Julien Zernott's Pas de L'Escalette has enjoyed a meteoric rise in notoriety since we first discovered these gorgeous wines at ViniSud (the massive biannual exhibition of Mediterranean wines) in 2006. Zernott's brilliant reds took the fair by storm, and it wasn't long before he was receiving calls from the world's top sommeliers; the keepers of the wine lists of Joel Robuchon, Pierre Gagnaire, the Hotel Crillon, and perhaps the world's greatest restaurateur, Michel Bras.
Why all the noise about a tiny, obscure estate that we found only after realizing that Google Maps had wildly underestimated the travel time on the back roads above Montpelier? The real story behind these gorgeous, vibrant reds is the place: a spot where it appears that time has stood still for centuries.
When Julien and Delphine Rousseau first stumbled upon the old vines on this tiny 10-hectare property, they were enchanted. The nearest village, Pegarolles-de-Escalette, had a population of 144. The land was rugged. The vines were terraced, zigzagging up ancient hillsides. The soil was precious limestone, but at this altitude (over 1000 feet), the old vines managed to borrow underground for meters, quenching their thirst on subterranean water reserves. But it was the "Clapas" -- small timeless walls of dry stones that surrounded the terraces-- that grabbed Zernott's imagination and wouldn't let go.
Julien and Delphine cultivate their vines as naturally as possible, avoiding chemical treatments, and working the well-drained limestone scree in a way that ensures its continuing vitality. Half the land parcels face east, receiving the rising sun; the other half face west, benefitting from the setting sun.
Le Pas de l'Escalette
The 2007 Les Petit Pas is a blend of 40% Grenache, 30% Carignan, 20% Cinsault, and 10% Syrah. The grapes are completely destemmed and destalked before fermentation, and the wine receives about six months to mature in conical wooden casks. The result is a happy wine, one that's easy to drink and full of crisp fruit.
Try this wine with osso buco, or a lamb stew with aubergines.