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Domaine Gramenon, 'Vie on y est ...' 1998

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As the first wine of the month, we are featuring the wine that began our quest that resulted in 'Enjoying Viognier' - Domaine Gramenon 'Vie on y est'.

Imagine Calais on a wet January afternoon with three hour to kill before the ferry back to England and one recommended fish restaurant - 'Le Channel'. We asked the sommelier to recommend a Viognier to go with the sole. Why Viognier? Because we had started to seek out different French white wines. He enthusiastically recommended a bottle of the 1998 Domaine Gramenon - and we were smitten! Three hours later, we returned to England armed with the label and a quest.

A year later we returned to Le Channel, having unsuccessfully searched for a supplier in England, we tentatively asked for a repeat prescription (!) and were rewarded with another bottle, which surprisingly was even better in the tasting than in the memory.

When we got home, we redoubled our efforts to locate a UK supplier and, by using the web, we hit pay dirt and placed an order for a case. Joy turned to despair when the supplier returned our order with a phone call 'we are very sorry but we are no longer able to supply Domaine Gramenon. Unfortunately the producer died about 6 months ago and we therefore no longer stock the wine.' This response only added to our obsession to track down this wine, finally ending up with a wine supplier within 'spitting' distance, who had 3 cases of the 1998 vintage remaining. Following our visit he had none!

Normally on this page we will be featuring wines that are readily available, but on this occasion we are taking the liberty of telling a bit of our story, through a wine.

For those who are fortunate enough to get hold of a bottle of the 1998, we would like to say that here is a wine with quite a strong golden colour, with a full and sweet (almost honey) nose, exhibiting what is a classic Viognier taste of apricots and ripe pears. It has a long, slightly bitter finish. It stands well beside Condrieu.

During the 20 years that he ran Domaine Gramenon, Philippe Laurent developed the vineyard in his own individual way. Many (including the US 'wine guru' Robert Parker) consider Gramenon to be one of the great southern Rhône vineyards. Phillipe Laurant was somewhat of a maverick, who often did battle with the authorities. The naming of this wine as 'Vi on y est' was his way of ignoring the laws against varietal labelling of AOC Côte du Rhône wine. His untimely death in December 1999 (he was only 46) left the Southern Rhône without one of its characters.

For those increasing number of ABCs (Anything but Chardonnay), this is surely a wine to convince that there is another world of white wines out there.

For details on where you can buy Domaine Gramenon, 'Vie on y est ...', together with tasting notes, please click here

For previous 'Featured Wines', please click here