- Vineyard Area: 38 ha
- Soil Type: Marzan: very stony soil on gravel and limestone
- Varieties Cultivated: Cinsault, Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre, Clairette, Roussanne, Rolle
- Country: France
- Winemaker: Sébastien Vincenti
Although winemaking in the Ventoux was first established two thousand years ago, it wasn’t until 1973 that the area earned its own AOC. Fortunately, these wines are at last getting the recognition they deserve, due in part to the efforts of Domaine de Fondrèche. Nanou Barthelémy purchased this property at the foot of Mont Ventoux in 1993 and was joined several years later in 1995 by her son, Sébastien Vincenti. We were first introduced to this young and talented winemaker when he was apprenticing under Rhône legend André Brunel in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Also inspired by such natural wine greats as the Loire Valley’s Didier Dagueneau and Clos Rougeard and Beaujolais’s Yvon Métras and Marcel Lapierre Sébastien, Sébastien longed to follow suit. It didn’t take long before he became a legend himself, not only as the managing director of the family’s 38-hectare estate but also as a leader in the quality movement of the Ventoux.
The vineyards of Domaine de Fondrèche span three sites in three communes: Marzan, Mormoiron and Saint Pierre de Vassols. In Mazan, the historic terroir of the Domaine, they have 28 hectares on a plateau where they produce red wines exclusively. It is hyper-stoney soil on gravel limestone. This soil allows the Domaine to obtain finessed reds with incredible depth. The parcel’s proximity to Mont Ventoux puts it in direct exposure to the tenacious Mistral as it travels southward into the Rhône Valley on its way toward the Mediterranean. The cooling and natural antiseptic effects of the Mistral keep the grapes cool under the hot sun, and they also serve to slow their maturation, lending finesse, freshness, and lower levels of alcohol to the grapes. In Saint Pierre de Vassols and Mormoiron, they have sandy soil as well as limestone rich soil. The sandy soils are used for the production of rosé. It is this terroir that gives the rosés the most finesse, and contributes to their restrained and balanced alcohol degrees. The limestone soils here are used for the production of white wines, which yield freshness.
For these reasons, Fondrèche is an ideal terroir for Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre and Carignan.
Sébastien has been a strong proponent of sustainability, and his ethic feeds into all aspects of his process. In addition to converting the domaine to organic farming, for which he received certification in 2013, he also incorporates certain biodynamic principles into the vineyard management to enhance his methodology. Plowing aerates the soil and encourages the roots to force themselves deeper into the soil, and he uses the lunar calendar to plan the natural vine treatments. Sébastien is particularly passionate about the health of the soil, which is full of nutrients, as well as the microorganisms that help sustain it. Such practices raise the pH of the soil and thereby lend more acidity to the grapes—a key element in making fresh wines. Most astonishing of all is that he manages to harvest all 38 hectares by hand—a feat of speed, endurance, and incredible attention to detail, even with a team of harvesters to help.
Sébastien carries this same meticulousness into the cellars. In 2010, he installed solar panels to fuel the winery’s energy output as well as a green waste water management system. To minimize handling of the grapes, must and wine are all transferred gently by gravity instead of pumps.
All the wines undergo traditional macerations on native yeasts lasting 14 to 21 days, except for Cuvée Fayard, which lasts 8 to 12. Small pigeages facilitate slow and gradual extractions. Ranging from tank to cask fermentations, each cuvee and terroir dictates the vinification. Sébastien has been working with porous, concrete, egg-shaped cuves to create circulation and allow a natural micro-oxygenation of the wine. Always looking to improve the wines, he has recently started aging certain cuvees in Stockinger foudres, favored by many organic and biodynamic producers for their ability to preserve freshness, to lend finesse and to best translate the character of the terroir. The incredible depth, purity, structure and simultaneous freshness of the wines make them both accessible for early consumption and cellar aging.