Rasteau is a classic Provencal village
Rasteau is a classic Provencal village perched 200 meters on a hill between plains and forests. Its houses are spread out at the foot of a beautiful twelfth century Romanesque church with the ruins of the castle overlooking the village.
The Rasteau vineyard was reputedly born in 30BC, though the first written documentation of vines dates from the early 11th century. Following a period where little was heard of the wine, it was given a new lease of life by the ecclesiastical community in the Middle Ages: so much so that in the 18th century, the vineyard was one of the largest in the Vaucluse, known mainly for its fortified wines. However, in 1870, phylloxera destroyed the vineyard, and American root-stocks had to be used.
In 1937, the village became part of the Côtes du Rhône AOC.
A few years earlier, the winemakers decided go back to their roots, and recommenced production of Vin Doux Naturel in Rasteau and the village was awarded cru status (for the VDN) in 1944. The VDN is produced from Grenache (minimum 90% in the blend) with a fortification of the wine though an addition 5 to 10% addition of virtually pure alcohol that arrests the fermentation, thus leaving a small amount of residual sugar (minimum of 252g/L).
In 1966, Rasteau’s dry wines became part of the Côtes du Rhône Villages appellation. Since 2010, the determination of the area’s winemakers has seen Rasteau (dry) red wines become a local appellation so that Rasteau is now a Cru for its dry red (in addition to its Vin Doux Naturel) wines.
The AOC vineyard cover 963 hectares and is spread across most of the village’s vineyards, in the Vaucluse. The climate is typically Mediterranean except that the south-facing hillsides provide some protection from coool Mistral winds. The soils are Rasteau are relatively diverse, though it is the higher proportion of clay which gives the red wines their distinctive body and richness. The terroir simultaneously contains clay-limestone soil, skeletal soils on marl, and red soil atop sandstone. Many plots are covered in pebbles that were carried down from the Alps by the Ouvèze when the glaciers melted over 18 million years ago. The “poor” Rasteau soils produce high quality wines.
The red wines must contain at least 50% Grenache which, on the Rasteau terroir, produce full-bodied, structured and aromatic wines. Grenache stands up well to both winds and lack of water. It is perfectly suited to Rasteau’s terroir with its exposed hillsides with dry, barren land. Produced using old vines, the result is often a heady, structured wine with notes of ripe fruits and spices.
Syrah and Mourvèdre (20% minimum) are added to the Grenache for a balanced wine. Syrah gives the wines an intense colour, and a refined, complex character with notes of black fruits, violet, and spices. Mourvèdre is only cultivated in locations with the best sun, and produces tannic, structured wines with aromas of woodland and fruit preserves.
Other grape varieties include: Carignan, a traditional variety from around the Mediterranean that demands a warm climate, stands up well to wind and drought, and is suited to the hot, dry terroirs of Rasteau. In these barren conditions, it gives the wine a beautiful colour, and a structure that ages well.
More than 80% of the Rasteau wines are marketed in bottles and 40% go to export.