Trevallon Rouge – Organic with Biodynamic and Natural Practices
Domaine Trévallon Rouge is a rare wine from an iconic producer in southern France
Trévallon Rouge always has similarities in structure and finesse to the finer wines of the Médoc while holding resonance with the dense, dark wines of the Northern Rhône. Rich and exuberant red and black fruit vie for attention through the front of the palate.
A distinctive white pepper lifts the mid-palate before a focussed, linear finish. This wine is refreshing and appealing now, but will surely benefit from a further two years in the cellar and can be enjoyed over the following ten to twenty.
Situated on the edge of the Alpilles between Avignon and Arles, Domaine Trévallon is one of the south of France’s best-known estates, with a reputation for naturally made wines that have long aging potential. Back in 1973, 23-year-old architect graduate Eloi Durrbach headed south with a vision for making fine wine naturally from an uncompromising terroir of craggy limestone rock that characterize the Alpilles.
Over the next three years, 38 acres of Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon were planted; subsequently, a bit of Marsanne and Roussanne (from Beaucastel) were added to make white wine. The first Trévallon wines were made in 1976. The Durrbach family plows to encourage the roots of the vines to plunge deeper into the soil for water and nutrients, and they believe in pruning short, which not only reduces the yields but extends the life of the plant by 20 to 50 years.
Towering above the picturesque villages of Saint Rémy-de-Provence and Les Baux de Provence, the wind-swept Alpilles mountains, with their carved, tooth-like peaks, form a solid barrier between the Camargue to the south and Avignon to the north. Tucked at the bottom of this rock wall are a few estates enveloped in this serene beauty of Provence of which one, Domaine de Trévallon, is by far the most famous and is the paradoxical standard bearer for the region.
Paradoxical, because the civil servants who control the AOC in the region could find nothing better to do with this fine estate but to exclude it from the Les Baux de Provence appellation because of the elevated percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon planted in its vineyards. There is no person that has done more to elevate the quality and prestige of the wines around Les Baux than Eloi Dürrbach who began planting vines at the base of this mountain, in the three “valleys” (from whence the estate gets its name) in 1973.
He chose to plant Syrah, because of the northern exposure of his vineyards and Cabernet Sauvignon due to the high level of chalk in the soil. The 50/50 blend has turned out to be the perfect balance between the wild qualities the Mediterranean basin and the structure of a more northern climate. The wines pick up the aromatics of the pine trees and garrigue which surround the vineyard which are supported by a backbone of ripe tannins coated with a velvety texture.
The wines begin to show their charm after five years in the bottle and will then age gracefully for 15-25 years depending on the vintage, rivaling the finest from the northern Rhône or Bordeaux. Winemaking here is as natural as it comes. There’s no destemming, with bunches being fermented whole, without any added yeast, and without temperature control. After a two-week maceration the wines are pressed into old oak where they mature for 20–25 months before being bottled unfiltered. Since their origin, the vineyards have been managed organically. The wines are all designated Vin de Pays des Bouches du Rhône because they exceed the permitted level of Cabernet Sauvignon for the AOC here (Les Baux de Provence; the INAO made this controversial ruling in 1993, which led to Trevallon losing is AOC status). There’s no reason to suspect that the lovely reds shouldn’t age well for decades, unlike many of the other, more obviously sweetly fruited and more approachable new-wave Southern French wines.