Domaine les Robes Noires - an update
I first visited Sarah and Aymeric Discours a couple of summers ago, and tasted their very first vintage, 2021, so I was keen to see how things had evolved. They have five hectares, but some plots have been pulled up and replanted, with disease resistance and climate change in mind. So they have opted for two Italian varieties, Montepulciano which is found more commonly in the Abruzzi, and Nero d’Avola, which you usually encounter in Sicily. However, both varieties are now allowed for Côtes de Thongue. And as they have a plot that is AOP rather than IGP, they have also planted some Grenache Noir, so that they can eventually make AOP Languedoc.
Their production of white wine is growing, with the purchase of a plot of Viognier and the planting of a new vineyard of Marsanne, Roussanne and Piquepoul. The plan is a co-fermentation of the three varieties, with the Piquepoul providing acidity, to balance the Marsanne and Roussanne. The first vintage will be 2025.
As they already have eight rows of Grenache Gris and Grenache Blanc, they are also .
planning a second new white wine from the two Grenache, as well as someViognier, with a little oak ageing. It will be called Prestation de Serment, to continue the legal theme with their wine names.
Meanwhile their range of wines has been extended to included a pure Viognier, as well as two entry level wines, an orange wine, an haute gamme, not to mention two spirits. It is amazing what you can produce from a relatively small vineyard, but you sense that they are full of ideas, wanting to experiment and push things to the limit. So we settled down to some tasting ..
2022 Blanc de Noirs - Hammurabi - 13.50€
A pure Cinsault, vinified like a white wine. 2022 was a complicated vintage, a small crop with the heat and drought a problem. The Viognier lacked water. They noted that the 2022 vintage had a degree more alcohol than the 2021 at 12.5. It was nicely rounded, with elegant fruit and fresh acidity on the finish.
2022 T1 - 8 €
A pure Viognier. T1 stands for Tribunal d’Instances, the court which deals with minor civil offences. A little colour, with lightly peachy fruit on the nose and palate and good acidity. Just three weeks in barrel at the end of the fermentation has given the wine some satisfying sucrosity and a rounded finish. And for the 2023 vintage, they have tried fermenting some Viognier with Syrah, to make a wine that will be called le Contradictoire.
2022 Sui Generis - 13.00€
This is the new orange wine. There was some discussion as to whether maceration on the skins was allowed for Côtes de Thongue. The answer is yes, but some people had originally thought not. But in any case it is labelled Vin de France. The Viognier is given three weeks skin contact, so not very long, but long enough to give the wine an old gold tinge. There is quite a firm streak of tannin, and also a hint of honey. The wine is quite firm and structured, with some floral fruit and a certain ripeness on the finish. it was nicely refreshing. We wondered if orange wine would go with smoked salmon, in anticipation of our supper menu, and subsequently decided that indeed it did. The smokiness and the tannin combined nicely.
2022 In Limine - 13.50€
A blend, principally of Cinsault with 30% Grenache Noir. Only free run juice; they did use some pressed juice for the previous vintage. Medium colour. Very fresh red fruit on the nose and wonderfully juicy fruit on the palate. Lots of exuberant red fruit. Medium weight. Very appealing,
2022 T Com - 8€
TCom stands for Tribunal de Commerce. Again a blend of Cinsault and Grenache, this time 60: 40, with three weeks in barrels at the end of fermentation. Medium colour. Quite rounded fresh red fruit, with some spice. More weight and substance than in Limine. but still very elegant. Notes of raspberry and also a hint of fennel. They have a lof of fennel growing around the vineyards.
2021 Pro Bono - 15.00€
A blend of Grenache, Syrah and Cinsault and just one row of Cabernet Sauvignon, with each variety fermented separately in vat - the very small amount of Cabernet goes in with the Syrah - and then the pressed juice is added, and the wine is blended after the malolactic fermentation. Deep colour. Some firm spice and ripe fruit on the nose. Nicely rounded palate. Ripe, but still elegant. However it would also benefit from some more bottle age.
2022 Assemblée Plénière - 19.50€
Their new top of the range cuvée and a similar blend of Pro Bono, but with less Cinsault, and with 12 months in wood, medium toasted barrels from Cadus and Dargaud & Jaegle. They started with two barriques and now have five! Firmer and more structured than Pro Bono from the oak ageing, with some ripe red fruit and spice. Some weight and texture in the mouth. and again needing some more time in bottle.
The three cypresses on their labels are the symbol of hospitality. One indicates that a traveller will be given water; two food, and three whatever they need.
It was very exciting to see how things have developed in relatively short time. The winemaking is certainly evolving and they are gradually establishing a market for their wines, while admitting that the sales side of things is quite challenging. So if you are looking for an original Côtes de Thongue, do consider Domaine les Robes Noires You will not be disappointed.