I had wanted to add a white Rhône wine to the portfolio when on a visit to the region I found the perfect white Côtes du Rhône – and it was at Domaine des Escaravailles whose red wine from the same Côtes du Rhône sub-region, ‘La Ponce’ Rasteau, I have stocked for a couple of previous vintages. A warning – do not cycle there as I did as the hill up to the Domaine is long and steep – plus you can’t carry much home with you. But the views at the top were well worth it.
Escaravailles is the name for beetles in the local dialect, Occitan, hence the beetle on the label and on the cork of this bottle; it is also said to be a nickname for black-robed monks that used to tend the vineyards in days gone by. This small winery, in the same family since 1953, is situated high up in the Rasteau region.
The wine is produced from local grapes Roussanne (40%), Marsanne (40%) & the balance, Viognier and yet it reminded me of a fabulous white Burgundy; after tasting it I was told by genial winemaker, Gilles Ferran, that he calls it his Burgundy. Often blended in Northern Rhône white wines, Hermitage and Crozes-Hermitage, as well as in Languedoc-Roussillon Roussanne brings acidity and perfume whilst Marsanne gives the wine its body. Viognier adds floral and fruit aromas and flavours.
This 2017 vintage is equally as good as the vintage I tasted then. You will find pear, ripe yellow apples and a touch of acacia honey and nuts. The grapes involved mean that there is perhaps more fruit than a Burgundy but the elegant structure and smooth, rounded, texture are simply sublime. High & steep vineyards on stony chalky soil, lees-ageing and a very short spell in oak during a cool temperature fermentation are partly responsible for the complex flavours. This really was the best white wine I tasted on that trip to the Vaucluse region of Provence.