While in Bordeaux, going to class and tasting anything and everything they could get their hands on, the two men couldn't have known how it would all come together. One was the grandson of a man who had bought land in the southern Rhone that no one else wanted. The other was seemingly more interested in cuisine than enology. But the friendship they made in the early 1980s really came full circle at harvest time of 2007, when Jean Ferran and Philippe Cambie hit pay dirt at Escaravailles.
We've been waiting for this last wine from Escaravailles, one of the poster children of our miraculous 2007 tastings in the southern Rhone, for some time. "La Ponce," the sensationally rich, concentrated and lively old-vine Grenache/Syrah blend from the rugged, high-elevation perch in Rasteau, had so much stuffing that Jean Ferran and Philippe Cambie decided to bottle and release it last. It hasn't moved much since our unforgettable barrel tasting at Escaravailles in 2008.
Jean Ferran's grandfather wasn't a man of means. So, when he decided to buy land in Rasteau and Cairanne, he purchased parcels at the highest spots in town because it was cheapest (no electricity up top!). The ground was rocky. Planting was carried out with picks. But those vines, planted almost 100 years ago in the most impossible of soil, now have roots that have spidered meters underground, naturally quenching their summer thirst on deep water reserves. These twisted, gnarly old vines that have seen so many summers and too much wind have a story to tell. None more electrifying than the fight between the two wine-school friends that really changed the course of Escaravailles.
One day, over 10 years ago, Jean Ferran called his old school friend and asked him to come by. Cambie, a huge man with an extraordinary palate, walked the vines with Ferran. Once back in the house, Cambie laid into Ferran, telling him that the farming practices were an embarrassment. The yields were too high, the plants out of balance. Fruit needed to be dropped, and, even then, Cambie said, Ferran would have to wait until the last possible moment to pick. Ferran answered, "I want your help, but you're asking me to take risks I can't afford." To which Cambie answered, "You can't afford not to. Either do what you need to do to make great wine, or don't hire me."
Domaine des Escaravailles
The result of the fight is clear when you pour the wine in the glass. The nose is all explosive red fruit. On the palate, the dark fruit is superbly concentrated, and the wine is dense and chewy, with ripe tannins and impressive length.
This big, structured, almost meaty wine will pair wonderfully with cassoulet for a wonderful fall dinner.