Vintners Jean Orens Ferraton and his son Michel have known winemaker extraordinaire Michel Chapoutier for more than two decades. In the mid-1990s, they brought organic farming to Rhone Valley vineyards when the term was still obscure. The Ferratons, whose winery was launched in 1946 by Jean, have relied on Chapoutier’s guidance to allow the land and vines to control the destiny of the grapes grown and the wines produced. Since 1998 they’ve implemented stricter biodynamic practices and eliminated all pesticides and chemical fertilizers. While they are no longer alone in setting a modern, eco-friendly course, they deserve credit for being among the early pioneers.
The wine industry is still uncertain as to whether biodynamic farming improves the quality and taste of wine. What is clear, however, is that less manipulation stimulates soils and vines to find a healthy balance on their own. Barring any vineyard disease outbreaks, a real sense of place (terroir) – or identity – emerges in the purer fruit produced and the wines created.
For the uninitiated, Ferreton Peres et Fils and M. Chapoutier offer several Cotes-Du-Rhone (CDR) entry level wines worth trying for earthy quality and value.
Ferraton’s CDR “Samorens” portfolio consists of three wines – a blanc (white), rouge (red) and rose` – selling in the $14 to $17 price range. Grapes are sourced from Rhone River Valley vineyards surrounding Montelmar, Orange and Avignon. The three wines I’ve sampled can be summed up in two words: “fresh”, “balanced”. All are fermented in steel vats so there is no oaky traces.
Clay-limestone soils give the Samorens blanc blend (white Grenache, Clairette) a clean minerality and white-flower power on the nose and palate. Gravelly soils along the Rhone’s left bank influence the tannic structure and spiciness of the ruby-colored rouge (Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault). While the rose` mimics the rouge blend, the grapes originate on the right bank in slightly more diverse soils: limestone, clay, pebbles, and sand. A heightened minerality results which extends the lively strawberry-raspberry taste into a long, dry finish.
The M. Chapoutier Belleruche CDR portfolio also features a blanc, rouge and rose` but with slightly different blending partners. The wines retail for $15.99 and are selling at Greater Boston area stores – and New Hampshire outlets – for $13.99.
Belleruche means “beautiful beehive” in French and recognizes the bees’ buzzing presence on Chapoutier’s sustainable-farmed vineyards in the Rhone region. Wines are crafted to be clean, crisp, and enjoyable. All are unoaked and reveal CDR traits of bright ripe fruit and appealing aromas.
Grenache Blanc primes the 2018 Belleruche white which includes Roussanne, Viognier, Clairette and Bourboulenc. The garnet-colored rouge (Grenache-Syrah) is layered in dark cherry and black pepper notes and has a nice integrated tannic grip. The pink-salmon rose` (Grenache-Syrah-Cinsault) is easy drinking – almost too easy – with its silky delivery of bright berry flavors.
If you’re planning a “Break-Up-The-Winter-Blues-Party” anytime soon, you might try a three-pack of either Ferraton’s Samorens or Chapoutier’s Belleruche wines. And remember to tell friends that you’re helping to save Mother Earth.
Wine Deals of the Week: Gerard Bertrand’s Art de Vivre Vin Rouge 2015 ($14.99) is filtering into Costco stores. This Languedoc blend was No. 78 on Wine Spectator’s Top 100 List of 2019 and comes in a distinctive gray pottery bottle … Querceto Chianti Classico Riserva 2015, which retails for $28, is a N.H. “power buy” for $12.99 while supplies last. This is an elegant 92-point rated wine (Vinous).
Read more on Jim Campanini’s wine blog at www.grapefullyyours.live.