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Facts and wines

Facts: 18 ha. Grapes: Syrah, Roussanne, Marsanne Founded: 1996 (1920) Responsible: Gilles Robin Cultivation methods: organic (certified organic in 2012) Profile: Renowned producer producing ambitious wines in Crozes-Hermitage and Saint-Joseph, using traditional cultivation (ecology) and an extremely precise vinification and storage. Style: Modern wines from the Nordrhône, with pure fruit flavors and precise terroir expression, which have both southern strength and northern elegance.

Buy their wines here

Red wine
  • Crozes Hermitage Papillon 2016 100% Syrah
  • Crozes Hermitage Albéric Bouvet 2015 100% Syrah
  • St Joseph André Péalat 2014 100% Syrah

A new domain, against the background of 4 generations of wine history

Domaine Gilles Robin was established in 1996, by Gilles Robin (born 1972). After being trained as an oenologist [:University degree in wine production at master's level, with an emphasis on the chemical and microbiological processes:], Gilles has worked in Savoie for three years, advising wine producers and working both with well-known grapes (roussanne and mondeuse, which is related to syrah), as well as a number of other grapes that are not found in southern France: among others altesse, jacquet, gamay, pinot noir and persan. In 1996, Gilles returned to his roots in La-Roche-de-Glun, a small village south of Tain-l'Hermitage, in the northern Rhône. Here his father owned a farm, which he took over from his father in 1965, and which consisted primarily of fruit trees (a large part of France's production of apricots, peaches, cherries, etc. comes from this very area). Besides the fruit trees, there were also vineyards that Gilles' father cultivated to supply the grapes to the local cooperative where they were turned into wine.

First fields bought in 1920

The interest in vineyards in the family dates back to Gilles Robin's great-grandfather, who was a field worker for the great négociant [: Wine merchant who buys wines, must or grapes from winegrowers, in order to make his own wine and sell it under his own name :] Paul Jaboulet, which also belongs in La-Roche-de-Glun. In 1920, the great-grandfather bought a few square meters of really good vineyards, on the plateau called "La Terrasse des Chassis". The purpose then was to produce wine for own consumption, as well as to get a supplementary income by selling wine to the négociants [: Wine merchants who buy wines, must or grapes from winegrowers, in order to make their own wine and sell it under their own name :] in the good vintages, and to cafes and other buyers in the less good vintages. In 1965, it was Gilles' turn to take over the fields. He expanded both the fruit production and not least the vineyards, so that there were 9 ha. to wine production, when in 1996 Gilles expressed his interest in starting an actual domain, with the production and sale of wine under his own name.

(Almost) everything had to be learned

It was decided to withdraw the fields from the cooperative and it took - according to his own statement - 10 years, during which Gilles had to get to know the terroirs. He could draw on his father's experience in terms of cultivation, but since his father did not make wine from the grapes, Gilles did not know the potential of the different terroirs and the treatment he had to give the grapes to get the best out of them. He therefore had to try his hand at it

He also had to learn everything about selling and pricing wines, as well as a lot of other things that he hadn't learned during his technical training. In this area, he was well helped by one of the area's most emblematic figures, Alain Graillot.

Rapid international success

Despite the fact that Gilles Robin was still learning the job, he must have done well. In any case, he was quickly spotted by the leading wine writers and quickly gained a reputation as one of the interesting producers in Crozes-Hermitage. At the same time, in the late 90s/early 00s, the entire Rhône valley experienced a strong interest from both French and international buyers, who were attracted, partly, by Robert Parker's extremely enthusiastic statements and partly by the reasonable prices, which were in strong contrast with the rising prices in Bordeaux and Burgundy. This combination of external factors and the high quality of Gilles' wines ensured a great demand, which gave him the opportunity to continuously invest in both new high-quality fields and to establish a cellar of the highest standard. Both parts have contributed to making the wines even better and more nuanced, through the assemblage [:Blending:] of diverse terroirs.

Today the domain consists of 18 ha., primarily with fields in various places in the Crozes-Hermitage appellation [: French wine region = origin of the wine, which is also its protected name ex. Alsace, Saint-Emilion, Grand Cru ”Le Musigny” etc] as well as a small field in Saint-Joseph, on a steep granite slope. However, the heart of Domaine Robin remains "Les Chassis" , where Gilles' grandfather started almost 100 years ago.

Work in the fields - ecology

When he took over the domaine, Gilles was able to start with good and old vines (around 50 years on average today), planted on specially selected terroirs and well cared for, according to traditional craftsmanship, with both tilling the soil, applying compost and limited use of chemicals. Gilles was convinced that this was an important parameter in relation to producing great wines, with authentic character. He therefore chose to go all the way and convert to ecology. The final certification was applied for in 2009 and achieved in 2012.

Work in the basement - precision

Gilles Robin is a trained oenologist [:University training on wine production at master's level, with an emphasis on the chemical and microbiological processes:]. Therefore, it is not surprising to hear that he attaches great importance to the work in the cellar, where he exercises extremely precise and well-thought-out craftsmanship in all the operations, from maceration to aging, through fermentation and pressing. The entire process and the physical framework of the cellar are designed so that the grapes are manipulated as little and as gently as possible, without the use of industrial yeast cells and other artificial means. For example, the vinification cellar is designed so that the grapes and wines are moved exclusively by gravity, and without pumps, which Gilles finds too violent for the raw material. In Gilles Robin's cellar, the wines are largely allowed to make themselves. He simply creates the right conditions, at the right timing, to allow the grapes to perform at their best. This requires extensive knowledge of the processes and constant monitoring. You can say that Gilles has done his old Henri Jayer's, cult producer from Burgundy, mantra "learn oenology, to learn to do without it".

Over the past 20 years, Gilles has found that the sour grape was very versatile. Like pinot in Burgundy, it can take on very different faces, depending on which terroir it grows on. However, Syrah is a somewhat stronger grape than pinot noir and therefore it may be necessary to control its strength through a measured maceration or aging, in order to highlight the finesse of a terroir. Conversely, at other times you can give it completely free rein when the terroir can bear it. Therefore, the winemaker plays an extremely important role in the Nordrhône. But when the wines and nature are as rich as they are in the region, there should ideally not be too much winemaking in the barrel. Most often, it's about holding back and only intervening when necessary.

About assemblage [:Mixing:]

In the Rhône, as in all other wine regions in France, the terroir is the cornerstone of wine culture. However, you often have a broader approach to the concept here. It is more customary in the Rhône valley to mix wines from different fields, in order to achieve the optimal result, than it is in, for example, Burgundy, Alsace or the Loire. This does not mean that the terroir is less important Rhône, but more that a terroir consists of different sub-terroirs, which it does not necessarily make sense to present each separately. That is why, for example, the famous Domaine Jean-Louis Chave produces one Hermitage, consisting of a mixture of wines from various parcels. The philosophy is the same with the great Châteaux in Bordeaux, their estate consists of up to many micro-terroirs, but these are never bottled separately. The whole is considered greater than its component parts.

This is also the way of thinking at Domaine Gilles Robin. That's why Gilles spends an enormous amount of time observing his fields and his various wines during production, to understand where they can reach and what they can add to the final bottling. This means, as mentioned earlier, a precise and adapted vinification, which makes it possible to get the best out of each terroir, as well as an assemblage [:Blending:] of the respective wines, to obtain each Cuvée's [: French word, related to cuve (=tank). Often indicates a special bottling – also called réserve – or that the wine is a blend of grapes from different origins, and not a field wine or/and from different vintages.:] ultimate potential.

The style of the wines

Domaine Gilles Robin's wines can be described as modern in style because they are fruity and clean. In addition, they are deep and concentrated as well as extremely complex, through syrah's many facets and assemblage 'n [:Blending:] of the different terroirs. Finally, they bear the stamp of the Nordrhône climate, which creates wine with juice and power but also fantastic freshness and great elegance.

Caravinsérail was founded in 2002, with the aim of spreading awareness of this still too unknown wine region, which produces some extremely interesting wines – not least when you take the low prices into account. The house does not own vineyards and does not produce any grapes, but instead buys wines from a handful of carefully selected winegrowers and markets them under its own label.

This is a classic négociant model, where an actor with market expertise buys the goods from those who are good at producing them, but do not necessarily have the sales opportunities or the desire to do so. Caravinsérail differs from many other négociants by its small size (only approx. 150,000 fl. / per year) and its focus from the start on the Ventoux area, which is based on the very strong local expertise of the founders.

Caravinsérail offers a range of wonderful wines – from the charming and uncomplicated to the more ambitious – that perfectly illustrate what Ventoux has to offer: intense southern wines with a fresh and balanced character, at very attractive prices.

Ventoux – an attractive area with excellent, balanced wines at low prices

The freshness in the wines comes from the cool air currents created by the high mountain. In a period of significant climate warming, when many wines from Southern France, and Southern Europe in general, have challenges with high alcohol percentages and heaviness, the freshness of the wines from Ventoux is a major advantage for these wines.

The extremely attractive prices are not due to a lack of quality, but probably mostly – still today and despite undeniable commercial successes – a lack of knowledge of the area and its potential as well as a lack of a clear image among consumers and opinion makers. The best wines from here therefore constitute (while they last) some of the best value-for-money in the entire Rhône valley.

Caravinsérail – a house under change

We have had the pleasure of working with Caravinsérail since 2004 and have had considerable success with their wines, among other things in the restaurant market. We also happen to have a small influence on its history. During a dinner in Copenhagen in 2013, where we had invited him and a few others, the current owner told us that he wanted to sell the company. Also sitting at the table was Xavier Logette, who is the export manager for another of our suppliers, Château Gigognan, in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. The two sounded good together, and after a few years of collaboration, Xavier Logette has taken over Caravinsérail.

This will mean some interesting changes for the house, which will expand its range with wines from several other places in the southern Rhône and in Provence, as well as an even greater focus on organic wines - something we like about Terroir Wine Shop!

It will therefore be exciting to follow Caravinsérail's development in the coming months and years.