There comes a time in everyone life where you learn certain social conventions such as saying “please” and “thank you”, […]Keep Reading
There comes a time in everyone life where you learn certain social conventions such as saying “please” and “thank you”, eating with your mouth closed, and offering guests a hand and then offering them a drink. In polite circles it is also recommended that you never utter the words, “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 cover 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. His lowest elevation sites, at about 300m 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 very low in part due to the age of the vines, averaging over 40 years old, but also due to the fact that he’s segregated those parts of his vineyards where the yields are naturally higher and these parcels are used for La Source and an occasional rosé. 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