Wine of the week

Domaine de Trévallon 2014 Red

Today, let me take you on a trip to the Alpilles, that mountainous massif located between the Durance and the Rhône, a few miles south Avignon. Are you having trouble picturing it? Then let the Mistral sweep you off your feet and take you to the Mediterranean, where your skin burns under the Provencal sun, and you’re suddenly face to face with a steep limestone massif. There you are. The Alpilles.

By Valentin Cotton
Domaine de Trévallon 2014
Domaine de Trévallon 2014 Red: 50% Cabernet Sauvignon – 50% Syrah.

Wait… Do they make wine here?

Yes, and they have been doing it for a long time. As a matter of fact, the Romans used to cultivate vines in the Aix-en-Provence region. Even if the terroirs are ideal, the phylloxera infestation and the crisis that followed, at the beginning of the 20th century, caused a real loss to the winemaking activity. For a while, only the Bandol appellation was used for the Provence and its qualitative wines.

Trévallon, when history mixes the love for this place and for the arts 

Le Domaine de Trévallon niché au coeur des Alpilles
The Domaine de Trévallon is located at Saint-Étienne-du-Grès, near Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, nestled in the heart of the Alpilles. ©Domaine de Trévallon.

The history of the Domaine de Trévallon is quite singular. In the 1950s, Jacqueline and René Dürrbach bought the Mas Chabert and some other lands in the Alpilles. The artist couple, who were friends with Picasso and Fernand Léger, decided to move in order to escape the hustle and bustle of the Côte d’Azur while enjoying the wonderful landscapes of the Alpilles. In 1973, their son Eloi had the idea of creating a winery right in the middle of the garrigue. But the limestone is tough. In order to plant the vines, they had to use dynamite sticks (a bit like Henri Jayer in his Gros Parentoux in Burgundy) and the pickaxe. Each vine was a struggle but the idea was brilliant: to plant Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah on these limestone soils. 

Right. I forgot to mention. We are in southern Rhône, which means that these two grape varieties are quite unusual (Syrah is usually found in northern Rhône and Cabernet Sauvignon in Bordeaux). But according to Eloi Dürrbach research, the Cabernet Sauvignon already existed in the region before phylloxera. Regardless of not being a trained oenologist, he already had an intuition and understanding of the terroirs. 

Consequently, even if the number of chemistry and phytosanitary products is rising in this decade, Eloi Dürrbach always refused to put any chemicals in his vineyard. No need for certification, the man’s honesty is extreme. 

Domaine de Trévallon: a myth is taking shape 

The old farmhouse is surrounded by 17 hectares of vines – ©Domaine de Trévallon.

After a first vinification in 1976 in the open air (since the domain had not yet a cellar), they started to make more vintages that were increasily successful. Trévallon gradually became more structured. In the 1980s, a starred restaurant put the wines on the menu and the now famous wine critique Robert Parker gave it a very good mark. This was all it took for the wines to become famous and sought-after worldwide. Despite this success, the Domaine’s philosophy remained the same: terroir, humility and quality over everything else. 

While making his way into the wine world, Eloi Dürrbach is determined and … shameless: the appellations refuse to give the title to Trévallon, saying the percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon is too high. Whatever! The wine was released as a PGI (protected geographical indication) anyway. 
Ah! I know what you’re thinking “how can a PGI be a great wine?!”. Well… sometimes the vision and quality of a man can override the rules of an appellation and magnify the terroir. 
After that, the Domaine de Trévallon has become a myth, an extremely sought-after wine, which is unfortunately sometimes speculative on the resale market. As for Eloi Dürrbach, he passed away in November 2021. No one expected it, his passing unleashed a wave of emotion and people payed tribute to the man who knew how to create a marvel of Provençal poetry. The wine’s secrets are only revealed after many years inside a cellar… Good things come to those who wait. 

©Domaine de Trévallon.

Wine of the Week: Domaine de Trévallon 2014 Red

This fresh vintage from 2014 tasted some rain before harvest, which required sorting to keep only the best grapes. Then, they were aged for 24 months in foudres and barrels. 
Of course, Trévallon always needs some time in the cellar before it becomes accessible and reveals its full aromatic palette. However, this 2014, whose specificity has been mentioned, is ready. Its freshness gives it a great finesse. Smell it and you’ll experience an explosion of aromas: the garrigue, of course, but also pepper, plum, tapenade, red fruits, and light notes of cinnamon. As for the taste, I love this graphite and limestone aromatic. It is racy, fresh and has a long finish. No heaviness here, the tannins are melted and powdered, just like a danseuse étoile. It is extremely rare to find such a playful delicacy of red fruits mixed with the nobility of tannin and freshness. 

This is big, very big indeed.
Here’s an idea for a fun game: open this bottle for your guests without telling them what it is, and pair it with caillettes provençales and a ratatouille. Don’t say anything. Somme will bet it’s a Bordeaux (because of the Cabernet Sauvignon), but not many will find the Alpilles. I assure you: they will be grateful for this discovery. 

Fun fact: for each vintage, the label of the Domaine de Trévallon changes. Indeed, Eloi Dürrbach asked his artist father to paint 50 posters in 1996. Since then, depending on the vintage, the family selects the poster illustrating the label. Each bottle becomes a work of art. 

PRICE: approx. € 70 (no sale at the winery)