2021 Domaine le Sang des Cailloux, Vacqueyras AOC Rouge “Lopy”, Rhone Valley, France.
It was a thrill for me to meet and taste with Serge Férigoule of Le Sang des Cailloux, a legend in the Southern Rhône region and synonymous with the Vacqueyras region, these wines are incredible and soulful efforts that sit somewhere between the famous Chateauneuf du Pape and, the higher in the Dentelles, Gigondas, but with their own distinction and sultry depth. Férigoule, who is almost as well known for his barbell mustache as his fantastic wines recent held court at importer Kermit Lynch’s 50th Anniversary Portfolio Tasting in San Francisco and showed off his latest releases, which was a huge highlight for me, as I’ve long admired his wines. The stunning deep garnet 2021 Vacqueyras Rouge “Cuvée Lopy” or Vieilles Vignes, named after Férigoule’s tiny home farm, is the signature wine of Domaine le Sang des Cailloux and this vintage is absolutely thrilling in the glass with loads of earthy and spicy dark fruits, chalky and flinty mineral and wild garrigue or roasted herbs. The full bodied old vine Cuvée Lopy is a blend of 75% Grenache and 25% Syrah coming from vines about 65 years old and from the Plateau des Garrigues, that Férigoule explains, where there is red clay, limestone, and the famous galets roulés, or rounded stones, found in Chateauneuf most notably, which imparts a terrific intensity and depth to the wines. The leathery and powerful Lopy opens slowly with dusty black raspberry, sweet plum, red currant and reduced strawberry fruits, cracked pepper, tarry licorice and dried flowers, all with a taut structure with fine youthful tannins and natural acidity at this stage, best to decant and have with a heart country style meal. There’s a ton to savor in these Domaine le Sang des Cailloux bottlings and it’s a great way to truly understand the Vacqueyras region at its very best and these wines are savvy choices for old school Rhône enthusiasts, these are wines to covet selfishly!

Serge Férigoule, Mr. Vacqueyras, and his Domaine le Sang des Cailloux, which means “the blood of the stones” are legends of the Southern hone and the wines are as authentic as is Serge’s exquisite mustache and wry smile, this is a man who lives and breathes the terroir here and all of his being and soul go into these wines. Serge left winemaking school, as importer Kermit Lynch notes, back in 1974 with a dream to put his life into the land and reward the world with the results, and happily it all came together. First he went to work for Monsieur Ricard’s family in 1979 to oversee their vineyards in region. Though, as Kermit goes on, without anyone in his family to succeed him, Ricard decided to gamble by partnering with Serge in 1982 and this helped secure the best possible outcome for the hardworking Férigoule, who had not inheritance to look forward to. In 1990, after Monsieur Ricard’s retirement, Serge launched Le Sang des Cailloux, and that timing must have been in stars, as Vacqueyras had just been awarded its full A.O.C. that same year, and the rest, as they say, is history with Domaine le Sang des Cailloux becoming one of the region’s most iconic wineries. This 2021 feels brighter than some editions I’ve had of Le Sand des Cailloux and while quite robust, I can see it aging for two decades easily and I certainly would encourage patience with it, it should gain width, generosity and develop nicely, like a Burgundy would, in the bottle. I was very impressed with Serge Férigoule’s Vacqueyras Blanc as well, it is actually his most rare and expensive offering, made from Clairette Blanche, Grenache Blanc, Bourboulenc, Roussanne, plus uniquely some Viognier and Marsanne too, which is not allowed in Chateauneuf whites. For the Lopy, all organic de-stemmed grapes used, was fermented naturally with indigenous yeasts in concrete vat with daily pump-overs before being racked to used 450L puncheons and aged about a year. Everything done here is to promote terroir and allow for the wine’s rustic charm to shine through, which results in exceptional stuff, as seen here, which I highly recommend.
($59 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

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