We realise we’ve been talking a lot over the last couple of months about our ‘homes’ and especially our place in the Rhône Valley, without ever really telling the story of how that came to be, what it’s about, or why you should actually care. It’s time to put that right and spill the beans on Domaine Boutinot.
Eric Monnin knows the Southern Rhône Valley well: he is, after all, head winemaker at Boutinot who have been involved in winemaking there for over 30 years. However, in 2009 Eric saw something special; standing in the vineyard of La Pauline, overlooking the village Cairanne, he realised the potential for making truly amazing wine from this exceptional (but previously unloved) plot. When, in May the following year, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity arose to purchase the vineyard and a working cellar in Cairanne, it was an easy decision for Boutinot to make. The dream of a winemaking home in a region whose wines, culture and people we had grown to love became a reality.
Don’t be fooled though into thinking that this was one of those mushy, heart-warming decisions, based purely on a ‘feel good’ factor. The idea of a winemaking ‘home’ in Cairanne actually fits perfectly with Boutinot’s long-held tradition of seeking out and championing ‘left-field’ wines – those from upcoming regions with plenty of potential, all of the quality and much better value than their more famous neighbours.
Over the last nine years, plenty has changed at Domaine Boutinot: we’ve planted new vineyards, expanded the winery and barrel cellar, experimented with new blends and new concepts – all in all it’s been rather exciting! But one thing that hasn’t changed is our commitment to traditional winemaking practices – long cuvaisons using only naturally-occurring yeasts, and the grueling process of manual pigeage (punch downs) and remontage (pump overs) – all of which enable the production of complex and interesting wines.
Eric has now handed the winemaking reins to Julien Dugas who, with a select few of our vigneron neighbours, works year-round to produce wines of the highest quality from classic Rhône varieties – old-vine Grenache Noir and Mourvèdre – as well as reviving more traditional varieties such as Carignan, Cinsault and Counoise. The guiding principles of ‘letting the wine decide’, ‘nursing’ and ‘encouraging’ the wine to do the right thing, but with a commitment to minimal intervention, all of which takes an immense level of winemaking skill, is what has been at the heart of the team’s mission over the last eight years. That hard work pays dividends though; Domaine Boutinot’s wines are highly-commended by major international wine reviewers including Decanter, IWSC, Wine Spectator and Vinous.
Enough about us though, here’s the wine:
Boutinot Rhône ‘Les Cerisiers’, Côtes du Rhône Rosé
Intent on producing the very best Côtes du Rhône Rosé winemaker Julien Dugas works with growers south of Tavel and around Valréas to source varieties naturally suited to rosé – Grenache Noir for body, Cinsault for freshness and a drop of Syrah for a touch of spice. To maintain the delicate style ‘Les Cerisiers’ is vinified using the ‘rosé de presse’ method as soon as the grapes are picked, and vinified at cool temperatures to preserve the delicate aromas and flavours of this elegant, gastronomic rosé.
Boutinot Rhône ‘Les Coteaux’ Côtes du Rhône Villages
Côtes du Rhône Villages can sometimes be an afterthought after making a Cru or Village wine – not so with ‘Les Coteaux’; Grenache Noir and Syrah are expressly sourced from some of the best village vineyards within the Côtes du Rhône Villages. ‘Les Coteaux’ is mostly unoaked; a fifth of the blend, sourced from Séguret and Cairanne, is aged for 22 months in a nursery of barrels of varying age and size to bring depth and subtle complex notes to this wine, which punches well above its weight.
Boutinot Rhône ‘Les Six’, Cairanne AOC
Initially conceived by Boutinot’s Eric Monnin, 2016 is the sixth vintage of ‘Les Six’, and the second to be released under the recently created cru Cairanne AOC. Quite exceptionally for a Cairanne, ‘Les Six’ is always made from six hand-picked varieties – the classic ‘GSM’ together with ancient Carignan Noir, Counoise and Cinsault. ‘Les Six’ requires ultimate skill and patience in the cellar, fermented in varietal pairs by naturally occurring yeasts in open-topped tronconiques and matured for less than a year in the same 6,000l oak tanks before a small bottling at the cellar in Cairanne.
Boutinot Rhône ‘La Côte Sauvage’, Cairanne Côtes du Rhône Villages
‘La Côte Sauvage’ retains complexity due to the famous ‘argilo-calcaire’ (limestone pebbles over clay) found in Domaine Boutinot’s higher vineyards. Old vine Grenache Noir, Syrah, Mourvèdre and Carignan Noir are vinified using traditional methods – natural yeasts, manual remontage and pigeage – then gently matured for up to 22 months in a combination of 228l and 600l French oak barrels. As would be expected of an estate sourced (and now Cairanne cru classified) and long-matured wine, supplies of ‘La Côte Sauvage’ are finite.
Boutinot Rhône Cairanne ‘Sans Artifices’, Cairanne AOC
A blend of Mourvèdre (90%) and Grenache Noir (10%) sourced from Boutinot’s domaine vineyards which, blessed by a combination of cleansing winds and strong sunshine, are managed as naturally as possible and produce exceptional fruit. Fermented only with the wild yeasts present on the grape skins, vinified traditionally in tronconiques (large oak vats) ‘Sans Artifices’ is, as the name suggests, made in the most natural way possible with no added sulphites in the finished wine.