On a balmy D.C. summers night, after we had drunk most of a bottle of Hampden rum with our cigars (a tall order to follow), my pal opened up a bottle of this Rancio he had kicking around and had yet to try. We had our first taste and we were just floored - very much to the effect of DJ Khaled chilling in the rainforest, shook after having a sip of his glass.
The wine is made from 70 year old goblet trained vines of Grenache Gris, hand harvest and macerated for 1 week during fermentation, then aged in old 225-liter Bordelais fûts in the former horse barn of Chateau de Sau in French Catalonia, less than 30 kilometers from the Mediterranean. The passing of Hervé Passama in 2014 (who along with his wife Béatrice, was the fourth-generation owners of de Saü) lends a deeper gravity to enjoying these final vintages of their wine.
This 2000 Rivelsaltes Rancio reminds me of the exceptional oloroso sherries and verdelho madeiras. The nose is packed with toasted nuts and amber dried fruit, varnished wood, pipe tobacco and Vietnamese caramel sauce. The palette is never cloying or figgy, and more like Tiptree tawny orange marmalade with savory Iberico ham fat. Then as the sweetness fades, the acid and salinity carry on. I want to drink this wine with roasted chestnuts, basque cheesecake, smoking a cigar at the beach off season, while field dressing a bird, around a campfire burning dead leaves, with Benton’s country ham & biscuits, with duck a l'orange, and General Tso's chicken.
Produced during the last years of Hervé’s life. Grapes for both the Rivesaltes and Rancio sec are Grenache Gris, harvested by hand from a small 1.9-hectare vineyard of 70-year old goblet vines. Following fermentation and a week-long maceration, elevage is undertaken in a former horse stable situated behind the chateau, a truly special place for the rearing of oxidative wines. The wines are kept in used 225-liter Bordelais fûts, stacked twos and threes, and year-by-year they concentrate and develop the rich texture and notable rancio character that is a hallmark of their elevage. With Hervé’s passing in 2014, Béatrice has retired and the vines have been rented, leaving these wines the last testament of one of the great terroirs for aged, oxidative wines.