Gilles Troullier Boreal 2015
Suitably named Boreal, in honor of the northerly winds that buffet this east-facing slope, it is a lithe and sinuous example of Syrah with a mix of meat, lavender and smoky, dark cherry fruit.
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Having labored for a decade in near anonymity at Domaine Bila-Haut, Gilles Troullier, a native of the Rhône, and an expert in biodynamic farming has been liberated from his contractual relationship with his former employer. How a scattered four hectares of vines represented a threat to a wine empire seems curious, but at least we can now give Gilles the attention he so rightfully deserves. His vineyards are located in the northern region of the Roussillon in a sub-zone formerly made famous by the fortified wine, Maury. As tastes have moved away from these sweeter styles of wine there was a brief moment when vineyards in the area were favorably priced – especially considering the range of terroirs: limestone, schist and granite, the elevation of the vineyards and the average age of the vines. This was the opportunity that brought Gilles Troullier to the Roussillon.
Ripeness in the Roussillon has never been a problem. The struggle is how to achieve balance in such a warm, dry climate. Biodynamics plays an important role but great wine is not solely a creation of the vineyard. Hand harvesting, indigenous fermentations and a preference for large, neutral aging vessels as well as an approach that seeks infusion rather than extraction are human decisions that result in balanced, vigorous and fresh wines. They not only transmit varietal characteristics but the minerality of the soil as well. Gilles is a ruthless perfectionist and will skip a vintage if the wine doesn’t meet his exacting standards – in 2010 he didn’t make L’Esprit du Temps and in 2011 he skipped Boreal. Apart from his white wine, L’Imprévue which is a blend of Grenache Blanc and Gris, each cuvée represents a single varietal from a specific terroir. Each is a perfect snapshot in time of a unique place.
An extensive appellation producing a diverse selection of good quality and great values, Languedoc spans the Mediterranean coast from the Pyrenees mountains of Roussillon all the way to the Rhône Valley. Languedoc’s terrain is generally flat coastal plains, with a warm Mediterranean climate and frequent risk of drought.
Virtually every style of wine is made in this expansive region. Most dry wines are blends with varietal choice strongly influenced by the neighboring Rhône Valley. For reds and rosés, the primary grapes include Grenache, Syrah, Carignan, Cinsault and Mourvèdre. White varieties include Grenache Blanc, Muscat, Ugni Blanc, Vermentino, Macabéo, Clairette, Piquepoul and Bourbelenc.
International varieties are also planted in large numbers here, in particular Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon.
The key region for sparkling wines here is Limoux, where Blanquette de Limoux is believed to have been the first sparkling wine made in France, even before Champagne. Crémant de Limoux is produced in a more modern style.
Marked by an unmistakable deep purple hue and savory aromatics, Syrah makes an intense, powerful and often age-worthy red. Native to the Northern Rhône, Syrah achieves its maximum potential in the steep village of Hermitage and plays an important component in the Red Rhône Blends of the south, adding color and structure to Grenache and Mourvèdre. Syrah is the most widely planted grape of Australia and is important in California and Washington. Sommelier Secret—Such a synergy these three create together, the Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre trio often takes on the shorthand term, “GSM.”