Le Mas de Libian
Located in Saint Marcel d’Ardèche on the western side of the Rhône river, at the very end of the gorge of the Ardèche, Le Mas de Libian has belonged to the Thibon family since 1670. A family winery handed down from generation to generation.
Today the farm is run by sisters Helen and Catherine Thibon, as well as Hélène’s husband Alain. The model at Mas de Libian is the farm as a self-sustaining environment instead of a production unit. It’s an ideal that resonates though the wines, which ooze all the natural wealth and charm of this great region. The vines are cultivated and hand harvested, the soils hoed by hand in the spring and Catherine Thibon ploughs roughly one third of the vineyards’ clay-limestone terroir with the help of Nestor and Babmi, the estates two Franche-Comté workhorses. The vineyards classified as Côte-du-Rhône Villages are composed of large round river rocks (galets roulés) and red clay and as such are worked by tractor.
Hélène takes little credit for her farms’ organic management, which she says has been practiced here for generations. A continuation of this philosophy and an important milestone for the Domaine was becoming certified biodynamic (Demeter) in 2005. No chemicals are used and even in generous vintages very low yields are the norm. As the Mas de Libian biotope has come to offer an incredibly healthy environment for grape growing, Hélène has little recourse for sulphur, which is often not used at all during the winemaking process.
The wines are crafted in unlined concrete vats with – cuvée depending – a portion of each wine being aged in large old foudres or older demi-muids. The cellar was expanded in 1984 and then again in 2011 in order to house the growing inventory of large oak barrels from various coopers (including Rousseau and Grenier), but mostly houses a small collection of 30 and 40 hectolitre barrels from Austria’s Stockinger cooperage. There are no yeast additions here, and sulphur additions are kept to the barest minimum. Often the wines are raised without the addition of any sulphur at all save for a few milligrams at bottling. We should note that the gentle handling, precise winemaking and strict hygiene in the cellars renders Mas de Libian’s wines amongst the most stable low sulphur wines we know of. The wines are never fined or filtered.
Bout d'Zan Côtes du Rhône
VARIETAL: 75% Grenache, 25% Syrah
VINEYARD: From a mix of terroirs--the clay, sand and galets roulets mix on the high terrace (same terroir as Châteauneuf down river); and limestone in the lower parcels. Certified Organic and Biodynamic. Gobelet pruning for Grenache and trellising for Syrah.
VINIFICATION: Hand-harvested and carefully sorted. Varietals are blended in tank after being 100% de-stemmed. Light crushing and temperature controlled fermentation. 15 days of maceration. One pump-over per day and punch-downs only if necessary. Running-off by gravity and pneumatically pressed. Aged for 9 months in large oak barrels for 30% of the wine.
Khayyâm Côtes du Rhône
"KHAYYÂM": This cuvee is named in honor of the 11th century Persian poet and mathematician Omar Khayyâm. He wrote hundreds of quatrains celebrating wine and the philosophy of carpe diem.
VARIETALS: 75% Grenache, 15% Mourvèdre, 10% Syrah
VINEYARD: The grapes for this wine are entirely from 4.5 hectares (11 acres) in the galets roulets terroir. Round river rocks on red clay. Mediterranean climate with hot, dry summers, limited rain, and high winds. Certified organic and biodynamic. Gobelet pruning for Grenache and Mourvedre, and trellising for the Syrah.
VINIFICATION: Hand harvested, and respectful of biodynamic and limited-intervention wine-making principles. Varieties assembled in tank. 100% de-stemmed. Light crushing. Temperature-regulated fermentation. 15 days of maceration. One pump-over per day, punch-downs only if necessary. Running-off by gravity. Pneumatic pressing. 9 months aging in large oak foudres for 30% of the wine, while the remainder ages in concrete tank.