, with some creative interpretation, Rhône blends have also become popular in other countries. Somm Secret—Putting their own local spin on the Rhône Red Blend, those from Priorat often include Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. In California, it is not uncommon to see Petite Sirah make an appearance.
Pic Saint-Loup is defined by the Pic Saint-Loup Mountain in its center as well as Montagne de l’Hortus, a long ridge of Jurassic limestone rising over 2,000 feet some 15 miles inland from the Mediterranean. Elevated from the coastal plains, Pic Saint-Loup’s 1,000 hectares of vineyards on well-drained, limestone-based soils, are blessed with cooler nights, allowing low yields and grapes to fully ripen while retaining acidity. The region supports many different grape varieties since it is spread over a number of elevations and microclimates.
Approved only for reds and rosés, Pic Saint-Loup wines aim for complex, earthy elegance, and are worth putting down for a few years. The southern French trio Grenache, Syrah and Mourvédre must constitute 90% of the red blends. Cherry, plum and berry fruit pick up spicy, herbal overtones from the surrounding garrigue, giving the wines a great balance of power and delicacy. Pic St Loup rosés, often containing a good dollop of Mourvédre, show more grip and color than many southern French pinks; the best ones can age with grace for five years or more.