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2022 Tavel “La Combe des Rieu”

La Combe des Rieu
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Gaël Petit’s family history is deeply intertwined with that of Tavel. Records show his ancestors inhabited the quaint, sunny Provençal village across the Rhône from Châteauneuf-du-Pape as far back as the sixteenth century, and his great-grandfather, a former mayor, played a major role in the creation of the Tavel AOC, granted in 1936.
     Gaël recalls growing up at the family domaine, its cellar full of massive foudres in which the wines were raised. These perdurable casks helped the family earn widespread recognition for its grandiose Tavels—the kind of wine, undoubtedly, that enchanted countless connoisseurs throughout history, from Louis XIV to Hemingway.
     By the 1980s, however, the traditional casks had all but disappeared from cellars across France, replaced by the dependable sparkle of stainless steel. Herbicides in the vineyard substituted tilling, laboratory yeasts colonized fermentation tanks, and other innovations facilitated the vigneron’s life to yield a reliably consistent, albeit standardized, product each vintage.
     Modern enology dictated winemaking when Gaël took the reins of the domaine in 1992, but he ultimately changed course, realizing a return to traditional ways was necessary for Tavel to relive its former glory. He began an organic conversion in the vineyards, then launched a micro-cuvée from the domaine’s oldest vines in its top limestone terroirs.
     For this new departure, Gaël opted for a whole-cluster, infusion-style vinification with native yeast, drastically reduced sulfur usage, allowing the wine to complete its malolactic fermentation, and bottled it without fining or filtration.
     Gaël’s “La Combe des Rieu” is a Tavel whose intensity, complexity, and decisive sense of terroir have more in common with the regal reds of Châteauneuf than with southern France’s sea of generic rosés. Behind the historic label lies a wine of class, depth, and substance, bearing a rich bouquet of wild strawberry, flowers, garrigue, and sweet spices, culminating in a long, stony finale. This is Tavel the way it was meant to be, validating the appellation’s legendary standing as the “rosé of kings.”

Anthony Lynch

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Technical Information
Wine Type: Rosé
Vintage: 2022
Bottle Size: 750mL
Blend: Grenache, Cinsault, Carignan
Appellation: Tavel
Country: France
Region: Southern Rhône
Producer: Gaël Petit
Winemaker: Gaël Petit
Vineyard: Planted in 1950s, 1976, 1.42 ha
Soil: Limestone scree, clay
Farming: Organic (practicing)
Alcohol: 14.5%

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Kermit inspecting wine barrels

For the wines that I buy I insist that the winemaker leave them whole, intact. I go into the cellars now and select specific barrels or cuvées, and I request that they be bottled without stripping them with filters or other devices. This means that many of our wines will arrive with a smudge of sediment and will throw a more important deposit as time goes by, It also means the wine will taste better.

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