I fell in love with this area before ever visiting it, having read the evocative descriptions of the villages and tasting notes in Robert Parker's best book, 'The Wines of the Rhone Valley'. I wasn't disappointed when I got there, and it was a pleasure to see it all again. The backdrop are the dramatic limestone outcrops called the Dentelles de Montmirail - into which are nestled the wine villages of Gigondas, Vacqueyras, Beaumes de Venise, Sablet and Seguret, with Mont Ventoux also visible below. The vineyards are part of the garrigue, where you pick up warm, dusty, earthy scents along with the sweetness of the wild thyme, rosemary and sage.
For wines to be labelled AOC Rasteau, they must be red, with at least 50% Grenache, and Syrah and Mourvedre forming part of the blend. Other southern French varieties such as Carignan may also be added to the blend for structure too.
We were delighted to discover Domaine Gramiller, owned by Frederic Julien. He is in fact self-taught, but happens to be friends with two of the most celebrated producers of Rasteau, and of the whole southern Rhone, Jerome Bressy of Gourt de Martens, and Helen Durand of Domaine de Trapadis. They provide the extra guidance and tips. I knew in a split second of nosing the first wine that this guy knew what he was doing.
This is what the Rhone has been waiting for - wines with more fruit and less tannins, but still lots of character, and in the case of the Coeur de Raisin, no sulphur added. The wines remind me of the wonderful wines of the godfathers of the low or no added sulphur movement, Guy Breton and Lapierre of Morgon. It puts Domaine Gramiller firmly in the new wave camp, and, I would say a leader at that.
The wines have recently had some beautiful reviews from Tamlyn Currin, who writes for JancisRobinson.com. I am so happy for winemaker Frederic that his wines have been recognized by a leading wine writer so soon as it can take years to even get them tasted, let alone get a good review, even if it is really good!
Coeur de Raisin 2021
"Incredibly low alcohol for a southern Rhône wine. But kerpow! This is damn fabulous. No two ways about it. It's like wild, cane-curving bramble hedges absolutely dripping with berries. I keep wiping my chin, convinced that the juice must be dripping down it. A wine that makes me laugh out loud with the sheer euphoria of the vivacious fruit. The tannins are the only thing that's shy about this wine – shy, but they're there, peeping from behind and quietly sketching structure into the fruit. There are also little curlicues of fragrant dried herbs, its Mediterranean tattoos. Good value."
"Blackberry pie, charcoal, bruised-peony florals. Smells as if it might be thick and rustic, if generous. It's anything but. Kohl-pencil-framed fruit, fresh dark shadows, indigo sweetness, cello-string fidelity to the terroir, to the fruit. The tannins tug on the fruit like a wind tugs at the trees on a scree slope, tasting of stems and rock and wind-cut leaves. Fragrant to the very last.."
Rasteau Les Marcels 2020
"The smell of fresh summer pudding and liquorice and pencil shavings. The fruit peals out like a declaration of triumph, held – just – in restraint by the savoury, cocoa-dusted, herb-scented muscle of tannins. There is something innately glorious about this wine, ascendent. I would never have believed it was 15% alcohol. It soars.”