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IMG_1274Updated on October 1, 2009 with notes on the Escaravailles Côtes du Rhône Le Ponce Blanc 2008.

Domaine des Escaravailles belongs to the Ferran family for three generations. It was brought by Gilles Ferran’s Grandfather, Jean-Louis Ferran in 1953. He called his new estate “Escaravailles,” the Occitan word for beetles and nickname for the black-robed monks of the area’s hill-perched Catholic monasteries in centuries past.

The great advantage of the Escaravailles’ terroir is being located at a high altitude (820 feet above sea level) with steep slopes. These conditions are fundamental for the quality of the wine as the slope facilitates drainage and exposure, the clay subsoil preserves some water and the altitude provides an important range in temperatures between the day and the night.

The winery spreads out over 99 acres on Rasteau and 62 acres on Cairanne, Villedieu and Saint Roman. The use of chemicals is minimal and the soils are worked mechanically all year round. Harvest is done manually with two sortings (one the vine and the other upon delivery to the cellar). The grapes are totally destemmed, vinifiyed and aged in a cellar semi underground situated on the heights of Rasteau. Annual production is currently 300,000 bottles / 25,000 cases.

Up until the late 1990s, Escaravailles was considered good, but not great. In 1999, Gilles Ferran took control of the estate. Gilles is an educated enologist from Montpellier and had assisted his father for 10 years. Gilles Ferran is the 3th generation at the domain. At the wine university, he was classmates with Philippe Cambie (Clos St. Jean, Clos du Caillou, Pegau, countless others).

When he took control, Ferran enlisted the services of the Cambie to help craft the wines and the results have been immediate and superb. Cambie directed them to drop fruit,  limit yields, get the Grenache plants into balance and wait to harvest until ripeness is optimal regardless of the risk. Ferran took Cambie for his word and followed each suggestion, but on occasion challenged Cambie. Eventually, the relationship grew into one of Cambie’s closest, with each friend pushing the other. The results of this partnership are undeniable. Robert Parker raved about the ’06s from Escaravailles, citing them in his “World’s Greatest Wine Values.” The 2007s might be even better.

Escaravailles Côtes du Rhône Cuvée Les Sablieres 2007
One example of the results, a terrific Côtes du Rhône called “Les Sablieres.” This is a blend of 70% Grenache (40 years old), 30% Syrah (30 years old). The Grenache and Syrah are vinified in separate cement tanks. The Grenache really shines with beautiful and bright cherry, raspberry, strawberry with some earthniness and pepper on the palate. Ripe, but not overdone and medium bodied. Textured, focused and intense, but also extremely well balanced.

It is a great value and a really beautiful bottle of wine. You could told me this cost twice as much and I would not have been surprised or disappointed. Certainly one my favorites of the 07 Côtes du Rhônes I have tasted this year.

This was only $12 a bottle at Wine Exchange. 14% alcohol. I thought this was tremendous at the price point and strongly recommended.

Escaravailles Côtes du Rhône Les Antimagnes 2007
The Les Antimagnes is also an amazing value, priced at about $14-$15 a bottle. It is a blend of 70% Grenache (60 years old), 30% Syrah (30 years old). The Grenache and Syrah are vinified in separate cement tanks.

Similar to the Les Sablieres, it showcases the Grenache component. On the nose, ripe raspberry, kirsch with a touch of bubble gum and licorice. On the palate, loaded with dark red fruit — black cherry, raspberry and blackberry with some meaty notes, earthiness and pepper. This is a bigger wine and weighs in at 15% alcohol.  I thought the Les Sablieres showed a bit more restraint, was more food friendly and had better balance. That being said, this is another very good value and also recommended.

Escaravailles Côtes du Rhône Le Ponce Blanc 2008
This wine is a blend of 40% Rousanne, 40% Marsanne, 10% Grenache and 10% Clairette. I was excited about the blend also considering my experience with their other wines from Escaravailles. This is another solid effort. Aromatics of stone fruit, green apple, stone fruit and some floral components. On the palate, pear and apple with some lingering tangerine and pineapple. Crisp and rich, but perhaps a bit hollow in the mid-palate.

I didn’t feel the need to run out and buy more of this (like I was with the the Cuvée Les Sablieres) but I won’t hesitate to open another bottle. An enjoyable and food-friendly bottle of wine, not to mention a great value at $13-14.

The wines are imported by Jeff Welburn Selections.

Favorite Côtes du Rhônes 2007
Domaine Gramenon Sierra du Sud
Domaine Gramenon La Sagesse Côtes du Rhône
Domaine Gramenon Les Laurentides Côtes du Rhône
Les Aphillanthes Côtes du Rhône
Domaine Alary Cairanne La Font d’Estevenas
Domaine Richaud Côtes du Rhône-Villages-Cairanne
Domaine Richaud Côtes du Rhône Terres de Galets
Escaravailles Côtes du Rhône

Other Côtes du Rhônes from the 07 vintage:
Côtes du Rhône Maxime-François Laurent Il Fait Soif 2007
Domaine Depeyre Côtes du Roussillon Villages 2007
Saint Cosme Côtes du Rhône Blanc 2007
Guigal Côtes du Rhône Blanc 2007

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