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We discovered the Isle Saint Pierre wines through our friends Karina and Guillaume Lefevre of Domaine du Sulauze, home of the famed Pomponette Pink! Isle Saint-Pierre is a small island in the middle of the Rhône river, located 25km south of Arles and 15km away from the Mediterranean in the heart of the Camargue region. In 1927, Parisian wine merchant Pierre Chassaing founded Domaine Isle Saint-Pierre and devoted himself to cultivating vines and raising sheep. A few vines remains from that time, together with a flock of 200 sheep that provides the manure needed to nourish the vines. The proximity to the water means that the island enjoys a coastal climate (with a cooling influence from the nearby bodies of water) and deep, well draining sedimentary soils comprised of sand and silt.
Though the estate dates from the 1920’s, it wasn’t until 1972 when the next generation set about replanting the vineyard with noble vines grafted onto American rootstock. Because of the terroir and temperature, they are able to grow varietals that thrive in Continental climates. For red wines as well as for the rosé, the main varieties are Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Arinarnoa (a cross between merlot and petit verdot). The white wines are made from Chardonnay, Sauvignon and Muscat. In collaboration with France’s Agronomic Research Institute (INRA), a parcel of land on the island is devoted to testing the introduction of new vine plants created and selected through research.
Today, third generation vigneron Julien Henry farms organically with careful attention paid to the leaf system of the vine. The goal is to achieve the right balance between grape production and the leaf surface exposed to sunlight. Working the soil enables the vines to establish a deep root system, which protects them from the summer droughts. Through careful viticulture and maintaining low yields, the estate is able to harvest its vineyards by the 15th of September before the arrival of the rains which often fall as the season progresses into fall.
Although the Isle St Pierre wines come from the very southern stretches of France, they display wonderful freshness and aromatic appeal. At harvest, as soon as the grapes enter the cellar, they are cooled to a temperature below 16°C. The whites are pneumatically pressed and gently release their juice free of any oxidation, thus retaining their aromas. The rosé harvest undergoes a short skin maceration with complete control of process timing, producing a rosé exclusively from free-run juice. For the red, complete fermentation of the sugar takes in around five days, followed by a maceration period which varies depending on the grape variety.
APPELLATION: Igp Mediterranee
VARIETALS: 40% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Franc, 20% blend of Arinarnoa, Petit Verdot and Tannat
VINEYARD: 200 hectares on an island by the mouth of the Rhone river.
SOIL: Sand, silt, alluvial soils of the Rhone
VITICULTURE: Sustainable, no weed-killers, no synthetic fertilizers.
VINIFICATION: Cold maceration, 100% free-run juice
AGING: Aged in tank
PRODUCTION: 60,000 cases
NOTES: An exceptional value in Southern French rosé!
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