There comes a time in everyone’s life where you learn certain social conventions such as saying “please” and “thank you,” […]Keep Reading
There comes a time in everyone’s life where you learn certain social conventions such as saying “please” and “thank you,” eating with your mouth closed, offering guests a hand, and then offering them a drink. It is also recommended that you never utter the words in polite circles, “I told you so.” Sometimes it is too difficult to resist, however, and in the case of Philippe Gimmel… well, don’t make us say it.
The first time we tasted with Philippe, we knew we were tasting some of the most thrilling wines being made in the Ventoux, if not the entire Rhone valley but what is truly remarkable is that over the last decade, they’ve only gotten better. An impressive resume including stints at Chateau Beaucastel, Pierre-Bise, Domaine la Janasse, and Chateau Deves only hinted at Philippe’s energy, drive, and potential, all of which came to fruition when he founded St Jean du Barroux in 2003.
Located near the ancient fortified town of Barroux, Philippe started with a few hectares and no cellar. When he saved enough to build a small cellar, it also served as his home – every personal comfort was sacrificed for his vineyards and wines. Philippe’s estate now covers just over sixteen hectares, four of which are scrub forest and orchard. Situated in the valley between the lower slopes of Mont Ventoux and the Dentelles de Montmirail, the vines Philippe farms are grown on three unique terroirs, all eroded from the ancient bedrock of the region. At about 300m, his lowest elevation sites are on a fine sandy clay soil where he grows Grenache Blanc, Bourboulenc, and Clairette. As you proceed up the slope to around 400m above sea level, the soils become coarser and stonier. Here there is a distinct fault line where the gravels change from various earth tones to black. On the lighter-colored soils, Philippe grows Grenache, Syrah, Carignan, and Cinsault, while on the darker soils, he grows only Syrah and Grenache. Philippe’s yields are meager in part due to the vines’ age, averaging over 40 years old, and due to his strict approach to organic farming. Both L’Argile and La Pierre Noire come from parcels where the yields are about 20hl/ha.
The vineyard work at St Jean du Barroux is humbly grounded in the concept that the vigneron is a caretaker of the land and its terroir. The farming is organic, with biodynamic practices, cover crops of natural plants are encouraged, work is done mainly by hand, and the surrounding ecosystem is protected and nurtured. More often than not, the vineyards look more like gardens than a working farm. Harvesting is manual, often conducted in several passes through the vineyards to ensure that only the best grapes reach the recently built but modest cellar. Once there, the fruit is destemmed, fermented by indigenous yeasts, and aged in concrete tank for two years for the L’Argile and three for La Pierre Noire. A portion of the blanc, La Montagne, is aged in neutral French oak barrels.Close