November 26, 2010 Domaine les Aphillanthes
Domaine Les Aphillanthes Cuvée des Trois Cépages
grenache, syrah, mouvèdre (equal parts)
A bottle among friends, in Brake’s Cove, Newfoundland.
Until 1999 Daniel Boulle and his wife Hélène sold their grapes to the local cooperative, as had Daniel’s father before him. With the encouragement of friends they ventured out on their own, founding Domaine les Aphillanthes. The couple hasn’t looked back. High scores from wine critics have helped, but one suspects vigneron Boulle would have made his mark regardless. This is a noteworthy domaine by any standards.
Mention of the Rhône Valley immediately brings to mind the wine icons of Côte-Rotie, Condrieu and Hermitage — all found to the north. The southern Rhône can boast of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, but most other appellations have failed to embed themselves in the collective minds of most wine drinkers. It takes some special domaines to jolt us into an appreciation of the region.
Domaine les Aphillanthes comprises 37 hectares in the town of Travaillan, in southern Rhône, part of the Côtes du Rhône Villages appellation. Boulle’s approach is simply to focus on the quality of the fruit in the vineyards, together with minimal intervention in the winery. Fermentation is in concrete vats; the wine is moved about by gravity feed. No filtration prior to bottling. Boulle’s aim is a true sense of the terroir, wine that deals in the fullness of the land and climate, rather than manipulated into something generic. Well-known Rhône wine consultant Phillippe Cambie has lent an experienced hand.
Since 2003 the estate has followed biodynamic principles. That direction was initiated largely because of the successful treatment of his son’s eczema using natural, homeopathic methods. To Boulle there was a parallel to be made with the biodynamic approach to growing grapes.
Domaine les Aphillanthes is proof that a simple, well-run family operation can lead to exemplary wine. In a region where Chateâuneuf-du-Pape (and to a lesser extent Gigondas and Vacqueyras) receives the bulk of attention, it is pleasing to find standouts among the appellations nearby, and generally selling for considerably less.
Domaine les Aphillanthes Cuvée des Trois Cépages 2005
Bright ink, dark ruby red. Aromatic notes of charred cassis, a lively muskiness. In the mouth colourful and fresh, juicy, a touch of earth. Medium-bodied but intense. Nicely structured, holds together well, its tannins still showing. Strong character development. Full, lingering finish. $