Gerard Dauvergne is a vigneron in Provence who has been farming his vineyard the organic way for 13 years (officially certified since 2000). During the first 10 years he sold his grapes to la Roquière, the Coopérative of the village (La Roquebrussanne, Var) which was not vinifying them separately and mixed them with the conventional ones. As his hard work was not rewarded by a recognition which would open the way to the creation of an organic section in the Coop, he left the group and set up his own winery three years ago between La Roquebrussanne and Garéoult, making wine out of his 12-hectare vineyard at the foot of the Loube mountains. His wines, along the ones from La Rose des Vents, make a good name of this central-Var village. With just three cuvées (plus a white beginning next year), Gerard Dauvergne makes honest wines (mostly rosé, and some red) that reflect the terroir.
The vigneron has also another front to face : the administration. He says that 17 different administrative entities control the vigneron, sending him 27 different administrative documents per year to fill and send back to the French administrations. But when he says 27 different documents, don't think that it means there will be only 27 documents to fill in a year, as some of these 27 have to be filled every month, some 3-4 times a year, some more... Altogether, that makes a bit less than 100 documents a year to handle. Filling the data and sending back the imprimés (administrative documents) to the control body takes a lot of time, and the maze of administrations who send this Kafkaian paperload have no idea what it means on the vigneron's side. It is the same amount of time-consuming job for a big winery or for a very small one, but the big wineries have accountants to do that when the very small wineries don't (Philippe Pacalet told me about the same thing several years ago). The irony for example is that he could have hired a part time worker in the vineyard this year but had to spend this money to pay a part time secretary just to do this administrative work... He adds that the documents sent by two different administrations (for example the DGCCRF and the Douanes) are sometimes contradictory to each other, so the vigneron has to fill them without making this contradiction too obvious. Fingerpointing this contradiction problem to the respective administrations would lead nowhere and bring even more trouble. And the rules keep changing, the administration asking for example informations that the vigneron doesn't necessarily knows when he has to fill the document : for instance, he has to list with precision the cuvées that he will make the following year (august 1st to july 31st of the following year). If a given cuvée hasn't been beforehand registered at this administration, he can't add it in the middle of the year. How do you want to work like that ??? A cuvée is sometimes created during the elevage of the wines, for example when after tasting repeatedly a certain vat, you decide that it will make a better wine in a separate cuvée than blended with the rest. But the French administration hasn't of course a clue how wine is made...
Back to the natural-versus-additives debate, in front of such awakening discovery, we must know more about the vintners' ethic, about how they work and how they feel, because if color may be adjusted, it usually doesn't stop there and it's the whole wine which is forcefully changed to fit a desired commercial format, its taste owing more to the labs than to the grapes. A natural wine may not have always the perfect color, it may have some reduction notes at the opening of the bottle but beyond all that it's alive and so beautiful, it conveys a magic that lacks utterly to the others.
For the rosé, the grapes go straight in the destemmer and then in the press and in a vat for the racking of the must. If the grapes stay some 6 hours macerating in the press, the actual press time lasts 2 hours and a half. He doesn't press the grapes to the maximum, a drawback of pressing to the max is that you get a darker color. Getting these 2%-3% volume of remaining juice isn't worth the consequences, especially that he doesn't doctor the color of his rosé. The vinification temerature is 17°C for the rosé (with a maximum of 20°C). That's why, he says, it's important to use external yeasts because at this temperature, not any yeast would be able to do the job. There isn't any malolactic fermentation done in the rosé. Speaking of SO2, he uses 98 mg/liter for the rosé while in the coops it's 200mg/liter, and the projected organic rules will be 120mg/liter.
He makes a cuvée of rosé with Grenache & Syrah and another with Grenache & Cinsault. The one made with syrah, he says, has a stronger body and is less supple, it doesn't taste like the typical rosés of Provence which are at the same time fresh and rich. Syrah will help make a rosé more corsé, more robust. It will be the wine to eat with, it can easily replace a red on the table. Syrah is a fragile variety and the yields are low. The vines younger than 10 years don't have deep-enough roots and are withering in this climate. Asked about the rate of esca-stricken vines, he says that he hasn't much casualty. he adds that esca is partly caused by high yields.
For reds, he partly destems the grapes. Some years, he may destem more if there's a risk of herbaceous notes. The fermentation is done at temperatures between 22°C and 28°C. The malolactic fermentation comes later. The SO2 for reds : the rules (in discussion right now) for the organic wineries will probably set at 100mg/liter and his own dosage is 46mg/liter, so well below. What is still discussed for the organic wineries is the fact to allow or not the use of arabic gum. He says that arabic gum can help on certain vintages like 2009, where the Cabernet and the Syrah have been subjected to lots of stress which translates into hard wines. Arabic gum makes these wines rounder. He considers that unlike other additives, arabic gum is natural and has its place during the vinification, even if it's not systemically used.
__Domaine le Reire Rosé 2008, Cinsault-Grenache. Cuvée de la Manon. Nice pale rosé (it really desserves its color note here). Good balance. 6,5 euro. Very little SO2 he says, so no headache. Two years ago he pressed this rosé directly without maceration, the two variety being blended together, sort of, in the harvesting machine itself. There was actually some Syrah grapes too, so the rosé had enough color in spite of the short contact. His enologist was very worried, saying that it was not the right way to do. So in 2008 (that's the wine we're tasting now) he came back to the normal way, that is separate harvest, maceration and press, and he got a wine at the en that had a bit less aromas than the previous year. Next year, he'll not listen to the enologist and do a direct-press again with Grenache and Cinsault harvested together...
__Domaine le Reire Rosé 2008 Cuvée Domaine, Syrah-Grenache. The nose is more intense here. 5 Euro.
__Domaine le Reire Rouge (red) 2008. Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah. Dark red wine. Clove notes. Nice fruity wine. 5,5 Euro