In the Vineyard at La Ferme St Pierre in Côte de Ventoux
Paul Vendran of La Ferme St Pierre, in the vineyard
“With French oak, it seems that more barrels are being made than trees,” said Paul Vendran, the winegrower/proprietor at La Ferme St Pierre in Côte de Ventoux. “At least with American oak, you know what you’re getting,” he added. “Bordeaux and Burgundy get priority from [French] coopers, not Ventoux.” A hunter and a cyclist who speaks freely of flights full of fisherman from Frankfurt to Anchorage, Paul is not a man of few words, but he’s also not a vintner to labor over the language of his work in the vineyards or cellar.
A native of Flassan, the town in which he resides, Paul grew up in the vineyards. In 1990, he took the reigns from his father –the town’s mayor for 36 years, who was not a wine drinker nor maker– and began making and bottling the family’s wines. With 25ha of vines that wrap around his family’s home near the base of Mont Ventoux, Paul farms organically, without the use of chemicals in the vineyard.
Of his winemaking process, Paul said, “When using oak barrels you should not be looking for tannins as structural elements, but as flavor components,” as he drew a sample of 2012 Syrah from the barrel. More-or-less de-stemming most of his clusters, Vendran opines that wood tannins are “the worst”. Using only free run juice for the first and second barrels of Syrah that go into the La Ferme St Pierre “Roi Faineant” (or lazy king), Paul explained that he doesn’t do pumpovers or remontage, but rather delestage at the beginning of the wine’s fermentation, before the alcohol becomes too high, because, he said, the biggest tannin solvent is alcohol.
15-year-old Syrah vines
When it comes to recent years, Vendran says that in Côtes du Rhone and Châteauneuf du Pape, 2012 is considered the better vintage, but, he said, “I prefer the 2011. It’s more structured. 2012 is very fruity, perhaps to be drunk earlier,” he added. For the La Ferme St Pierre Rosé “Cuvee Juliette“, Paul said, “I prefer the ’12,” because it has more fruit. The best years for the red wines are when we have problems with the white and rosé wines.” With strawberry fruit and crushed rock creaminess, the “Cuvee Juliette” 2012 offers great acidity with a touch of orange zest.
Made with 40% Grenache, 40% Syrah (one-year in new oak) and 20% Carignan, the La Ferme St Pierre “Roi Faineant” 2010 exhibits fresh berry and plum fruit, purple flowers and a backbone of leathery tannins that preclude the spice on the finish. The “Roi Faineant” 2011, which is the same cepage, offers very ripe Syrah, with lush plum and black fruit that isn’t cloying, with scaffolding tannins, and anise/licorice on the finish.
A 70-year-old Grenache vine
As a winemaker who “hates marketing”, Paul laughed and said that he lives a life of “hunting in the winter and no marketing in the summer.” That said, he’s well aware of the fact that consumers are more and more looking for wines that are easy to drink. To achieve this, Paul’s concerns lie not so much with the harvest date, but rather with his work in the winery, separating the free run juice from the first and second press, he said, “like a chef blending properly, to make the style that he wants.”