Suzette, Beaumes-de-Venise (Côtes du Rhône)
May 9th 2005, a small group of winemakers named "Les Toqués des Dentelles" gathered near the Champs Elysées at the "Maison de L'Aubrac", rue Marbeuf for a tasting event . The group's name refers to the Dentelles de Montmirail, a scenic mountain ridge in the cotes du Rhone region . The group is made up of winemakers from nearby the Dentelles ( from Cairanne, Seguret, Gigondas, Beaumes de Venise, Vinsobres and other small appellations ) who share the philosophy of making true wines, respectful of nature and soils . To say it shortly, this is where we met Guy Jullien , the owner and winemaker of the Domaine de la Ferme Saint Martin . The winery was founded in 1964 by his father . Actually , the estate was bought in 1955, and gradually replanted ( especially after the historic freeze of jan 1956 ) until the chai was built in 1964 .
The Domaine is one of the 15 estates of the Beaumes de Venise appellation zone, named from the village sitting under the "Dentelles de Montmirail" scenic mountains . This tiny wine region is part of the southern Cotes du Rhone, east of the cities of Orange and Chateauneuf du Pape .
We arrived in the region in the mid-afternoon, set up our tent in a campsite near Caromb, a village nearby, and drove the mountain road to Suzette, near where the winery is located . Great view on the region from the estate's grounds . Guy Jullien greets us and we spend a few minutes together looking at the villages, mountains and vineyards .
22 hectare vineyard , in several plots scattered on three locations, at an altitude from 200 m to 600 m . . The winery-cum-house is at alt 400 m . Vineyard exposition is south, south-east, and some south-west .
Among the 22 hectares, 15 are in Beaumes de Venise ( mostly red, but 1 is in dry white ), 5 in Cotes du Ventoux ( red and a little of rosé ), and 2 in Cotes du Rhone . He drives us in his van to a vineyard plot located in Le Barroux, a couple of km away . At the end of a bumpy dirt track , we reach the "Clos des Estaillades" . Yellow earth : Limestone in clay ; very poor soil, named Trias by geologists . This very old soil was compressed 240 million years ago . The plot is a one-piece 2,5 hectare vineyard in the middle of the Provence Guarrigue, a mix of woods and bushes . App. zone here is Cotes du Ventoux . mostly Grenache here , with 0,5 hectare of Mourvèdre . Veraison , the stage when different grape colours appear on the clusters, is visible ( this is the 2nd week of august ) now . The vineyard is terraced here, they call terraces "banquettes" in the region . Organic viticulture in the estate . Natural vegatation in the hedges and woods around the plot are important in this regard . Part of the plot is 35 years old . We walk past young (4 years) Mourvèdre vines with high wires . Looking at the shoot ends, he says they look like they are drying, as the past months have been very dry . The vineyard is thirsty this year .
We drive to another plot . Back near Suzette, plot planted with mostly old (1910) Grenache in Beaumes de Venise zone . Bought in 1968 . The rows are irregular, as in the past it was common to plant fruit trees here and there in the vineyard . Also, complantation was common at this time, with different grape varieties on the same plot : Cinsault, Clairette, Grenache...
A third location now : we drive to the Saint Amand plot ( in Cotes du Rhone zone ) . Gravelly soil, with marly clay debris . Tied-up Syrah, here, with its longer clusters . This plot, wich lies at an altitude of 600 m, offers great views on the Dentelles de Montmirail and its jagged ridge . Good acidity on this vineyard, he says, because of the cool nights . Yields will be lower than usual this year : 30, 32, maybe 35 hectoliter/hectare, instead of 42 ho/ha usually . About the harvest in the estate : Begins sept 15 with a dozen people . Sorting table and de-stemmer outside the chai .
To the chai, now :
The vathouse . Syrah goes into vats for an easier work on the cap . Grenache goes into cement vats ( recently equiped with temp-control ), with pumping-over . the 2004 wine is in there, at 16 ° C, it will be bottled early september . The cask cellar next door was part of an old chapel wich stood there long time ago . 14 1/2 muids barriques lie on the ground . Mostly Syrah, he says, including the "Les Estaillades" cuvée in one of them .
__1 White . Domaine de la Ferme Saint Martin, Fleur du Terroir 2004 . Cotes du Rhone . On the Beaumes de Venise zone . 13° . Clairette and Roussanne . Lively nose . Great with the foie gras toasts . Nice clear golden colour . Roussanne brings the fleshy side in the blend . Clairette has a more green and dry side.
__3 Red . Domaine de la Ferme Saint Martin, Clos des Estaillades 2003, Cotes du Ventoux . 13,5° . Almost 100% Grenache here . eucalyptus notes . Also some mint . Guarrigue aromas . No external yeasts in the estate , and this plot being surrounded by guarrigue and woods may translate in these aromas . Speaking about the "Gérine" plot he bought recently, and wich was in "traditional" ( with use of chemicals ) viticulture before, he says that when he first vinified in 2004, he tried to do like he always does, let the juice work on its indigenous yeasts . It did ferment, but after several days, he noticed strange aromas . Volatile acidity after 3-4 days was equivalent to 3 weeks'...He brought samples to the lab : There was no good yeasts at all in there . He resorted to sulphate and make exceptionally a "traditional" yeasting for it . He says this plot will need 2 to 3 years until it regenerates enough ( with an organic viticulture work ) to get along without additional yeasts .
__5 Red. Domaine de la Ferme Saint Martin, Cuvée Saint Martin 2003 . Beaumes de venise . 70% Grenache 30% Syrah . From the Syrah plot planted in 1910 . The soil is diverse in this plot . Nose : Fruit . Liquorice . Spicy . Eucalyptus again . 14° . Nice legs in the glass , wich shows the beautiful viscosity brought by glycerol . Great wine... 10% in wood for this millesime . He says he is very careful with the wine and the wood, so as not to mark too much the wine with woody notes . [ See picture with the bread and the gratin ]
__6 Red . Domaine de la Ferme Saint Martin, "Costanci" 2001, Beaumes de Venise . The name refers to a piece of stone with latin words engraved on it . When they found it on the estate grounds , they first deciphered "Costanci" , until they found out later the "a" at the bottom of the line, making it "costancia", probably from the name of a woman that lived here . 70%-80% of this cuvée matured in wood . Very different soil . The former wines were on trias . This one on marly clay . Different aromas' range . 50% Syrah-Grenache . 13,5° . Well balanced . More austere too . Syrah matured in 1/2 muids barriques, the discreet wood of wich refined the tannins . Delicate . Nice texture in the mouth . this wine can lay down a few years . He's been making this cuvée for a few years . 1999 was one of the best .
__7 Red . Domaine de la Ferme Saint Martin "Cuvée saint Martin " 1998 , Beaumes de Venise . 13,5° . Ample nose . Powerful in the mouth . Opulent . Stretches out well , B. says . Very little wood for this cuvée in 1998 . With this wine , we eat another delicacy : Great small peaches ( picked on a tree along the road going to the estate ) cooked in the oven with spices and cinnamon ....
Some export : U.S. : Louis Dressner selections ( N.Y.) . Japan : Oeno Connection (Tokyo- website in japanese).
Guy Jullien -- Domaine de la Ferme Saint Martin 84190 Suzette .
Phone 33 (0)4 90 62 96 40
Fax 33 (0)4 90 62 90 84