“Sauvage” from Marc Pichon
Marc Pichon of Anne Pichon
Walking past barrels in the cellar of Anne Pichon‘s Domaine de Murmurium, Marc Pichon squeezes through a sliver between the wall and racks of wine, and motions for us to follow. The ceiling is low and the space is tight, a true lemon-squeezer, but we are on his heels and surprised find ourselves in a partially excavated cellar. Eager to view the property’s soil profile of limestone with sand and stone, we didn’t expect to find it in Pichon’s cellar where it could, at any moment, topple upon our heads, but that is the nature of Pichon, a true “Sauvage” of a winemaker from Côte de Ventoux.
Pichon in the cellar
With our backs against the wall, Pichon explains that this is where he will place the nine amphora that he has recently purchased, each approximately 1000L in size. Vessels for the fermenting of his Syrah and Grenache, the amphora will encourage movement, much like Marc himself, and therefore complexity with a slower settling of the wine’s lees.
With a majority of his holdings located at higher elevations, Marc is in many ways set apart from his peers. “The best vineyards in Ventoux are low-yielding and difficult to cultivate; the ones that people want to get rid of.” And as he drives from parcel to parcel, we see a number of plots that are indeed abandoned. “People prefer vineyards at the bottom,” he adds, “where the sediment collects, because it’s easier to cultivate, with higher yields.”
At 450m, Marc organically farms 50-60 year old Grenache vines that are planted to limestone soils (pictured below). With south/southwestern exposure, the micro-climate here is dry, with cool soils that retain moisture when it rains and fruit that sees long hang times without rot or disease due to the Mistral that comes up the hill from below. A 3ha plot, this vineyard yields fruit for his Anne Pichon Ventoux Gigantic, which is 50% Grenache and 50% Syrah.
Marc and Anne Pichon’s daughter with old Grenache vines
And while the 7ha that surround his winery near the base of Ventoux at Domaine de Murmurium (see below) are planted to Roussanne, Viognier and Syrah, and have been farmed organically since 2008, his new properties will have to be converted. While expanding his holdings, Marc is also expanding the palate of his offerings with this year’s release of Anne Pichon “Sauvage” Syrah/Grenache AOP Ventoux 2011 and Anne Pichon “Sauvage” Vermentino VdP Vaucluse 2012.
“In the past, people preferred southern exposure,” he explained, “but because of the change in climate, now people prefer northern exposure that will bring more freshness and acidity. At night, you have a cold wind stream coming down Ventoux,” which leads to a drop in two degrees celsius each morning, “so we’re harvesting two to three weeks after Chateauneuf du Pape and Vacqueyras.”
The view from Domaine de Murmurium
Committed to the idea of freshness, Marc crafted these two “Sauvage” wines. “The idea with ‘Sauvage’,” he said, “is to get the fresh, easy style without too much alcohol.” A blend of 80% Syrah (25-year-old organic vines), which is naturally fermented for ten days in stainless steel tanks, and 20% Grenache Noir (35-year-old organic vines), which ferments naturally in cement tanks, “Sauvage” is an unfiltered wine. Hand-harvested at night when just ripe, the Syrah sees a 5-day cold soak to extract color and fruit without tannins. “The Syrah was on purpose hand-harvested when just mature at 12%, but not over mature, to obtain a style that’s fresh with good minerality and plenty of aromatics and flavors of little red fruits and violet flowers,” said Marc. “The Grenache was harvested fully mature at around 14%, to bring structure and complexity to the wine.” At 12.5% the “Sauvage” offers violet aromas and bright cherry/red berry acidity that is fresh and lingers.
Lunch with Marc & Anne Pichon
Made from 100% Vermentino vines that were hand-harvested at night and planted four years ago, the Anne Pichon “Sauvage” Vermentino VdP Vaucluse 2012 receives a three day maceration and an 8-10 day stainless steel fermentation with native yeasts. For this vintage, Marc said, “We didn’t push the maturity [of the fruit] because we wanted to keep the minerality. I wanted it drier and more minerally than the Viognier.” With lemon and crushed stone aromas, the “Sauvage” Vermentino 2012 offers citrus fruit acidity with a mouthfeel that’s light and bright on the finish.