2012 Le Roc des Anges Segna de Cor Cotes du Roussillon
 
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Marjorie and Stephane Gallet Of Michelin 3-Stars, Crossword Puzzles and (the new) Roc des Anges

Day 3 in France. If you ever had any doubt as to the depths of the European recession, one only needs to take an 8 p.m. stroll through the old town of Montpellier. Montpellier is a wealthy, student town, full of quaint boutiques, restaurants and cafes. Three years ago, on our last visit, the streets were animated and bustling with shoppers. This week, the town was dead at night.

With the internal economy in turmoil, and the new socialist government elected on a platform that reads like an obituary for small businesses, unemployment rates have skyrocketed. Over lunch at cozy Chez Boris, we were told by a friend's daughter — now attending graduate school in the city — that her teachers "no longer teach. One guy sits at his desk doing crossword puzzles while we struggle to learn on our own. If we complain, we'll be given bad grades." Bienvenue en France.

If all this is bad news for 20-year-olds, it's far worse for family-owned wineries. In France, if a small business fires an employee, it is essentially saddled with another year of that employee's salary. As a result, most of the vintners with whom we've spoken are caught in the crosshairs. On one hand, costs are rising. On the other, prices are falling. They need to grow, to take advantage of economies of scale. Yet, due to the employment laws, they can't "afford" to hire.

It's in this economic climate that some of the most resilient and resourceful young winegrowers in the world are desperately trying to hang on. All were trained in the top enology and agronomy universities of France, at a time when teachers were still teaching. Most work 16-hour days, doing all the vineyard and cellar work themselves so as to avoid hiring workers they can't afford to fire. Few, we believe, will survive.

The last time we visited the sleepy, whitewashed village of Montner and its windswept hillsides was in 2010. The Gallets lived upstairs as Carignan bubbled in the cellar. Just 20 minutes from the Mediterranean and the Majorcan capital of Perpignan, Stéphane and Marjorie had cobbled together a patchwork quilt of dozens of ancient vineyard parcels, all planted on rare schist soils, with roots spidering meters underground. The 100+ year-old plants are head-trained, each organically farmed by hand by the couple, ekeing out less than 2 tons of sweet small-berry clusters per acre — clusters that would soon find their way to the tables of over 50 Michelin star restaurants.

Still, as we made the drive south from Montpellier yesterday, we were squirming in our seats. We'd really hit it off with Marjorie and Stéphane on the last trip, but hadn't seen them since. When we called to tell them of our upcoming trip to the south, they insisted we stop by. We felt compelled to accept the invitation, but we couldn't help but wonder if their request wasn't fueled by desperation. It wouldn't be long before we'd learn otherwise.

Marjorie, Stéphane and the two boys were sitting in the SUV when we pulled up. We hopped in the back seat and exchanged high-fives with little Arthur. We rolled out of Montner, and 10 minutes later found ourselves on the site of the new Roc des Anges.

The Temple at Le Roc des AngesTen months ago, in the midst of what may well be the deepest recession since the 1930s, Stéphane Gallet walked into a local bank with his balance sheet and a plan. At first, the bankers were incredulous, and figured the books were cooked. But the more they dug into the numbers, the more Roc des Anges sales grew, the Gallets' juicy, dense, old-vine reds — infused with tremendous low pH vibrancy — not only finding their way onto the wine lists of 3-star Guy Savoy, Le Pré Catelan and The Bristol in Paris, but to the Michelin stars of London, Tokyo and NYC. Still without employing a single full-time worker, the Roc des Anges cellar was busting at the seams, the business nearly tripling in size since our 2010 visit.

Stéphane presented the blueprints, replete with the plans for the state-of-the-art cellar, the horse stable and the home. Even the bankers couldn't believe it when they signed off on the loan.

Before we left, we'd enjoyed lunch and a couple bottles of this exquisite 2012 Segna de Cor. The kids were watching cartoons. Stéphane and Marjorie were cheerful, calm and, as always, understated. The Gallets weren't selling anything yesterday afternoon. But we were buying.

Our tasting notes: "The 2012 Roc des Anges Segna de Cor, drawn from ancient-vine, head-trained Carignan, most planted just after the turn of the 20th century. Glistening purple/black to the rim, ripe, pungent aromas and flavors of dark raspberry, cassis, black chocolate and sweet spice. Rich, plush and fleshy, velour-like in texture, this silken old-vine red finishes with supple, fine-grained tannins. Drink now-2018."

With demand far exceeding supply, barely a drop of the 2012 Segna de Cor will make its way stateside. 600 bottles have been earmarked for WineAccess. Release price of $32.

Tasting Notes

2012 Le Roc des Anges Segna de Cor Cotes du Roussillon
"The 2012 Roc des Anges Segna de Cor, drawn from ancient vine, head-trained Carignan, most planted just after the turn of the 20th century. Glistening purple/black to the rim, ripe, pungent aromas and flavors of dark raspberry, cassis, black chocolate and sweet spice. Rich, plush and fleshy, velour-like in texture, this silken old vine red finishes with supple, fine-grained tannins. Drink now-2018."
-- WineAccess Travel Log (11/26/13)

 

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