"....humid and heavy, a mist rolls in from the lake, a thick fog spreading with creeping pace through the reeds and grasses under a bright moonlit night; cooled over stone and swamp patches -nearby a fading campfire of slate gray and lavender streams leak skyward against the weighted blanket of midnight to lick the lids of the stars and sigh..."
Over the summer I took up an internship at a wine importer in Brooklyn, New York and since then I've learned a lot about the inner workings of this side of the industry. As one would expect, I've also come across and been privy to tasting many great and unique wines on an almost daily basis. It's just the usual routine in this industry for representatives to open samples for the day or perhaps a bottle was opened out of curiosity, or even because it's the dust coated bottle of a past vintage still haunting the office. Sometimes they're left behind, sometimes they're left for the office over the course of a day or two, and sometimes they're banished to the recycling bin --these are the casualties of wine. More often than not these are the bottles that fly past ones senses as you're only allowed a glimpse to formulate what I feel like takes an hour, two hours, or a day of swiveling and sniffing to get an appropriate impression of a wine. The best I've managed is to sketch in my marble notebook, with pen in hand, the forms, line weights, and atmospherics being picked up and jot down notes on which flavors are represented in what shapes or hues or both. Maybe it's for the better that I miss hoards of wines to catalogue, I mean you can't catch them all otherwise you might loose the mystique, besides practice always helps make a polished product.
Now that I think about the afternoon we tried the Domaine Rivaton "Griouielle," contrasted with many more esoteric or expensive wines, is this idea that I might eventually expect someone to say "well don't more expensive wines give you a more complex or interesting array of impressions." And to that I can easily say that in the end it's really what the wine, with its climate, soil and care, gives you rather than anyone's preconceptions. When we tasted this wine in the office it was rather what one would expect from a warmer climate red composed of Carignan, Syrah, and Grenache -you can certainly taste the weight, warmth, and full bodied fruit. But from what I recall the consensus was more unenthusiastic: not complex enough, too full bodied, or too woodsy but good in the end. When I brought it home with me to taste further (as bottles tend to follow me home) I found it to have breathed at least enough to elicit its more sturdy and satiating aspects.
This is a warm wine, not warm in a spiced sense or a burnt sense, but comforting like the warmth of a campfire, it's unabashed weight pressing into this hinted backbone of minerality. If there was one defining trait I'd give to define this wine it would be this sense of weight over warmth; it's a commanding but pleasing factor like sinking into a hug; it wasn't smothering but absorbing and was followed by full earthen fruit notes coming in at a close second which allowed you to be drawn into the preceding campfire notes, the undertones of burnt meat on stakes, the subtle hints of cinnamon and other spices sprinkled throughout sizzling somewhere just out of direct perception. The Gribouille (meaning doodle or sketch) is a sturdy, full-bodied, comforting, and if nothing else, consistent wine once given some time to be left on it's own.
For the winery, Domaine Rivaton exists in the Southernmost tip of mainland France, in a province at the tip of the Languedoc-Roussillon. The area is interesting for two reasons, one is that the local geography where Domaine Rivaton is situated is at the center of a triangle made between the Pyrenees to the south, the Corbieres Mountains to the north and west and the Mediterranean to the east. In the Agly Valley, where Latour-de-France sits, is a landscape dominated by large amounts of shale, gneiss, and slate even at the elevation of 400 meters (1,312 feet) where the vineyards cling to their windswept perches. In this region their mighty wind is called the Tramontane, it keeps the vines dry after heavy rainfalls and because of the predominate Mediterranean climate, the wines tend to be higher in alcohol, fuller bodied and have a combination of earthy, mineral and ripe fruit flavors. The other reason is that Latour-de-France, upon reaching into the past, which lies just west of Estragel, is directly in the heart of Roussillon, a place once ruled by Spain and still at times called Northern Catalonia. Though much of Catalonia seemed to be in flux between France and Spain, it's of noting that Roussillon was once ruled by Spain via the Kingdom of Majorca, a sort of vassal kingdom of Spain until it was dissolved into the Crown of Aragon. More specifically this area was apart of Catalonia until 1659 when the Treaty of the Pyrenees between Louis XIV of France and Philip IV of Spain ceased the war between the two countries, a war caused by France's involvement in the Thirty Years War. If things had gone differently and Spain retained control, we might be drinking Rossello!
Varietals & Vinification: 80-100yr old vines of 70% Carignan, 15% Syrah, 15% Grenache; works organically and biodynamically; gravity fed slues that run into 15-30 liter concrete tanks where natural yeasts take their time during a 22 day maceration period and then racked again in concrete to rest for one year.
Winemaker: Frederic Rivaton; http://rivaton.vinsnaturels.fr
Importer/Distributor: Savio Soares Selections, Brooklyn, New York
PoP: Savio Soares Selections orphan