Some of the most interesting wines from France are coming from tiny villages tucked in and around the southern end of the Rhone valley. One of these small villages, Visan, is situated about 5 miles north of Rasteau, just on the other side of the Aigues river, a tributary to the Rhone. Originally owned by the Knights Templar, Visan became Papal land and part of the Vaucluse in 1937.
Vines have been cultivated in the region for hundreds of years. An early testament to the antiquity of the vineyards is the inscription on one of the chancel arches of the 12th century chapel of Notre-Dame des Vignes that reads "posuerunt me custodem in vinoe" or "They placed me here as custodian of the vines." Visan was classified as Cotes du Rhone Visan in 1967.
Visan enjoys a Mediterranean climate and is greatly affected by the Mistral winds that flow up through the river valleys. The interplay of persistent sunshine and cooling breezes is perfect for producing lush Grenache. While most of the region's wines have been made by the local cooperative for last several decades, a few growers are making their own wine, ushering in a new age of quality.
Domaine la Florane is the pearl of Visan. Situated on 21 hectares at the highest point in the appellation, the vineyards sit on a south facing slope the locals call Coste Chaude (warm hillside). Grenache is planted at the apex of the estate at an altitude of almost 300 meters, where it is kept cool by the Mistral wind. On the other hand, the Syrah is situated at the foot of the estate where it is a little warmer. The warmer weather mellows some of the spicier elements of the Syrah, and allows more black fruit and increased alcohol.
Francois Fabre, began to bottle his own wine in 2001 when his son Adrien joined him on the family estate. In Terre Pourpre, the Fabres combine 60% Grenache with 40% Syrah, both taken from individual parcels that are harvested and vinified separately, then blended together into one cohesive whole. The Grenache lends finesse and elegance, while the Syrah adds strength and intensity. The final result is a wine that is both robust and supple, with seductive black cherry aromas, and a velvety texture.
Pair with herb-encrusted lamb rib chops.