A good, long drive from the Pierres Dorées to Orange for an after-dark arrival at Domaine de la Berthete marked this leg of the trip. Upon stepping out of the Disco Bus, we were all nearly knocked off of our feet by the bone-chilling Mistral winds. Probably about 35℉ with winds gusting at about 40MPH here this evening (which probably only seems unbearable after an afternoon of napping in a van).

Pascal Maillet explaining his winemaking methods.


 

Here, winemaker/owner of Domaine de la Berthete, Pascal Maillet, graciously gave us a tour of the vinification area adjacent to his home. Maillet practices as close to organic (technically “sustainable”) as possible in his vineyards planted to Grenache, Syrah, Carignan, Cinsault, Grenache Blanc, and Bourboulenc. His vines are planted in Côtes du Rhône, Côtes du Rhône Villages, and Principauté d’Orange and average over 30 years of age. Red wines are fermented in the large (60hL) stainless steel tanks seen above and whites in stainless steel and fiberglass tanks. Some of the reds then see up to a year in new French oak barrels. 

 

A cute display of the wines in the tiny tasting room at Domaine de la Berthete.


From here, we escaped the chill stepping into the tasting room adjacent to the winery offices. The tasting included three 2012 barrel samples (including Maillet’s first Châteauneuf du Pape bottling from a friend’s one-acre parcel) as well as a makeshift approximation of the 2012 “Sensation” red blend.

The rosé is a blend of, predominately, Cinsault, with Grenache and Carignan making up the balance. It is made in the Saignée method, which is, essentially, a bleed of the first gentle press of the grapes that will become red wine. However, this wine is a carefully constructed blend of the juice from those pressings rather than the afterthought that is frequently the case with such wines. The resultant wine is gentle, Provençal-style, pale salmon-colored with a a faint violet cast showing strawberry and peach on the palate with a soft, mouth-filling texture.

The Côtes du Rhône (normale) shows rich, dark wildberry fruit and licorice more or less belies the simple stainless steel vinification and aging. This will be a great little everyday wine when ready.

The Côtes du Rhône Villages (Plan de Dieu) will be a lovely wee beastie when bottled. Deep red with violet edges, this wine is carried by very ripe blackberry, a lively acid streak cutting through a velvet-soft mouthfeel, and a long licorice-tinged finish.

The 200 case-production Châteauneuf du Pape bottling will be a fine showing after about six more months in barrel and some time to settle in bottle. Translucent garnet with blueish edges; currently a very closed nose; palate of rich, floral wildberries.

 

The “Sensation” blend is a proprietary label for Bouurgeois Family Selections. It is comprised of all of the red varieties planted by Maillet in the Côtes du Rhône Villages region, aged up to 12 months in new French oak barrels, and then blended with up to 15% of the prior vintage’s wine. This makes for a rich, soft and ready-to-drink wine. Our tasting sample of this wine was approximated on the fly by Mr. Maillet in a graduated flask. Ultimately, this should end up a well-structured wine with a richness and oak-spice influence built for the American palate. I currently carry the 2011 in the store and it is one of our best-selling Rhône wines.

Upon conclusion of the tasting our group was invited into the Maillet’s beautiful home for a lovingly prepared home-cooked meal (highlighted by lentil soup with foie gras, and a ridiculous cheese plate). The welcoming nature and generosity of the family will not be forgotten. These are lovely people making wonderfully approachable wines priced for all to enjoy. 

We made our way back to the hotel in Orange with a quick stop to see the Arc de Triomphe d’Orange. Regrettably, I was too exhausted to make a trek to the brilliant-looking Roman amphitheater in Orange the following morning. Next time .