Domaine les Pallieres Gigondas Les Racines (375ML half-bottle) 2015
Blend: 80% Grenache Noir, 8% Syrah, 7% Cinsault, 5% Clairette
Critical AcclaimAll Vintages
Domaine Les Pallières is undeniably one of the greatest, longest-running properties of the Southern Rhône—outside the village of Gigondas, woven into the foothills of the beautiful and brooding Dentelles de Montmirail. The domaine had been a continuously running farm within the same family since the fifteenth century! Les Pallières was once a famous domaine with wines of impeccable character, yet the property had slowly fallen into disrepair. Two great frosts of the twentieth century had killed off many of the olive and fruit trees, and both the winery and the vineyards were badly in need of repairs. By 1998, the Roux brothers wanted to make a change. With no future successors to take their place, they decided to sell.
The Brunier brothers, Daniel and Frédéric, of the famed Vieux Télégraphe in Chateauneuf-du-Pape, were rising stars in the Southern Rhône at the time, having distinguished themselves time and time again with world class wines. A casual discussion over lunch at Chez Panisse between Daniel and Kermit Lynch, the Brunier’s longtime American importer, spontaneously turned into a game plan to revive the faded jewel—Les Pallières. Though the competition to buy the domaine was fierce with very reputable names in the mix, the Roux brothers finally decided to sell to the Bruniers and Kermit. After decades of neglect, Pallières’ renaissance had begun.
A focus on the terroir and its potential soon led to a clear, new direction. The vineyards range from 250-400 meters in altitude, with varying proportions of sand and clay interwoven with limestone scree descending from the Dentelles. Terraces were built and reinforced, allowing for better water retention. A new winery was built to receive the harvested parcels individually in gravity-fed tanks. The many lieux-dits, once blended into one cuvée of Gigondas, have been separated into two, starting with the 2007 vintage, in an effort to best express two remarkable personalities. Cuvée “Terrasse du Diable,” encompasses the low-yielding vines from the higher altitudes that express great structure and intense minerality. Cuvée “Les Racines” showcases the vineyard parcels surrounding the winery—the origin of the domaine with the oldest vines—with the emphasis on freshness and extravagant cornucopian fruit.
Domaine Les Pallières has become a partnership among friends, a real meeting of the minds—a creative collaboration of three leading, passionate experts on the wines of the Rhône.
The Southern Rhone region of Gigondas extends northwest from the notably jagged wall of mountains called the Dentelles di Montmirail, whose highest point climbs to about 2,600 feet. The region and its wines have much in common with the neighboring Chateauneuf-du-Pape except that the vineyards of Gigondas exist at higher elevation and its soils, comprised mainly of crumbled limestone from the Dentelles, often produce a more dense and robust Grenache-based red wine.
The region has a history of fine winemaking, extending back to Roman times. But by the 20th century, Gigondas was merely lumped into the less distinct zone of Côtes du Rhône Villages. However, it was first among these satellite villages to earn its own appellation, which occurred in 1971.
Gigondas reds must be between 50 to 100% Grenache with Syrah and Mourvèdre comprising the bulk of the remainder of the blend. They tend express rustic flavors and aromas of wild blackberry, raspberry, fig, plum, as well as juniper, dried herbs, anise, smoke and river rock. The best are bold but balanced, and finish with impressively sexy and velvety tannins.
The Gigondas appellation also produces rosé but no white wines.
With bold fruit flavors and accents of sweet spice, red Rhône blends originated from France’s southern Rhône Valley. Grenache, supported by Syrah and Mourvèdre typically form the base of the blend, while Carignan, Cinsault and Counoise often come in to play. With some creative interpretation, Rhône blends have also become popular in Priorat, Washington, Australia and California.
In the Glass
The taste profile of a Rhône blend will vary according to its individual components, as each variety brings something different to the glass. Grenache is the lightest in color but contributes plenty of ripe red fruit and a plush texture. Syrah supplies dark fruit flavors, along with savory, spicy and earthy notes. Mourvèdre is responsible for a floral perfume and earthy flavor as well as structure and a healthy dose of color. New World examples tend to be fruit-forward in style, while those from the Old World will often have more earth, structure and herbal components on top of ripe red and blue fruit.
Rhône red blends typically make for very food-friendly wines. These can work with a wide variety of meat-based dishes, playing equally well with beef, pork, lamb or game. Braised beef cheeks, grilled steak or sausages, roasted pork and squab are all fine pairings.
Some regions like to put their own local spin on the red Rhône blend—for example, in Australia’s Barossa Valley, Shiraz is commonly blended with Cabernet Sauvignon to add structure, tannin and a long finish. Grenache-based blends from Priorat often include Carignan (known locally as Cariñena) and Syrah, but also international varieties like Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. In California, anything goes, and it is not uncommon to see Petite Sirah make an appearance.