Domaine Rouge Bleu
Taking It One Day at a Time
Caroline Jones and Thomas Bertrand, the married team behind Domaine Rouge Blue in the village of Sainte-Cécile-les-Vignes, have their work cut out for them. They took over this 9 ha estate in 2012 from a friend who bought it a few years earlier. Although the friend’s heart was in the right place, and worked the vines organically, he couldn’t keep up with everything that needed to be done and much of the land was neglected. Even today, there are some areas where weeds, grasses and wild flowers have grown tall enough to obscure the vines. Working their old vines of carignan, grenache and syrah entirely by hand, just the two of them, is a tremendous undertaking, but Thomas and Caroline have their own way of dealing with it. “You can’t think about how much work there is to do, or you will be over-whelmed,” says Thomas, “you just have to focus on the vine in front of you.”
The domain is comprised of 10 adjacent plots situated around Thomas and Caroline’s home and cellar. The soils here are gravely with large stones over clay, the typical terroir of the southern Rhône. There is a subterranean water supply 4 meters down, providing the vines with nutrients in this very dry climate. The oldest vines on the estate are a plot of grenache planted in 1905 which yield a miniscule 10hl/ha of very concentrated juice. This goes into the ‘Lunatique’ cuvée, which is picked early in the morning, only on a fruit day (according to the biodynamic calendar). The grapes are stomped by foot and macerate for a month before aging for 3 years in old barrels that had been used for Chateauneufdu-Pape Blanc. Although the ‘Lunatique’ is their top cuvee, the attention to detail and care that goes into every stage of winemaking informs the approach to all of their bottlings.
In the cellar, Caroline who is a trained oenologist from Australia, takes the lead, employing traditional methods and some ingenious techniques. She utilizes whole cluster fermentation so the stems can absorb some of the alcohol helping to keep the wines balanced, and adds white wine lees to the “Lunatique’ to add aromatic lift. The resulting wines are fantastically balanced between power and elegance, richness and finely etched detail. But of course it all starts with a deep respect for the land, and the hard work in the vines. Every day