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03.21.2006

2004 Domaine Rimbert Rosé, Saint Chinian, Languedoc, France

rimbert.jpgIt may be cold as hell in San Francisco right now, and pouring rain earlier in the day, but that doesn't stop me from drinking pink wines. Touted as the savior of summer, and other such nonsense that basically puts these wines on the same level as cold soda pop on a hot day, rosé wines are some of my favorites to pair with a good part of the wide variety of ethnic foods that we eat in the Bay Area on a regular basis. Going out for Mediterranean? Vietnamese? Tapas? I'm much more likely to leave the house with a nice bottle of rose than anything else. It's true that some people look at me funny when I show up with something that resembles White Zinfandel, but the stigma of pink wine is rapidly fading, none too soon for my tastes.

Rosé may very well be France's best kept secret. At least around these parts. The undisputed king (queen?) of rosé wine in my book (though I have some favorites from Italy), Provence and its various appellations, Languedoc, Minervois, Bandol, Aix en Provence, have known for centuries just how perfect these wines are for food.

In the foothills of the Cevennes, on the banks of the ancient river Berlou, sits a village of the same name whose residents have probably been drinking rose from the area's ancient Carignane vines for longer than anyone can remember. In this village, the tiny Domaine Rimbert makes its home and its wine.

Founded by owner winemaker Jean Marie Rimbert in 1996 after his purchase of approximately 45 acres (16 of which include some of the country's oldest Carignane vines) Domaine Rimbert exists because of one man's belief in the unique terroir of this particular place. The St. Chinian / Berlou appellation is characterized, indeed defined, by the massive amounts of broken schist in the soil. This sparkly and crumbly blue-green metamorphic rock, Rimbert believes, provides a unique environment for the vines and imparts a personality to the wines that can't be duplicated elsewhere. Rimbert avows an intense personal preference for this quality and in particular its effect on his favorite varietal: Carignane.

St. Chinain's soil is so suffused with schist, and deeper down an acidic clay, that it is for all intents and purposes completely inhospitable to most normal plant life. The windy rock strewn hilltops never allowed the advance of the chestnut forests lower in the valley, instead they remained sparsely dotted with thorny scrub brush and odd grasses. While Rimbert farms mostly the ancient vines he has revived on his property, in 2000 he planted some new vines which required nearly 50 tons of additional topsoil per acre to be mixed into the rock and clay before they would take root.

Rimbert runs a small operation out of his hewn stone and brick winery in the village. Most of the work in the vineyards is done by hand, and the winemaking takes the sort of approach you might expect from a dedicated winemaker in a country village. The winery is gravity fed, with no pumps and minimal electrical machinery, and the cellar is naturally air conditioned. All wines are fermented with natural yeasts, the most minimal use of sulpher possible, and very little filtration.

The domaine makes several fine wines from the area under its own name, and several others under other brands. The flagship wines are red blends with significant amounts of old vine Carignane blended with Cinsault, Mourvedre, Syrah, and Grenache. Rimbert also makes whites blended from Marsanne, Roussanne, Grenache Blanc and Rolle.

This particular wine I believe was made specifically at the request of importer Kermit Lynch, and is most likely made from Carignane and Grenache, though I am not certain.

Tasting Notes:
A perfect pink rose color in the glass this wine has a rather fruity nose of strawberry jam, rosehips, and flinty minerality. In the mouth it is surprisingly crisp given the sweetness of its aromas. The wine has flavors of tart rosehips and kumquats laced with bright, wet stone flavors. The acid levels are good, making the wine juicy and lively on the palate with a clean finish. Very easy to drink and represents everything good about rosé.
Food Pairing:
Try this with a nice Middle Eastern dish like this Lebanese stuffed zucchini.

Overall Score: 9

How Much?: $11

I believe this wine is only available through Kermit Lynch. Give them a call at 707.963.8293 to order.

Comments (13)

Iris wrote:
03.22.06 at 12:06 AM

Nice to read about what you could call a "neighbour" around here - Rimbert and Berlou (where you find also one of the most successful cooperative wineries of the region, which is largely responsible for the obtention of the "villages" label "St. Chinian - Berlou" of Berlou's wines last year).
In a bird's fly, we are at 10 km, by road, it would take 30 km and 45 minutes, because you have to go all around the separating mountains with all their schist. Not as inhospital for plants as you say - if lots of the wines look a bit desert-like, it's partly du to year-long herbizid use on the slopes... But I think, Jean Marie is trying to do better, he's a "lutte raisonnée" member, which means, that he only sprays his wines, when it's really necessary.

I dont know his rosé - he normally sells it under funny labels (you find them on his webside) style arroseur arrosé and for this year he has the pig rose project. But he is quite famous for his excellent Carignan, which he called Carignator - and I think he is about to sell Carignator II...

Maria wrote:
03.22.06 at 8:23 AM

How refreshing it is to find another fan of the French rose!! Everytime I go to Kermit's store I find myself grabbing at least a couple bottles. They have proven to be the best way to chase away the blues for me this very cold & soggy winter in the Bay Area. It's a bit like sunshine in a bottle.

Alder wrote:
03.22.06 at 9:06 AM

Iris,

Thanks as always for the neighborhood perspective! I really must come visit you and your neighbors some day.

Alder wrote:
03.22.06 at 9:09 AM

Yes, Maria,

I'm a huge fan, and totally agree with your sentiment.

JP wrote:
03.22.06 at 12:11 PM

I think you got Kermit Lynch's phone # wrong.
I've got: 510.524.1524

Alder wrote:
03.22.06 at 12:15 PM

JP,

I gave out the national sales office number, figuring that they'd probably prefer to handle calls from Texas, etc. rather than the retail store. But perhaps I am incorrect.

Robert F. Sweeney, MD wrote:
03.26.06 at 1:58 PM

Alder,
Carignan is a ancient grape. There are profound wines made with this grape. One small producer is Fra Fulco in Priorat. Vinyes velles is predominantly carignan with a touch of grenache and cabernet sauvignon. Our first bottle was at TRU Restaurant in Chicago. Bob

03.27.06 at 7:13 PM

Good to see some props for the wines of this area. When my wife and I visited St. Chinian a few years ago, Domaine Rimbert was closed for the week. Still, we brought home a few bottles of his and have been happy to find them around the bay area. Great stuff for the price.

Last year this wine was available in a magnum over at K and L, didn't see it last weekend when I dropped by to pick up some rosé though. I see green garlic, and start wanting rosé.

Steve wrote:
03.28.06 at 4:49 PM

I've enjoyed Rimbert's wines before, but never seen them at Kermit Lynch. If he is importing the wines that is a brand new development.

Alder wrote:
03.28.06 at 4:53 PM

I'm nearly positive that's where this wine was purchased (it was brought over by a friend for dinner).

Anonymous wrote:
03.29.06 at 9:13 AM

The only store I'm aware of that carries Rimbert is K & L (at least the initials are the same!)

Alder wrote:
03.29.06 at 9:13 AM

Then perhaps I'm utterly and completely mistaken. :-(

Steve wrote:
06.04.06 at 3:19 PM

we carry 2 of Rimbert's Saint-Chinian reds, the Travers de Marceau and the Mas au Schiste at Vintage Berkeley (510.665.8600) on Vine St. I'll look into the rose now too.

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