Saved by the wind. A mild irony strikes you as you gaze northward from the wine cellar of the Domaine Le Murmurium toward the mythical Mont Ventoux when considering the furious measures taken in the region for protection against the Mistral winds that blow in from the north.
In the Southern Rhone the constant heat threatens to rob grapes of their freshness and acidity, yielding wines which are hot (high alcohol), jammy (compoté) or flabby (low acidity).
Yet, it’s not the daytime heat but lower nighttime temps, the temperature gradient, which are of capital importance to induce freshness and acidity. At the Domaine Le Murmurium the vineyard’s northern exposure captures the breezes streaming down the Mont Ventoux which brings down temps four to six degrees (F) before daybreak, and after a rainfall the wind dries out the vines, preventing rot, while the soil maintains its moisture.
Now consider this: a cooler altitude of 1000 to 1200 feet and low yields at higher levels, organic farming without chemicals or pesticides with harvesting done by hand (at times at night), 100% destemming, late harvesting, and each varietal (cépage) vinified separately.
After more than a decade in the wine exporting biz, Marc Pichon purchased the 28-acre Domaine Le Murmurium in 2008, and a few years ago acquired another 10 acres of mature vines.
Two Brands – 15 Vintages
A wine is never more fully alive than when a winemaker’s expertise allows us access to the terroir, transcending flavors and aromas, and pure delight.
Marc Pichon is a winemaker who delivers on this promise by combining passion with intelligence and imagination. No time for pretense, ostentation and vacuous marketing slogans, Marc takes an intense approach to the nuances of winemaking, turning out 15 vintages (cuvées) of varying styles from specific parcels including 6 single-varietals (mono-cépage) with two brands: Anne Pichon (his Danish wife) and Domaine Mur-mur-ium.
His wines are accessible to the palate and to the pocketbook – some cuvées rate at the top of the scale on quality / price, and are of great appeal to sommeliers who desire to please clients while maintaining margins at a reasonable price. (Mega wine reviewers ignore price by endorsing many flamboyantly over-priced vintages – anodyne commentary for ubiquitous shelf-talkers.)
Exemplar how wind and altitude manifest their effect in the bottle are two superb single-varietals – a honey-scented 100% Roussanne, fermented in new oak, with herbal and floral notes, perfectly balanced, and a 100% Syrah-Sublime, with rich fruits and smooth tannins which belies the hot high alcohol Syrahs produced at lower levels.
A Syrah-based (80%) blend with Grenache Noir (20% 34-year old vines), unfiltered, Anne Pichon ‘Sauvage” reminiscent of crushed fruits and light spices at 12.5% alcohol.
The Ventoux Extrem is a blend of 50% Grenache and 50% oak vat-aged Syrah, richly textured with black fruits and spices, a superb blend to pull out of your cellar.
Then a bit of trailblazing: two 100% Grenache vintages – very late green harvest where leaves are removed by hand to prevent rot – with natural residual sugar of 6 g/l for the Grandiose and 10 g/l for the Mammouth, the highest level in the Southern Rhone.
In effect, the intense pure richness assets itself in both of these vintages as the sugar level suffocates the high alcohol of 16%. Highly recommend the Grandiose with La daube provençale. The Mammouth would delight senior steadies.
With many projects in train and an ambition to expand his vineyard to cover another 25 acres with an additional 10 vintages, expect more imaginative styles along a range of price points.
A talented winemaker in mid-career, Marc Pichon compels you to become a discerning taster of his wines. Put him on your watch list.
Domaine Le Murmurium, route de Flassans, Mormoiron. There is no website. You can taste the wines of Domaine Le Murmurium only at:
Le Bistro Grenache, a wine shop and wine bar: 107 Place De Verdun 84200 Carpentras, Tel 06 09 48 17 42, Facebook,
Domaine Grange Neuve, Maison d’hôtes and restaurant, 436, chemin de la Grange Neuve, 84210 La Roque sur Pernes, Tél 04-90-66-55-27, Website
Here is the lineup of the Domaine’s 12 vintages offered in the U.S. with PVB favorites in bold. Note: 2011 is an elegant vintage.
Ventoux LE RETOUR, 2011/12, (70% old Clairette, 20% Grenache, 10% Viognier, hand-harvested at night )
VIOGNIER, 2012 , IGP. Vaucluse, (100% hand-harvested at night & fermented in steinless steel tanks)
ROUSSANNE, 2010/11 IGP. Vaucluse (100% fermented & aged 9 months in new oak barrels)
Ventoux LE RETOUR 2012, (Rosé Direct Pressing, hand-harvested at night, Carignan, Cinsault, Syrah, Grenache)
Ventoux LE RETOUR, 2011/12, (70% Grenache & 30% Syrah)
Ventoux CUVEE ANNE, 2009/10, (60% old Grenache & 40% Syrah vines, 1/3 aged in oak barrels)
Ventoux EXTREM, 2009, (50% old Syrah & 50% old Grenache Noir, fermented & aged 11 months in new oak)
MERLOT – ELIXIR 2011/12, IGP Vaucluse, (100% hand & late-harvested)
SYRAH-GRENACHE Anne Pichon ‘Sauvage, 2011 AOP Ventoux (80% Syrah steinless-steal , 20% Grenache Noir oak aged)
SYRAH – SUBLIME, 2009/10/11, (100% Syrah, 30% fermented & aged in new oak vats)
GRENACHE – GRANDIOSE, 2011/12 (100% hand-picked & late-harvested, 6gr. Residual Sugar)
GRENACHE – MAMMOUTH 2011, (100% hand-picked, & late-harvested, 10gr. Residual Sugar)