2012 La Grêle Rosé – Château de Roquefort: A tale of devastation to delight!

by Ed H-B
2012-LA-GRELE-Rose-Chateau-de-Roquefort-Lea and Sandeman-Wine Merchants

 La Grêle RoséChâteau de Roquefort: £12.95 Btl or £11.95 case price

Lovers of Burgundy will be aware that the 2012 vintage, already not looking large, was decimated by hailstorms producing a reportedly minuscule vintage. Hail has struck again in 2013, storms at the end of July have wreaked havoc in the Côte de Beaune with some producers fearing up to 60% of their production wiped-out.

Charlie Lea blogged recently about the hailstorm at Domaine Sainte Lucie and Domaine des Diables in Provence that threatens an ominous shortage of MiP* Rosé next year. Guillaume Philip the owner tells us that the prognosis is not quite as bad as first feared as many of the damaged berries have managed to heal and should continue to harvest in reasonable health. MiP* will still be in short supply but, then again, it always is.

For fellow Provençal rosé producer Raimond de Villeneuve, owner of Château de Roquefort, hail in 2012 produced the ultimate in devastation but, then, gave rise to a heart-warming story of human decency, fraternity and community spirit. First the devastation, in Raimond’s words:

It all began on 1st July last at about 7 o’clock in the evening with an unexpected hailstorm of barbaric violence! In a mere 7 minutes this wall of ice completely devastated everything growing in the vineyard…not a leaf or a single bunch remained; nothing survived the bombardment. I can still see myself running backwards and forwards through the vines, up to my knees at times in streams of hailstones, petrified, blue with cold. Shrouds of white mist were rising from the tons of ice lying on the still warm ground. When I had completed the tour of our 24ha of vines, I knew there wouldn’t be the faintest chance of harvesting anything…I knew that time would be required for the vines to recover from such a severe onslaught, I felt like somebody shipwrecked in the middle of nowhere!

In the days that followed, winegrowing friends who live nearby came to look at the extent of the damage, and were appalled…I can still hear them exclaiming, “Putain, Raimond, you’ve got nothing left!

Referring to the fact that, not only was the 2012 harvest wiped out, but the vines would not recover sufficiently to yield a full crop in 2013, Raimond claims he lost 150% of the harvest. To add insult to injury, because hail is quite rare in this part of Provence Raimond had no insurance.

What happened next serves to restore one’s faith in human nature. Gradually, fellow vignerons from Provence and the Rhône Valley came forward and offered Raimond grapes or must from their own vineyards to allow him to make a 2012 wine. In all, 35 vineyards donated to Raimond de Villeneuve’s 2012, and all are mentioned on the label (see below), including Domaine Ott, Château de Pibarnon and Domaine Tempier, three of the great names of Bandol. A certain amount of red tape had to be cut through to allow France’s first vin issu de la communauté vigneronne which has been classified as an IGP Méditerranée.

It is an understandably complicated cuvée: Grenache, Mourvèdre, Carignan, Syrah, Cinsault, Cabernet, Merlot, Ugni Blanc, Clairette, Rolle, Chardonnay and Sauvignon. A blend you’re unlikely to see again!

 La Grêle – French for “hail”.

Our Tasting Note:

It’s a delightful story but, fortunately, is a delight to drink too! Pretty, bright coral pink in the glass, this has a lovely precision in the palate. Clean fresh and with gentle pink fruit and delicate floral notes. Amazingly harmonious and pretty considering its complicated conception!

What the critics say:

Tamlyn Currin, who writes for Jancis Robinson MW’s Purple Pages, has already made La Grêle a Wine of the Week.

It’s pale, almost the creamy pink colour of antique roses. Quite restrained on the nose, then dry but with beautifully judged sweetness of fruit – peaches and raspberries. Very elegant, perfectly formed, lingering on the finish. Something about this wine put me in mind of an early morning walk through the cool crisp perfume of a formal rose garden. It has such quiet, ordered and understated loveliness. Who would think it had been born out of the tempest and destruction of a hailstorm?! The wine was open over three days and right to the end the freshness and fruit held true. A remarkable wine, not only for the story, but also for the pleasure it delivers in the glass. Bravo.

And La Grêle 2012 from Château de Roquefort has now arrived at LEA & SANDEMAN and you can toast the French spirit of générosité for just £12.95 a bottle, or allow yourself the luxury of a fridgeful with a dozen bottles costing just £143.40 – a price which includes delivery to pretty much anywhere in the mainland UK. La Grêle 2012 is available at your nearest LEA & SANDEMAN store or, of course, on-line.

Footnote: We have also been nominated for the 2012 IWSC Independent Retailer Award which relies on our customers voting. If you would be so kind to fill out the very brief form at the bottom of the page here, we would be delighted!