This is the wine that got us hooked. Single plot of 65-year-old Merlot vines planted at his Saint Philippe vineyard which has a high limestone base. This wine goes through carbonic maceration and is aged in old barrique for a year. Ethereal, fresh and saline – it’s unlike any Merlot we have had before.
Based in the small picturesque town of Alba-la-Romaine in Ardèche, Sylvain has been running his own domaine since 2010, previously working for Gerald Oustric of Le Mazel. Sylvain’s vineyards are spread over two sites. The closer to the cellar is composed mainly of limestone with very little topsoil and is planted with Chardonnay and Grenache Blanc, as well as a few rows of old vine Grenache Noir and Merlot. Further north in the valley at higher altitude we find Gamay, Syrah and some more Grenache Noir planted on basalt.
Sylvain recently built his new cellar in Alba-la-Romaine, having outgrown the small space in Valvignères he used to occupy. The space is a reflection of the man himself, careful and considerate, rather than simply wishing to make more wine – with more space and more tanks and barrels at his disposal, Sylvain isn’t rushed into bottling wines he doesn’t believe are ready.
Sylvain ferments most of the grapes on their stems with only the old vine Grenache that is good enough to go into Neck Plus Ultra de-stemmed for a slower traditional maceration. Other work in the cellar is minimal, with no additions of any kind.
Sylvain’s patience and knowledge result in wines of purity and freshness, without compromising on depth. As Sylvain says, ‘I don’t want to make nouveau wines, let winter do its job (in terms of settling the wines). I release them when they are ready.”