Like many appellations in France, the villages of the Cotes-du-Rhone have been producing wine for hundreds of years. But up until the 1980s, few producers bottled their own wines, preferring to sell their grapes to local cooperatives to have meager, but guaranteed cash flow. It's not surprising today that many of the most successful proprietors are those who took the risk of bottling their own wines earlier than their neighbors, as they had a head start in understanding the true qualities of the vineyards of the appellation.
Brothers Pascal and Richard Jaume currently manage this 175 acre family-owned estate. The wines are widely regarded as some of the very best of the Cotes-du-Rhone Villages. But Richard reminds us that the domain's remarkable qualitative advances never would have been possible had it not been for the work of his father, Claude, who took the risk of bottling the family's wine in the 1960s. "When our father began bottling wines under our own label, our neighbors thought he was crazy. They shook their heads believing that he would ruin our family's business. But, it was he was already successful by the time the others considered bottling. As a result, we were able to invest earlier in both the vineyards and the cellar. The rest is just hard work."
Vinsobres is a magnificent hillside village located in the southern Rhone Valley in the beautiful touristic department of the Drome. This is a very small village, one that is best navigated by foot - despite the steep inclines - as the two-way streets are so narrow that only the smallest cars can squeeze through side by side. Domaine Jaume sits modestly on the 'main' road that ascends into the heart of the town. But once one passes from the front courtyard to the cellar, one is escorted into one of the most meticulously constructed boutique wineries in the Rhone. Here, Pascal and Richard can carefully attend to the old vine Grenache and Syrah that goes into the domain's Vinsobres Altitude 420. The family style is towards intensely fruity, forward wines - wines that drink beautifully on release, but continue to age gracefully for 5-7 years.
This month's wine, harvested from vineyards of about 1300 feet in altitude, is from the wonderfully balanced 2004 vintage. Made largely of old vine Grenache, the wine has aromas of provencal spices and red fruit. On the palate, the wine is rich, yet lively, with great length. While this Vinsobres is quite versatile, we really enjoyed it recently with a simply prepared roasted chicken, rubbed with rosemary and garlic.