It’s listed under “other Rhone appellations” in our WSET Diploma book, given but a short few sentences of description—all of which, let’s face, it quite generic. “Lies between the Rhone and eastern Languedoc.” “Vines are grown on south-west facing slopes.” “Maximum permitted yield is 60 hL/ha.” “Most wines are good to very good.” Blah.
Costières de Nîmes is a lot more interesting than that.
I recently attended a webinar, hosted by Evan Goldstein, MS, and Michel Gassier of Domaine Gassier, to learn more about the Rhone Valley’s most southern appellation.
A few fun facts:
- There are 71 independent producers and just 9 cooperatives—indeed the trend is toward more family-owned estate vineyards and wineries producing and bottling their own products.
- Despite what you may think (when one generically thinks of the Rhone) pink wines rule: 48% of wines produced are rosé, 43% red, and just 9% white.
- The region is small at just 7,010 acres (but the diversity of wines styles is huge—see tasting notes below), comprising of just 8% of the Rhone Valley’s total wine production.
- 25% of all vineyards are cultivated organically
- The most southern appellation—yes—but also the coolest due to its proximity to the Mediterranean Ocean.
Interesting Historical Anecdotes
- Archeological findings have proven that wine was being made in the Nimes region as early as 600 BC by original local tribes (before Roman domination).
- Romans settled in Nimes after defeating the Egyptians and planted their first vineyards in the 3rd Century AD
- Viticulture was thriving by the 14th Century and considered a high status product. It was able to be shipped to, what is today Italy, due to the construction of the Canal du Midi.
- Like the rest of the world, Nimes suffered phylloxera. “One of the mis-turns the area took was after the phylloxera crisis,” says Gassier. “When the EU vineyards were devastated by phylloxera … The area chose to plant highly productive varietals. So for the next hundred years we had the reputation of making very ‘ordinary wines.'”
- in 1955, the Costieres de Nimes was awarded Vins Delimites de Qualite Superieure (VDQS) status
- Costieres de Nimes was recognized as an AOC in 1986.
- The appellation signed the irst landscape and environmental charter in 2006.
White wine principal varieties are Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, and Marsanne with supporting characters including Bourboulenc, Clairette, Vermentino/Rolle, and Viognier
2020 Chateau Beaubois ‘Expression’
40% Roussane, 40% Grenache, 10% Viognier, 10% Vermentino
Appearance: Pale lemon
Aroma: Medium (+) intensity—lemon, lime, green and yellow apple, white peach and nectarine, just ripe apricot, vanilla and vanilla flower, white blossom, hint of flint, slight toasted bread note, and just a delicate nuttiness and some yogurt
Palate: dry, high acid, medium alcohol, medium body, medium (+) flavor intensity—flavors as above, adding a hint of grapefruit and clarifying that the peach and nectarine are under-ripe to ‘just ripe.’
Finish is medium
Conclusion: This is a good wine with a good variety of flavors and aromas that range from citrus through to those just ripe stone fruit expressions. Though both aroma and flavor intensity are at a favorable medium (+) intensity, I must say that the acid is quite high and can (to some palates) feel a bit unbalanced—especially since the aroma provides more of those rounded stone fruit characteristics, one may not be expecting this level of acidity and can thus throw off the tasting. And it’s that level of acidity that cuts off the finish at a solid medium, leaving a tart mouthwatering without much actual flavor.
However, the variety of flavors and aromas are quite pleasant and that diversity — which also includes secondary notes (yogurt, nuts, toast) as well as a good dose of minerality (flint) — make the wine actually quite complex, which is quite welcome in this lighter, fresher white wine expression.
More Info: Chateau Beaubois is certified organic and biodynamic. Average vine age is about 18 years. The wine was fermented in concrete tank for 3 months and aged in tank for 3 months.
2019 Chateau Mourgues Du Gres ‘Galets Dores’
40% Roussane, 25% Grenache Blanc, 25% Vermentino, 8% Marsanne, 2% Viognier
Appearance: medium lemon
Aroma: medium (+) intensity—flintiness right away, yellow apple, yellow peach (and peach skin), almond (and almond skin), wet stone, toasted bread, and a hint of lanolin
Palate: dry, high acid, medium alcohol, medium body, medium (+) flavor intensity—flavors as above, but adding more herbal elements as well including lime leaf, fennel, and even a little spearmint.
Finish is medium (+)
Conclusion: This is a very good wine that shows an immediate depth of flavor even in the aromas, combining citrus, pom, and stone fruits along with an overt earthy minerality with that flinty/lanolin-y overtone. There’s a leesy quality that is evident but restrained—the wine still showcases a brightness and freshness without any of the headiness or heaviness of cream or yogurt notes. Instead there’s that ‘fresh’ almond (raw almond) quality. More dominant on the palate than the nose are the herbal elements, which again adds both complexity and intrigue, as well as carries on that freshness.
Though slightly fuller in body than the previous, I’m still marking this as a medium body. However, I’d like to note that this wine will be more conducive to food pairing than the previous (whose lightness and brightness can be paired well with a light, fresh meal, but could easily be sipped on its own paired only with the summer sun on your face). Here, that little bit more weight makes it that much more companionate to an actual meal—please let it include cheese.
More Info: Chateau Mourgues du Gres is both organic and Demeter certified. Average age of the vines is about 18 years. The wine fermented in stainless steel and aged on the lees for approximately 5 months.
Rosé wines are based on principal grape varieties Syrah, Mourvedre, and Grenache (which must make up 80% of the blend). Supporting characters include Carignan, Cinsault as well as some white varieties. On that latter point, Gassier noted that it is not usually the case that white grapes are utilized for rosés, simply because so little of it is grown (making just 8% of the appellations total production). Therefore, most white grapes are saved for—you guessed it—white wine. Also interestingly, it is Grenache that is typically the dominant grape in rosé wine production, as Syrah is typically the dominant variety in red wine production (a tad backwards when you think of Southern Rhone ‘norms.’)
2020 Chateau Guiot Crocodile Rosé
80% Grenache, 20% Syrah
Appearance: medium pink-orange (ie: a faded peach from perimeter through to center)
Aroma: medium (+) intensity—strawberry, watermelon, raspberry, blood orange, pink and white roses, hint of white pepper and white chocolate
Palate: dry, medium (+) acid, medium alcohol, medium body, medium (+) flavor intensity—as above, adding red cherry and fresh basil as well
Finish is medium (+)
Conclusion: This is a very good wine—excellent balance of acidity that keeps the wine fresh and fruit forward from start to finish. I found a bit of roundness on the front of the palate that then becomes linear, ending in a nice specific pointy end with lingering aromas and flavors of that ripe red cherry and wild strawberry tossed like a summer salad with all of those herbal and spice notes.
More Info: Chateau Guiot vines are cultivated organically. Average vine age is about 20 years. The wine is produced in the direct-to-press method. Fermentation took place in stainless steel for approximately 20 days. The wine then aged in concrete tank for three months and underwent battonage for the first month.
A note about the crocodile: When the Roman legions conquered new territories, the emperor’s biggest fear was that a victorious general would march on to Rome with his troups and ‘topple him over.’ So they were giving them land to administer to award to keep them away from Rome. The legions that were vicotrious in and conquered Egypt were given Nimes to administer. The logo that they developed after conquering Egypt was a crocodile chained to a palm tree. They had tamed the Eyptians—was the intention of that design. And it became the logo of the city of Nimes and the appellation.
Red wine is based on Syrah, Grenache, and Mourvedre with, as mentioned, Syrah typically taking the leader-role. These three guys must make up at least 80% of the final blend. Supporting characters include Carignan, Cinsault, and Marselan.
2020 Mas Carlot ‘Generations’
60% Grenache, 30% syrah, 20% Mourvedre
Appearance: medium pink-orange (about 1/4 of a shade darker than the above)
Aroma: medium intensity—strawberry, watermelon, rhubarb, red cherry, vanilla, eucalyptus
Palate: dry, high acid, medium body, medium alcohol, medium flavor intensity—as above
Finish is medium
Conclusion: This is a good. If I’m being 100% transparent, I was actually expecting more weight and body based on blend—as well as intensity of flavors and aromas. Though the aromas/flavors that are present show a beautiful diversity and complexity and all structural components are completely in balance. So the wine is of solid good quality.
However, I will make a note here that Evan pointed out that this rosé wine benefits from being treated like a red wine—as in oxygen, time, and a slightly higher temperature is its friend. Since I did get a strong sense that I should have determined a higher quality rating for this wine, I’m going to take his advice and re-taste with those notes in mind. Perhaps I’ll circle back and make an edit once I do.
More Info: Mas Carlot vines are certified organic; average vine age is about 25 years. The grape must spent 12 hours macerating on the skins and then underwent a 15-day fermentation in concrete.
2017 Domaine Gassier ‘Nostre Pais’
55% Grenache, 25% Syrah, 10% Mourvedre, 5% Carignan, 5% Cinsault
Appearance: medium ruby
Aroma: medium (+)—fully ripe black cherry, blackberry, red and black currant; chocolate, fennel, clove, vanilla, toasted wood, dried tobacco leaf, hint of raisin and/or dried fig
Palate: dry, medium (+) acid, medium (+) fine-grained tannins, high alcohol, medium (+) body, medium (+) flavor intensity—as above adding clove and nutmeg and a little bit of black pepper heat
Finish is medium (+)
Conclusion: This wine is of very good quality. Though the alcohol is high, it is very well-integrated and well-matched with the fully ripe (but please note, not over-ripe or jammy in anyway) fruit flavors. There is a heat to this wine, but it’s the heat of a fine spice blend, not the alcohol content, which adds depth and complexity to the aroma and flavor profile. There’s also a decadence to this wine due to the well-integrated oak treatment—notes of chocolate, tobacco leaf, clove, vanilla, all add a sense of richness without adding unnecessary weight or heaviness. I’d also like to call out that I did get those few tertiary notes (raisin/dried fig), indicating some age but also pointing at the wines age-ability. With time, I believe, the wine will become even more decadent.
And the finish—the finish was just shy of long (thus not rated as outstanding) but what does linger is a beautiful culmination of all those aromas and flavors.
More Info: Vineyards are farmed organically/certified organic. Average vine age is about 50 years. The grapes were hand harvested, whole cluster fermented with native yeast in stainless steel. The wine aged for about 6 months in combination concrete and oak barrel.
2017 M. Chapoutier ‘La Ciboise’
Appearance: medium ruby
Aroma: medium (+) intensity of aromas—fully ripe red and black cherry, red and black plum, wild strawberry, red currant, rhubarb, black fig; forest floor, toasted wood, rose petals, all spice, cinnamon
Palate: dry, medium (+) acid, high alcohol, medium chalky tannins, medium (+) body, medium (+) flavor intensity—as above
Finish is medium
Conclusion: This is a very good wine that shows a beautiful vivacity of fully ripe black and red fruits balanced with a medium (+) acidity level that brings some balance. The tannins are so supple, fine-grained, but strong enough to add the needed backbone to the wine. The alcohol is a bit on the high side, but for the most part well-integrated and well-matched to the level of ripeness in the fruit. There is clearly complexity to this wine given the diversity of flavors/aromas and very good integration of oak. But I’ll make a note that in direct comparison it’s not as complex as the above wine. While it has potential for some short-term aging, I wouldn’t mark this with a long-term aging potential, as I think the beauty in this wine will be found in the here and now. Further, the finish does fall at a solid medium. For me, it just kind of stopped (with a tad of lingering alcoholic heat). That’s not necessarily a ‘bad’ thing (we all appreciate the period at the end of a sentence), but it is an indicator (in my book) of the wine’s joyous youth and less age-worthiness.
More Info: The tech sheet notes that the vineyards for this blend are currently in transition to organics/organic certification. All grapes were destemmed and underwent native ferments in concrete tanks for 3 to 4 weeks. Each variety was kept separate throughout the vinification process, aging for 6 months in concrete tanks before the final blend was created.
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