February 4, 2011 Domaine Montirius
Domaine Montirius Vacqueyras Le Clos
grenache (50%), syrah (50%)
Doesn’t it look like they are enjoying themselves? It’s harvest time at Domaine Montirius, in Côtes du Rhône and the appellations of Vacqueyras and Gigondas. Thoughts of warm grape-picking days like these help get us cold-weather wine drinkers get through the winter.
I sense a lot that is positive about this estate. The smiles seem genuine. I sense a family atmosphere that works for the common good, that produces wines with character, an honest reflection of the earth beneath their feet.
Domaine Montirius Vacqueyras Le Clos 2005
Deep and dark, terroir rich. There is the lure of red and black fruits, balanced by a solid tannic structure. It speaks of wild herbal scrub, a mineral presence adding to its earthly good sense. It has a natural, non-interventionalist feel, emerging vibrant through centuries-old methods of vinification. It tastes like it can be trusted. $
Domaine Montirius on the Plateau des Garrigues is the working home of Eric and Christine Saurel, and their three children, from whose names — Manon, Justine, and Marius — the domaine name is derived. This is the fifth generation of the Saurel family to be winemakers on this site in the southern Rhône.
Eric’s grandfather was instrumental in the development of the Vacqueyras co-operative in the early part of the 20th century, and until 2002 the family was an important member. In that year Eric and Christine withdrew to market the domaine’s wine independently, at the same time constructing a brand new three-level, gravity-fed cellar on a hillside next to the family home.
The uppermost level of the cellar receives the newly harvested grapes, where they are then crushed. In the two levels below are 18 large (150 hl) concrete vats, enough to hold the entire harvest. Also to be found here are an equal number of generally smaller, maturing vats. No oak barrels in sight.
The domaine has been biodynamic since 1999, and the Saurels are strong proponents of this approach, for many reasons, not the least of which is the health of their family and of the domaine’s workers.
The Vacqueyras “Le Clos” originates in a special parcel of 8.5 hectares quite near the family home. On each side are 11 hectares of 100-year-old oak trees. They help create a microclimate unique to the domaine. The soil is a mix of different type clays, including a fair proportion of the dense and much prized mormorillonite (also noteworthy in the soils of Petrus). From this Domaine Montirius site each year come just 2,500 cases of the wine.
One bottle of which has made it to my kitchen, where steam is rising from a beef and carrot stew, what Dorie Greenspan calls (in my new favourite cookbook “Around My French Table”) a beef “daube”. A great pairing, a delightful way to bring warmth into winter.