21 Oct Domaine des Escaravailles

Gilles Ferran
Domaine des Escaravailles

Rasteau and Cairanne

escaravailles_labelIn 1953, Jean-Louis Ferran purchased several well-situated hillside parcels above the southern Rhône villages of Rasteau, Roaix and Cairanne. He dubbed his new domaine “Escaravailles,” the Occitan word for beetles (scarabs). This was a nickname for the black-robed monks who toiled in the vineyards and fields of these hills during the Middle Ages.

Jean-Louis’ grandson Gilles assumed control of the domaine in 1999 after working alongside his father, Daniel Ferran, for several vintages. Gilles graduated first in his class from the University of Montpellier’s prestigious enology school and now works closely at Escaravailles with his good friend and respected southern Rhône consultant, Philippe Cambie, who graduated number two in the class the same year.

The Ferran’s modern winery is built into a hillside in the heights of Rasteau, surrounded by the domaine’s vines. It is the Grenache from these high altitude vineyards (average of 600 feet) that sets Escaravailles’ wines apart from many of the overripe and over-extracted reds from this sun-baked part of Provence. Calling them “Overdue Crus”, Decanter columnist Andrew Jefford called for the elevation of Rasteau and Cairanne to independent AC status in his book The New France. Escaravailles’ Cuvée Heritage 1924 certainly helps make Mr. Jefford’s case, as their old-vine Rasteau rivals the best red wines of Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Gigondas. In 2010, the INAO promoted Rasteau, so now vignerons of this superior commune can omit the clumsy Côte du Rhône-Villages appendage from future labels. Neighboring Cairanne is also expected to be elevated to cru status in the very near future.

DOMAINE FACTS

Vines: Approximately 183 acres total: 97 acres on hillsides of the Rasteau appellation, 24.7 acres in Cairanne, 5 acres in Roaix, 12.3 acres on the Plan de Dieu and 44 acres of Côtes du Rhône.
Remarkable average Grenache vine age of 50 years (35-years-old for Syrah)
Wines: Rasteau Cuvée Les Côteaux: 70% Grenache, 30% Syrah from galet-covered hillside parcels
Rasteau Cuvée La Ponce: 80% old-vine Grenache (60 to 80 years-old) aged in cement cuves blended with 20% Syrah aged in barrels
Rasteau Heritage 1924: 100% Grenache from a 90+ year-old vine parcel
Cairanne Cuvée Ventabren: 70% Grenache, 20% Syrah, 10% Carignan
Cairanne La Boutine: 85% Grenache, 15% Syrah (Grandpa’s parcel)
Côtes du Rhône Cuvée Les Sablières: 70% Grenache, 30% Syrah, a large percentage of which comes from sandier (hence the name sablières) parcels within Rasteau AC
All vines sustainably farmed (lutte raisonnée)
Soil: Rasteau, Cairanne and Roaix sites (southern end of Valréas Basin) have moisture-retaining mix of clay and sand with some limestone chalk, and a top soil of large, ancient river-smoothed stones.
Harvest: Manual harvest using small bins with strict selection in both vineyard and on sorting table upon arrival at the cellar.
Yields: 35 to 38 hectoliters/hectare for Rasteau and Cairanne wines
45 hectoliters/hectare on average for Côtes du Rhône Les Sablières
Vinification & Elevage: Total destemming. Indigenous yeast only for reds. All varieties are fermented separately in temperature-controlled stainless steel or cement tanks. Grenache moved to temp-controlled cement cuves for ageing while élevage for Syrah takes place in oak barrels (one to three-years-old). Wines are not filtered.
Annual Production:
300,000 bottles / 25,000 cases