Provence Italy
Elizabeth Gabay MW
Nov 2012

Le Vignoble des Hautes Collines

Denis Rasse viticulture, Georges Rasse, winemaker, 800 Chemin des Sausses, 06640 Saint Jeannet. The village of St. Jeannet sits on a ledge beneath the towering Baou de St. Jeannet, with the Baou de la Gaude just to the right (east), and the Baou des Noirs and Baou des Blancs lined up to the west towards Vence. The vineyards here fall under IGP Alpes Maritimes which allows the Rasse brothers to experiment with a wide range of varieties and wine styles, unlike winemakers constrained by the full appellation regulations. Mr Rasse senior was a producer of table grapes but one year the harvest was bad and he decided to make wine – he asked old locals – must have been around the time of the second world war – who told him about a local tradition of ageing wine in the glass jars. Mr Rasse has since tried to educate other local growers – to varying success. The table grapes can be picked July to February and were famous during the 19th century for providing the rich with table grapes throughout the winter and can even be picked and the stems kept in water for a long time. Asked about the changing wine styles, Mr Rasse senior felt that the consumer had a big part to play. Before buyers just bought the wine because it was local and now buyers want to know how the wine is made and compare it to wines from elsewhere – selling a wine is harder. Make wine in a Roman style with wine aged in 50 litre glass jars protected by a type of flor. Sunlight and UV stop the wine turning to vinegar. SO2 only when being bottled. Called tuilé – bonbons put on the roof tiles and gives some of the wines a type of madiera aroma. The soil is rich with alot of argile (clay) and good water table at around 200m depth. Some of the olive trees are very old – legend says 2000 years old. They use 3309 rootstock. 3309 (Vitis riparia x Vitis rupestris). Has very low tolerance of limestone (CaCO3); it will tolerate only up to 11% 'active' limestone (i.e. the limestone part of the soil which the vine can take up; this is very dependent on the composition and structure of the soil). Excess active limestone generally has a detrimental effect on growth and causes chlorosis. Strength of growth is medium to vigorous, less vigorous than SO4. It advances the vegetative cycle and has very good reliable fruit-set. It is popular in France, the French always ask why 3309 is not used in England, they think it would be very good in most circumstances; however, if the soil pH is above 7.3 then it is not suitable. Amongst varieties are Chenincon (a cross between Chenin Blanc and Jurancon); Tempranillo planted 5 years ago – this year will be the 2nd vintage – and still under debate as to whether or not this will be a successful variety. Also Petit Verdot and Malbec. Because no AOC regulations can plant what they want. Because of family connections with Argentina they were interested in Malbec – but their Malbec comes from a French pepiniere. Their Gamay suffered from oidium in 2010. For each wine the major varieties are listed but up to 14 varieties may be included which varies vintage to vintage. 2010 vintage – due to cool wet spring, late flowering, and alot of humidity during the summer – never known a year like it. Doesn’t think it is due to the volcano as the strange weather started before the eruption. Maturity has been very erratic. They have 30 different varieties so when some varieties do less well others do better. The soil is largely argile/clay which is cold and this spring was extra cold – both of which slowed down growth plus the high altitude of around 400m – amongst the highest vineyards in France. Ugni Blanc will not be harvested in late October. The white wines, largely made with two thirds Rolle and one third Ugni Blanc - a standard Provencal blend, also has small amounts of Chardonnay and Viognier included and in 2005 even included a very small amount of Muscat. Fermented and aged in barrique, the wine has good weight and very good acidity. When young the oak can be quite dominant and the wine needs time to mellow and develop more honeyed and nutty character. Rosé 2007: Grenache 50% Mourvedre 50%. Deep rose colour. Good acidity – fresh and clean – but, comme d’habitude lacks vast flavour. 10 euros. a year later Rosé 2006: Grenache and Mourvedre. Mute nose. Full weight, slight rosehip fruit and dry. But some residual sugar. Rosé 2006: Tuilé 6 months in sun and 3 months in barrique. Slightly oxidised with fresh ripe fruit. Spicy from the barrique. Good soft fruit with a hint of acidity hidden by fruit but long in mouth and quite a surprise with length and slight hint of madierised flavour. Wine was moved to barrel by pipe so as not to disturb the film created in the bonbons. 2g/hl of SO2 in bottle – would like to use less but the wine would be too fragile to sell commercially. 2010 Rosé Traditional 2009: Made to have some tannin. Very much a solid meal wine, with tannin. How would this work in a blind tasting? Quite honeyed, no red fruit and very good acidity. Mr Rasse senior doesn’t really like rosé – prefers white and red – made to for the commercial market. Nouveau Rouge 2007: Designed for the Xmas market. 12 cepost. Fresh, crisp and light, almost Valpolicella. 8 euros. Rouge Pressoir Roman 2005: Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot, Mouvedre, Grenache, Braquet. 6 months in sun for fermentation and in barrique. Lovely wine, woody flavours. 10 euros. 2007 - Red Pressoir Romain 2005: 3 months in the sun and 18 months in barrique. Mineral aromas of Cabernet and Merlot but largely made of Braquet which has a perfumed nose (good with game). Lovely deep chewy tannins. Powerful black fruit with slightly tea notes. Longo Mai 2003: 4 years in barrique. Dry and tannic with a lovely mouthwatering acidity. 16 euros. 2007 - Longo Mai (long life) vintage?: Dry tannic wine with full flavour and dried red fruit. Good acidity. 3 months in sun and 4 years in barrique. Muscat d’Alexandrie: Sweet and ripe, golden colour. 2007 - Muscat Doré: Grapes left on the vine to dry and harvested in October. No rot no twisting of vine, no arrested fermentation, no drying on straw. Flavours of quince, marmalade, good acidity, apricots, ginger and figs. No rot because no enough humidity (rely on morning dew but for past 2 years (2005-6 and 2006-7) hardly any dew. Other wines include Vendange Tardive Rolle, Vendange Tardive Rancio Grenache, no alcohol added and a rosé aged 6 months in the sun. 7th November 2007 at vineyard To be released 15th December 2007 Red Nouveau: – spritz and tannin. Rolle Vendage Tardive: (32 euros) Twiglets, botrytis, dried peaches and apricots. Marmalade, dark chocolate. Each glass is one vine – limited production. Vintage Rancio 1999: (25 euros) Only 200 bottles left. Colour of madiera. Madierised but not cheese balls. Lacks the weight, acid and punch of a real madiera – but a wonderful digestif. Stewed prunes – but other vintages have been more nutty. 2010 - Red Pressoir Roman 2008 : Firm dry tannins. Very good balance with firm ripe fruit – slightly green hints giving complexity not unripeness. Spicy and black fruit. Not overly long and big but excellent balance of fruit, acidity and tannin. 2010 - Longo Mai 2005: Very ripe inky black fruit. Firm tannins, but like Mr Rasse senior I prefer Pressoir Roman. This is a very modern new world. 2010 - Muscat: Marmalade, ginger and good acidity. Good structure. Not a delicate wine, lacks finesse. 2010 - Vendage Tardive 2004: Rolle with some botrytis. 4 years in barrique. Lovely marmite and butterscotch character. 2012 - Red Pressoir Romain 2005; Smooth fruity nose. Smooth soft rounded tannins with a hint of tar and liquorice. Ripe black fruit with hints of wild berry fruit. Enough mineral tannins and fresh acidity. Not really showing its age – enough freshness and still firm structure but a bitter after taste has developed.