“Welcome,” says Raphael Pommier of Domaine Notre Dame de Cousignac, a lively energetic producer of organic wine from a small region in the Rhone valley.
We are sitting together at Felix, a sort of very cool hangout for French people where almost everyone speaks French. Interestingly enough, we were both at the “Discover Rhone” wine fair in Avignon, which was held at the Pope’s Palace.
“I was on the second floor,” says Raphael, explaining his location in the vast palace with its labyrinth of rooms and stairwells. The event is held every two years and you can click here for some of my notes).
What was interesting about the fair is how many (small) Grenache producers there are in the S. Rhone, and how great it is they have Inter-Rhone to represent them.
There has to be something that differentiates the producers, and after meeting Raphael, I have found out what it is — quality for sure, yet also a certain passion for carrying on the family legacy and passing it down to his five children, as well as fulfilling his father’s dream of creating a sustainable organic winery.
Yes, organic wines are in fashion at the moment, yet in the 1960s Raphael’s father, who was sensitive to chemicals, decided to go organic.
Joining us at the table and giving an excellent market perspective is Antonin Bonnet, USA East Coast sales manager for AdVini.
Raphael, an upbeat, cheerful man with lots of charm, tells me a bit about his family’s long history … ancestors bought a parcel of land in the off-the-beaten track area of Vivarais, started making wine in the 19th century, and with his father retired Raphael is now in charge.
The wine from this region is really terrific, based on the unique terroirs.
The first wines we taste are a set of whites, one a Cote de Rhone 2011 from a blend of 70% clairette, and the rest white grenache and marsanne. It is rich, with a near full palate and incredible freshness and acidity. Though it’s right for drinking now, Raphael thinks it can age for another seven years.
I also liked the Cote de Vivarais 2011 which is an equal blend of marsanne, clarette, white grenache. It had the same refreshing acidity and freshness, with an added touch of menthol.
The two reds we taste are a 2011 syrah/grenache blend (50/50) which has amazing ripe fruit, and the 2011 Cote de Rhone (70% grenache). Both wines have excellent concentration of rich, ripe fruit, and that certain spicy character grenache brings. The interesting things about these wines is that they taste as if they were seasoned in wood, yet were aged in concrete.
Fabulous meeting with dedicated organic producer!