Domaine Élodie Balme

France, Rhône

The rise of Domaine Elodie Balme is a story that is becoming increasingly familiar, and not only in the Rhône valley. A small family-owned vineyard that grows fruit and used to sell the harvest to the local cave cooperative is taken over by a more adventurous, commercially minded and less risk adverse child, who decides to leave the financial safety blanket that the cooperative provides. Striving to make a name for themselves, creating a label and a following that will lead to proud parents congratulating themselves for the wise decision to take the risk and pass on the family estate to the care of their sons and daughters.

This is certainly a story that has reaped rewards with Domaine Elodie Balme in the Southern Rhône appellation of Rasteau.

Grenache is the key player in these parts along with the usual suspects Mourvèdre and Syrah, although this variety is playing less of a role with each passing vintage. Elodie has a slightly new approach that marks her wines out against a lot of very good domaines. She has a very particular 'fruit forward' style, with emphasis very much on the freshness of the wine. A quick walk around the vineyards surrounding the estate and you can see why, some lovely blue marl which is excellent for water retention and therefore helping grapes reach full maturity in a hot environment, all the 28 hectares are farmed organically and have a beautiful aspect looking south toward the Dentelles de Montmirail that dominates the skyline.

The winemaking is kept very simple. Why complicate things when you have such great source material, such beautifully ripe grapes? Fermentation takes place in concrete with a little of the wine aged in old barrels and small foudres. I can't tell you how refreshing it is to walk around a winery and not have the winemaker gush enthusiastically about the 'barrel room' where the wines are aged. I counted maybe 8 barrels, increasingly this is becoming the norm in the southern Rhône as winemakers seek balance and freshness and age wines mostly in tank to help preserve this.

Élodie has been highlighted by respected wine journalist Matt Walls as 'one of the rising stars of the appellation' Whether you like the Vin de France, a wine with a splash of Merlot to give it body, or the Rasteau, a delicious drop of Grenache-infused Rhône delight, or the more serious Roaix (the neighbouring appellation) with a touch more spice, you can rest assured these are some of the finest wines being made in Rasteau and the southern Rhône and extremely good value.

Rasteau is one of the modern success stories of newly elevated 'village' that has attained Cru status and has not looked back since gaining elevation in 2010, but success can only really be judged by the public awareness and recognition of the names backed up in no small part by sales, something that thankfully Rasteau has managed to achieve in little more than a decade. Roaix may be less well-known, but the wine is well worth discovering.

Matt Walls interviewed Élodie in January 2022, and asked her
In France, I still hear people describing wines as ‘feminine’ and ‘masculine’, whereas in England it’s no longer as common as it was.
Élodie replied:
When I first started out everyone would ask me the same question, ‘do you think you make feminine wines?’, and really this question irritated me! I don’t make masculine wine or feminine wine; I just make wine! My wine! Simple as that. But now, I think I know what they meant by asking me that – because it’s true, it is a feminine style of wine after all. For me, feminine wines – which can be made by men too – are wines which are less extracted, less austere. We know what it means.

Read the full interview on Matt Walls blog
Matt Walls  (Jan 2022)