Montirius and Mother Nature

Melba Allen, Wine expert and Wine bloggerWhat are Bio-dynamic wines? Where natural wine-makers don’t use man-made chemicals to treat their vines, soil or fermentation, bio-dynamic wines are those that are produced from grapes that are organically grown with respect to the surrounding environment.

Eric and his father before him at Montirius* studied the soils of his vineyards for many years. And as a result, the Domain produces some of the best Bio-dynamic wines possible from organic grapes in the Rhone region. One part of their vineyards even has soils similar to the makeup of vineyards of Saint-Emilion in Bordeaux.

I first met Eric at a Professional Wine Fair in Lyon and was very taken in with his enthusiasm as he talked about the history of his family's Domain and all the difficulties they had while going through the conversion of the vineyards. I tasted his white Vacqueyras (which is rare for this appellation known for its red wines) and found it with a high minerality without even knowing that the wine was actually called ' Mineral'. 45-year old vines of Grenache blanc and 10- year old vines of Roussanne and Bourboulenc makes up the constitution of this wine with character and lots of personality.

The red wines made up of Grenache noir, Syrah, Mourvédre and Carignan mostly, were quite interesting too. But since I didn't have a lot of time to continue my tasting, I promised myself to at least call and try to visit them. Well a couple of weeks later, that visit came sooner than even I expected. With Vinivert, The Wine Profilers took a two-day trip to the Southern Rhône region to visit a few Domains, and guess who was also on the list?

Eric Saurel wasn't there to receive us, but there was his charming wife Christine dividing her time between us and another small group of people wanting a chance to visit and taste their wines as well. The other group was there before us and was settling down to a tasting. So while they were doing there tasting with one of the daughters, we trotted off with Mrs. Saurel for a quick visit of the vineyards and the fermentation area. As Christine Saurel walked us through their Estate, she explained how it was difficult for them to find reputable persons using certain logic in the way they worked their vineyards, dispose of the water waste and the techniques used during the wine-making process. They put a lot of effort in improving every aspect of the wine-making process from working of their vineyards to the harvesting and strict selection of the grapes, to fermenting in concrete and stainless steel bins. And surprising enough, none of their wines are put in oak barrels, so you witness true fruitiness and the expression of the ‘terroir’.

Although, Michel has never tasted the wine of Montirius, I’ve tasted the Vacqueyras white and hadn’t yet had the chance to taste the reds, while Jean-Baptiste of Vinivert, on the other hand, has tasted all of their wine in the past and was there to share with us this discovery. So finally after finishing our little visit, the group before us was gone, therefore, we replaced them by sitting down in the tasting room to begin our tasting. We started with their white wine, the vin de pays de Vaucluse, ‘Mineral’, in which I found again that strange minerality with lots of fresh citrusy fruits. I loved the crispness of this wine. Afterwards, we tasted all of their reds, starting with ‘le Cadet, les Violettes, le Confidentiel, le Terre des Ainés, Le Clos, …

It was great, but very difficult to choose my favorite wines amongst them all. But if I had to, it would be ‘le Cadet’ 2006 for its young rich fruitiness of liquorices and black fruits, and a light hint of leather in the background of its aromas; while in the mouth, the tannins were soft and not astringent with the same fruits coming back onto the palate. Another very tasty wine is the Gigondas, ‘Terre des Aînés’, full of rich aromas and flavors of very ripe plums, figues and earthy spices. We had a wonderful time tasting these wines and are looking forward to opening a few bottles with friends very soon!

* Montirius is a 58 hectares (133 acres) Estate in the Southern Rhone region of France where with his wife Christine, Eric Saurel continues to improve on what his father Max started after abandoning the use of chemicals for weeding and pesticides not only in the vineyards, but also in their personal garden. Especially since Christine and Eric’s eldest daughter began to have health problems, Eric's decided that the whole family should be involved in the endeavors of a healthier way of living. So he changed their eating habits by producing organically grown fruits and vegetables on their property. As for the vineyards, Montirius is organically certified by Ecocert and became the first vineyard in the appellation of Vacqueyras and Gigondas to be certified Bio-Dynamic in 1999.

by Melba Allen

Leaving the USA for Europe after her studies at the University of Houston, Melba falls in love with the wine and food culture in France and decides to stay. She obtains a diploma from the well-known "Université-du-vin", Suze la Rousse in the Rhone Valley and at the same time succeeds in getting Beginning and Advance Certificates from the WSET [Wine & Spirits Education Trust] Program of London in the same year. As a passionate enthusiast, Melba dedicates herself to Wine Communication and Education. She teaches at the International European Management Institute since 2000.

Melba's blog:

Boutique hotels and designer Bbs in the Rhone Valley Business hotels and Secret places