Maison M. Chapoutier is a family-owned winery (and négotiant business) located in Tain-l’Hermitage in the northern Rhone. The family’s winemaking history dates back to 1808 and is closely linked with Hermitage. Though the family’s winemaking roots are in the northern Rhone, current winemaking interests also include vineyards in Alsace, Portugal, Australia and the Languedoc-Roussillon region in southern France.
We recently received three wines produced by Domaine de Bila-Haut, the Chapoutier property in Roussillon, as tasting samples. This gave us the opportunity to learn a bit about the wine region as well as the wines.
Domaine de Bila-Haut was purchased by Chapoutier in 1999 at least in part for its complex soil composition. The 190-acre estate includes a combination of schist, gneiss and clay soils. Nothing excites a winemaker like soil. The hilly location at the edge of the Agly Valley enjoys very warm, dry summers and cold winters.
Weather throughout the Roussillon is similar, dry and warm in summer and cold in winter. Vineyards are planted with the varieties you would expect in a warmer climate: Grenache, Cinsault, Carignan, Syrah and Mourvèdre. White varieties include Marsanne, Roussanne, Grenache Blanc, Grenache Gris and Rolle.
A large portion of mid-level French wine (classified IGP) is produced in the Languedoc-Roussillon region. This very large region stretches from the French border with Spain along the Mediterranean coast almost to Nîmes in the East, with Roussillon located adjacent to Spain.
The IGP (Indication Géographique Protégée) designation is placed above entry-level Vin de Table wines (with few restrictions on production) and below the Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) level with strict regulations on vineyard location, grape variety and viticultural practices.
2013 Domaine de Bila-Haut Côtes du Roussillon — pale yellow in the glass with lemony aromas and hints of kiwi fruit. Crisp citrus flavors along with those of delicate white flowers combine with brilliant acidity. The finish is crisp and clean and medium in length. ABV 13.5% $13
This refreshing white blend of Grenache Gris, Grenache Blanc, Macabeo and Vermentino (Rolle) provides surprising complexity for the price. It is just the kind of wine I like to sip on a warm afternoon. It will take you all the way to dinner as well, holding up well with food.
Each grape variety was vinified separately. A cool fermentation with extended maceration was followed by aging is stainless steel. Multiple racking from tank to tank naturally clarified the wine before blending and bottling.
The Cotes du Roussillon AOC designation encompasses the southern portion of the larger Roussillon region. This very warm region borders Spain and produces mostly rosé and red wines. Only a small fraction of production is white wine.
2013 Domaine de Bila-Haut Pays d’Oc — light salmon color in the glass with generous aromas of raspberries, blackberries and peaches. The aromas constantly change in the glass. Blackberry and strawberry flavors combine with citrusy acidity and just a hint of tannins to produce a very pleasing rosé. ABV 13.5%. $13
This rosé is produced from a blend of Cinsault harvested from the Gard district (at the western end of the Languedoc) and Grenache. With only a short time spent on the skins to obtain the desired delicate color, a cool fermentation followed. Aging in stainless steel tanks occurred prior to blending and bottling.
The Pays d’Oc IGP classification allows winemakers a bit more latitude in terms of choice of grape varieties, farming practices and the geographical location of the vineyards. Regulations allow a large number of grape varieties to be sourced from within the very large Languedoc-Roussillon region.
2012 Domaine de Bila-Haut Côtes du Roussillon Villages — ruby with a bit of violet at the edges of the glass along with ripe raspberry and blueberry aromas. The flavors are a mixture of ripe plums, blueberries and earth. Moderate tannins are a bit drying. ABV 14.5% $13
Syrah, Grenache and Carignan are fermented in concrete vats with maceration lasting two to three weeks. The wine ages further in concrete before being racked multiple times to clarify the wine, then bottled.
Côtes du Roussillon Villages AOC designation, which allows only red wine production, requires lower yields in the vineyards. The geographic boundaries include only the northern portion of Roussillon north of the Têt River. Lower yield in the vineyard often produces bolder red wines.
It was a warm summer evening when we tasted the three Domaine de Bila-Haut wines. Our evening meal of grilled, marinated chicken and watermelon salad made an interesting pairing for the wines. We found the Côtes du Roussillon and the Pays d’Oc were the best partners to the light meal. The flavors of both wines matched well with the flavors of the grilled chicken, and neither wine overwhelmed the watermelon salad.
The Côtes du Roussillon Villages was a fine partner to the grilled chicken. The grilling process lent plenty of flavor to the chicken and the rich flavors of the wine did not overwhelm the flavors of the chicken. The watermelon salad was too light a partner for the red wine however. Had we prepared roasted potatoes or a potato salad, we would have had a better match. I can also imagine a delicious pairing for the Côtes du Roussillon Villages would be grilled pork chops or grilled pork tenderloin.
What a fun evening of wine tasting along with our meal. Many thanks to Creative Palate Communications for the tasting samples. We enjoyed this collection of flavorful, well made and affordable wines. All would be good choices for a summer meal, any day of the week.