Les Vins de Vienne and Pliny the Elder – kosher style

When Nathan Grandjean from Yavine.fr told me that he was making wines from a winery called Les Vins de Vienne I went blank. Come on we all have dreams of Lafite Rothschild or Cheval Blanc being made kosher, but who is Les Vins de Vienne was all I could think of. I wanted to ask him if he meant he was making Austrian wine, but that would have been Vienna, not Vienne, one vowel makes a big difference. In this case, Les Vins de Vienne is a winery in the Rhone region, and they are quite famous for what they have achieved indeed!

Les Vins de Vienne

Pliny the Elder, no not the beer, the Roman author, saw the future and present 2000 years ago in the Rhone Valley. He said that there was a very successful vineyard, during his time, that was near the town of Seyssuel, on the east side of the river, and north of the city called Vienne. he said that the Romans greatly enjoyed the wines, they tasted of tar, and apparently, there were three types of Seyssuel wines called Sotanum, Taburnum, and Heluicum. Well, that answers the Vienne question, but where do the name and story come from?

Well 2000 years after Pliny wrote his statement, winemaker Pierre Gaillard found this successful vineyard, deserted. Sadly, the vineyard was destroyed by Phylloxera some 100 years before Pierre showed up. But remembering what Pliny had said he took samples and found that the makeup of the vineyard was perfect for wine and would indeed be a great location.

The problem though was the AOC (Appellation d’origine contrôlée)! You see, the west side of the river, opposite Seyssuel, in the Rhone, had an appellation, Cote Rotie, but sadly that only covers the western side of the river, not the eastern side, where Pierre was looking to revive Pliny the Great’s vision of old.

So, Pierre called two men he knew and asked if they would join in on making Pliny the Great’s vision a reality? The men he knew of were, Yves Cuilleron and Francois Villard. They were the first to bring the Seyssuel winegrowing area back to life.

They started in 1996 with 10 acres where they planted Syrah along with some Viognier. In 1998 the first wine from Seyssuel came to life and it was called Sotanum in homage to Pliny and the Romans of the past. Then came Taburnum in 2000, a Viognier. Finally, in 2004 the dream of rebuilding Pliny’s vision came into full reality with the release of Heluicum, a second red wine from Seyssuel.

Since then, some 100 acres have been planted in an area that has no official region recognition, yet it humorously it may have some of the greatest recognition of all the wines in the Rhone Valley, with thousands of years of proof that it deserves more love from the AOC! Since 1996, and the 100 acres, Seyssuel has been proving its worth, but as I stated above the AOC is where the money is. Here is a GREAT research post from the folks at GuildSomm on the work and issues with an AOC being bestowed on Seyssuel. Like which AOC would you choose? How long does it take, and who actually bestows the coveted AOC upon regions? A great read!

Growth and Kosher

Well, 21 years after the first vintage was released, the name of the cooperative – Les Vins de Vienne should really be changed to Les Vins de Rhone, because even though they make wines from near Seyssuel, the vast majority of their wines now come from all over the Rhone. They now make more than 460,000 bottles of wine per year, and source their grapes from as north of the Northern Rhone as you can get, which is Seyssuel, to the bottom of the Southern Rhone, namely Cotes-Du-Rhone.

The 2017 vintage was the first one that was made kosher and while I think these are exceedingly young wines, they are very Cali in nature. They seem very ripe and control is really not a requirement from Les Vins de Vienne. Just looking at the wines, you can see they let the fruit speak for themselves. The Crozes-Hermitage was probably the only red wine where the winemakers took action and made the wine with whole clusters, to allow the stems to add tannin, structure, and most importantly green and balancing notes to the very ripe and Cali-like fruit structure of these wines.

The wines can be found on Grandjean’s website, here along with some extra information on the wines. Sadly, they are not sold in stores here in the USA.

My thanks to Nathan Grandjean for sharing his wines for us to taste and for taking the time to try to have dinner with us. The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:

2017 Les Vin de Vienne Condrieu, La Chambee – Score: 92
This wine was 9 months in oak and is 100% Viognier. It may well be the first kosher Condrieu that I have tasted. The nose is beautiful, truly a rich and redolent viognier nose, showing rich and beautiful with rich peach and apricot, followed by rich straw, Heather, and white flowers. The mouth on this wine is rich and layered and lovely, with layers of small yellow plum, dry grass, with sweet clean notes of tart peach with layers of rich tart fruit, with lovely acidity, showing sweet peaches, and sweet fruit in the background. The finish is long and sweet, but well balanced, with rich saline, mineral, with nice balance, sweet fruit, slate, and sweet flowers lingering long.
Chambée refers to a vine-growing technique: when erosion takes place during the springtime, growers push the vine’s soil back into the center of the row. Each section of shoveled soil is called a “chambee”. This tiring practice is still implemented by some
growers. Drink by 2025.

2017 Les Vin de Vienne Syrah – Score: 90
This wine was 9 months in oak and is made of 100% Syrah, and fermented with 30% stems. The nose on this wine is closed but really nice with ripe black and blue fruit with nice earth, with dirt. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is nice, layered, with searing acid, and rich and nice tannin, with blackberry, blueberry, and green notes, garrigue, with smoke galore, charcoal, tobacco, and foliage. The finish is long, green, blue and nice. Drink by 2022.

2017 Les Vin de Vienne Saint Joseph, L’Arzelle – Score: 91
This wine is made up of 100% Syrah from the famed region of Saint-Joseph, another first for kosher wine. The wine was aged in barrels for 16 months and was fermented with 30% stems. The nose on this is richly earthy, with crazy smoked meats, menthol, and garrigue, licorice, lovely blue and black fruit, with rich red fruit, and mineral. The mouth on this medium to full-bodied wine is rich and layered with soft and plush soft tannin and mouthfeel, with blackcurrant, blackberry, with sweet fruit, with elegance, showing blueberry and ripe boysenberry with sweet fruit. The finish is long and sweet and ripe with milk chocolate, and ripe blueberry and tart juicy strawberry lingering long.
L’Arzelle refers to the unusual and diverse terroir of the Saint-Joseph appellation. Originating from the Massif Central, the granite easily decomposes over time. In the local dialect, Arzelle refers to the wearing away of the parent rock. Drink from 2020 until 2027.

2017 Les Vin de Vienne Crozes-Hermitage, Les Palignons – Score: 93
This wine is made up of 100% Syrah from the famed region of Crozes-Hermitage. The wine was aged in barrels for 16 months and was fermented with 100% stems.
The nose on this wine is ripe, with ripe plum, with ripe blue and red fruit, with intense fruit and jammy fruit that gives way to smoke. The mouth on full-bodied wine is crazy ripe but actually nicely balanced, with crazy bitter notes and crazy tannin and garrigue, and green notes from the 100% stems with nice fruit balance, with draping tannin, along with rich mineral and a lovely tactile grip, that really gives way to earth, dirt, mineral, and rich tobacco. The finish is long, green, elegant, and lovely with tannin, bitter notes, and menthol, green notes linger long. Lovely!
Les Palignons refers to damage brought about by wind gusts. Indeed, the Mistral wind blows much stronger in the Crozes-Hermitage. Sometimes extremely violent, it breaks the vineyard poles known as Palignons. Drink from 2020 until 2028.

2017 Les Vin de Vienne Cote Rotie, Les Essartailles – Score: 91
This wine is made up of 100% Syrah from the famed region of Cote-Rotie. The wine was aged in barrels for 16 months and was fermented with 30% stems and yet another first for kosher wine. The wine is super closed upon opening, but with time it opens, to show really ripe fruit, with lovely charcoal, and smoke, that gives way to earth, and smoke, green notes, and garrigue. The mouth on this full bodied wine, with crazy ripe blackberry and hints of blueberry, with dark and milk chocolate, that is wrapped in crazy gripping tannin, that is really ripe, with hints of fig and dark brooding fruit that is super ripe. The finish is long and sweet and dark, with bitter notes balancing the super-ripe fruit.
Essartailles refers to a local vine-growing technique. Growers traditionally cover the vine root-stock with soil to protect the vegetation from winter frost. In the springtime, Essartailles entails restoring the earth to the vineyard row, thereby allowing for the gentle tilling of the parcel. Drink from 2022 until 2030.

Posted on March 19, 2019, in Kosher French Wine, Kosher Red Wine, Kosher White Wine, Kosher Wine, Wine, Wine Tasting and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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