It’s been over 80 years since Gabriel Meffre, who was born down the road in Séguret, and his wife set up a negociant business in Gigondas and our group visited their cellar door on a beautiful sunny afternoon. Taking full advantage of the view up to the village on the northern side of the Dentelles de Montmirail, Justin, our host, started our tour by their Grenache vines. Not only was this an idyllic spot for introductions but it was also away from the mobile bottling line and multiple forklifts whizzing about and preparing the Domaine Longue Toque, the only brand that is not bottled at their production facility down the road, where 135 staff are based.
This may sound like a lot of staff working on the bottling line but Gabriel Meffre is now one of the biggest wineries in the area delivering over 15 million bottles of wine a year to 40 countries. Relying heavily on UK, USA, Holland, Scandinavia and Canada who take 75% of their share in production this is the company that brings us Fat Bastard from Languedoc grapes. But I digress, we are here to talk about their three Rhone brands.
Firstly Domain de Longue Toque with vineyards located across 3 appellations : Gigondas (17ha), Vacqueyras (6ha) and Côtes du Rhône Villages Plan de Dieu (2ha) using sustainable practises and organic fertilisers on their Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre & Cinsault vines.
The winery is deeply involved in modern thinking on sustainable development and Social Responsibility but there is a nod to tradition too as their Signature Gabriel Meffre range draws inspiration from the 4 distinctive terroirs of the Rhône Valley to influence his wine styles and named after the Patron Saints of the village or historical leaders that have positively influenced these townships.
Plan de Dieu was upgraded to AOC Côtes du Rhône Villages classification in 2005 which was particularly important to this producer as Gabriel was the first winemaker to plant vines here after the area was used as an American military base in WW2. Their Plan de Dieu still co-ferments their Grenache and Syrah with low yields to focus on quality and purity of fruit in the wines.
The final range of wines tasted were from the Laurus collection starting with a Cote du Rhone white made from Grenach Blanc, Viognier, Roussanne and Bourboulenc. This producer is one of many lobbying for an AOC for their Gigondas whites believing the limestone from the Dentelles de Montmirail keep the wines fresh and give them a finesse and uniqueness. And the reds use special 275L barrels to refine their structure and increase cellaring potential.
Finishing on a Muscat de Beaume de Venise we went away smiling and learning how such a large scale winery can also make some local and unique gems.