Les Vignerons D’ Estézargues

Cave Co-op but Make It Natural

 

Quick facts:

Location: the village of Estézargues, Rhone Valley, Southern France

Owner & winemaker: cooperative cellar of 12 local growers, led by Armelle Rouault

Vineyard area: the members cultivate a total of 550 hectares among them

Vineyard management: ¾ is certified organics, the rest converting / sustainable

Soils: pebbles on clay (similar composition to the nearby Chateauneuf-du-Pape)

Main varieties: the Rhone Valley bunchGrenache, Carignan, Mourvedre, Cinsault, Syrah, Grenache Blanc

Annual production (approx.): 2 million bottles

Winemaking: mostly red wines vinified in concrete and stainless steel; the best plots of each grower member are vinified separately. Spontaneous fermentation only, no fining, no filtration, little to no sulfur added at bottling.

 

Fun facts:

  • The co-op cellar was established in 1965 in a small village just 20 mins from the city of Avignon
  • As early as the 1980s, the members led by talented vigneron Jean-Francois Nicq embarked on the path of making quality wines without additives
  • Nowadays, Estézargues is one of the rare cooperatives of this size (if not the only one) whose growers are nearly all certified organic and make wines without any additions, save for the occasional sulfur at bottling
  • Together with their big focus on vinifying many terroirs separately to let them fully shine through (another thing uncommon for co-ops), this brings out wines with an incredible value for money
  • With the arrival of Armelle Rouault (CEO & winemaker) and Anna Tyack (Sales Director) at the helm of the cooperative in early 2021, we’re happy to count Estézargues among the pleasantly growing number of female-led wineries in our book!

 

Jump to wines | Estézargues Website

 

Just some twenty minutes from the famed medieval city of Avignon (Chateauneuf du Pape, anyone?), in an eponymous village, Les Vignerons d’Estézargues operates a very rare kind of co-operative. The caves co-op, as they call them in France, are a traditional and still very important part of the wine landscape, especially in the South, as sharing know-how and the cost of cellar space and equipment brings important synergies to the participating growers. In most cases, the co-ops make conventional wines in large batches and process grapes from many different vineyards together, focusing on quantity and cost-efficiency rather than quality or environmental respect. Les Vignerons D’ Estézargues, on the other hand, is a whole different animal on both accounts. Their unique approach, practically unheard of among cooperatives of this size, is what made Jenny bring these terrific-value wines to the US since the very early years of J&F. 

Estézargues was established in 1965 and, as early as the 1980s, shifted towards natural winemaking thanks to the arrival of Jean-François Nicq, a talented winemaker influenced by the ideas of natural wine legends like Marcel Lapierre. Nicq (now making wine in his own boutique Domaine des Foulards Rouges in Roussillon) put the cave firmly on track towards respectful farming and practically no additives in the cellar. No commercial yeast, no enzymes, no gum arabic, no acidifiers, and also almost no sulfur. “We use a minimal amount of SO2 at bottling if needed, to make sure the wines are safe even when exported overseas, but that’s it,” says Armelle Rouault, Estézargues’ congenial current CEO and winemaker as we chat on Google Meet, the tasting room of Covid-19 times. Funnily enough, the company never felt the need to label themselves as vin naturel (“and we’re not going to start now, all of a sudden,” Armelle adds), but it’s a bit of a trade secret nevertheless: the well-informed patrons of Parisian bars as well as buyers overseas know that choosing an Estézargues label equals no-BS-added honest bottles.

Another feature rather untypical of a coop is Estézargues’ focus on vinifying many of their terroirs separatelya practice promoted by Nicq’s successor Denis Deschamps. Deschamps even had the cuverie doubled in 2018, thus making it possible to showcase the unique personalities of the grower’s best plots even more. These wines proudly bear the name of the particular domaine on their labels (such as Genestas or Grès Saint Vincent), and represent “a great way to valorize the work of each growerwe vinify the wines in almost the same way so it’s really up to the grapes to show what’s in them. And I can’t help but see the personality of each grower in the final wine as well,” Armelle smiles. She’s happy to have both the individual and all-together approach featured in the roughly 20 different cuvées that Estézargues produce every year, as the communal bottles such as Grandes Vignes Blanc or Rouge are a good symbol of the brand’s collective nature. She affectionately calls the community “village gaulois” in a reference to the beloved Asterix & Obélix comics and the fact that most of the original founding families are still members today, with the third generation now in command. 

With such colorful heritage all around, one wonders which shade Armelle hopes to add to the picture herself (besides the modern cellar door that they’re currently developing as one of the projects with the new sales director Anna Tyack). “Fully finishing the conversion towards organicthree quarters of our surface is already certified, and the rest is on the path as well,” she enthuses. The village of Estézargues is located on a sun-drenched windy plateau, quite a bliss for organic viticulture: “As we say here in the South, the mistral is better than one [anti-disease] treatment,” Armelle laughs before drawing a compelling metaphor: “Take breastfeeding, for example: it went out of fashion for a while in favor of formula, but now society has once again accepted the old truth that nature has all the resources. And I love to see the wine world going back to this balance as well.”

 



Domaine Les Genestas: — Back to the top

Estezargues Genestas tech sheet

The name of this vineyard and cuvée comes from the strong presence of Spanish broom plants (Spartium junceum – genet in French), abundant on the site. A single-vineyard with good exposure and a touch of Counoise, an indigenous South-Rhone Valley grape that brings a pleasantly spicy touch to the wine.

Vineyard: 20 to 80 years vines on red clay covered in small stones

Grapes: Grenache 50%, Syrah 30%, Mourvèdre + Counoise  20%

Making of: The wine undergoes a 3-week maceration and is then stored in enamel-lined tanks for 10 months before it is bottled without fining or filtration.

Personality: Ruby red in the glass with a pretty amethyst rim. The nose is redolent with smoky notes of cassis, blackberries, dried orange peel, and sweet spice. The palate is a plush and delectable expression of red and black fruits backed by brambly tannins and the wine finishes with a supple dash of orange zest and black pepper. Perfect with all kinds of grilled things!


Les Grandes Vignes (Red): — Back to the top

Estezargues Grandes Vignes (Red) tech sheet

Estézargues’ flagship red blend that seeks to showcase Cinsault – a traditional Rhone-Valley grape that is often considered only a “blending-material” yet produces very pleasant wines when coming from old vines with tamed yields, as is the case here.

Vineyard: Red clay-based and stone-strewn. Blend of old vines from different member’s properties, the average age of the vines 50 years

Grapes: 100% Cinsault

Making of: 10-15 days maceration at temperatures around 20 degrees Celsius, followed by settling in tanks until next spring. No external yeast and no enzymes are employed during the winemaking process, bottled without fining or filtration.

Tasting Note: Garnet in the glass with shimmering highlights. Elegant notes of smoky red fruit, violet, sweet herb and a note of baking chocolate. The palate is rich with ripe cherry and berry flavors, and a mineral note that is followed by supple acidity and velvety tannins. This is a very expressive red with a great concentration of fruit that is never overly extracted. The wine finishes with floral notes and a dash of black pepper.

Pairing: Works wonders with grilled chicken and pork, cold cuts, or simply by itself.


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Les Grandes Vignes (Rosé) — Back to the top

Les Grandes Vignes (Rosé) tech sheet

Vinification Method: Hand harvested. No external yeast & no enzymes are employed during the winemaking process. The bunches are destemmed and the fruit undergoes fifteen days of maceration. The wine is stored in enamel-lined tanks for 10 months before it is bottled without fining or filtration.


Les Grandes Vignes (White): — Back to the top

Estezargues Grandes Vignes (White) tech sheet

Estézargues’ flagship white blend that seeks to showcase Grenache blanc, the most frequent white grape their members grow.

Vineyard: Red clay-based and stone-strewn. Blend of old vines from different member’s properties, the average age of the vines 50 years

Grapes: Grenache blanc 50%, Roussanne 25%, Clairette + Bourboulenc 25%.

Making of: the grapes are fermented separately, at temperatures around 16 degrees Celsius. Once blended together, the wine spends around 6 months in tanks. No external yeast and no enzymes are employed during the winemaking process, bottled without fining or filtration.

Tasting Note: Pale straw in the glass with shimmering silver highlights. Scents of pear and mellowing yellow apple dominates the nose and are followed by a note of hay and white flowers. The palate is clean and supple with intense flavors of stone fruit and some tropical fruit flavors as well. The wine finishes with notes of dried apricot, white flowers and wet stones.

Pairing: Works beautifully by itself or with chicken, rabbit, & grilled fish dishes.



Grès St Vincent: — Back to the top

Estezargues Gres St. Vincent tech sheet

Vineyard: Red clay covered in small stones on an ancient river terrace in the Signargues (Cotes-du-Rhone-Villages) AOC

Grapes: 60% Grenache, 25% Syrah, 10% Mourvedre, 5% Carignan

Making of: Hand harvested. The wine undergoes a delicate 3-week maceration and is then stored in enamel-lined tanks for 10 months before it is bottled without fining or filtration.

Tasting Note: Nearly black in the glass with a deep purple rim. Scents of black plum, cured green and black olives, orange pulp and smoky bramble dominate the nose. The palate is a deep and luxurious expression of ripe black and red fruit flavors followed by dried meat tones and sweet herbs. This powerful blend is boosted by supple acidity and the wine finishes with subtle tannins. Works beautifully with leg of lamb, grilled venison, wild boar sausages, roasts.


From The Tank: — Back to the top

From the Tank® Red tech sheet

6 x 3L per case

Age of Vines: 20 to 80 years

Pruning Method:

Soil: Red clay based & stone strewn

Varieties: 40% Grenache, 35% Syrah, 15% Carignan

Vinification Method: Hand harvested. No external yeast & no enzymes are employed during the winemaking process. The bunches are destemmed and the fruit undergoes fifteen days of maceration. The wine is stored in enamel-lined tanks, and are bagged and boxed on demand.

Tasting Note: Garnet in the glass with shimmering highlights. Elegant notes of smoky red fruit, violet, sweet herb and a note of baking chocolate. The palate is rich with ripe cherry and berry flavors, and a mineral note that is followed by supple acidity and velvety tannins. This is a very expressive red with a great concentration of fruit that is yet never overly extracted. The wine finishes with floral notes & a dash of black pepper.

Pairing: Works wonders with grilled chicken & pork, cold cuts, or simply by itself.

From the Tank® was born out of the collaboration between François Ecot of Jenny & François Selections and Denis Deschamps of Les Vignerons D’ Estézargues fame. They decided on a blend for the three-liter bag-in-box that would be the exact same quality as what Jenny & François bring to the US in bottles. Each year, the From the Tank® wine fountain is a special blend made just for Jenny & François Selections.
Great for serving by the glass, for parties, picnics, or for people who only want a glass of wine a day. The conservations will last much longer than bottles once they are opened and it is light to carry. The box also has a much smaller carbon footprint than regular wine bottles because of its weight, making it lighter to ship.
www.fromthetank.com