Connecting wine to a place is one of the greatest of rewards of tasting and writing about wine. A few years back, I visited the home of one of the most famous wines made in Provence: Domaine de Trévallon. The wine is a unique blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah, made from grapes grown in hilly terrain about 15 miles south of Avignon. It is designated a Vin de Pays because it contains Cabernet, which is not allowed under French wine law in the higher-status Les Baux de Provence AOC designation.
The soils at Trévallon seemed almost to shimmer a blazing white under the strong Provençal sun. They are surrounded by the jagged heights of Les Alpilles (or Little Alps), which are themselves draped by stands of evergreen scrub, pine, live oaks and, of course, olive groves. Owner Eloi Dürrbach tries to handle the wine as little as possible to allow the grapes to show the fullest expression of their flavors. The reds are aged two years in oak barrels and casks to allow the natural tannins to smooth out and become more complex.
I have to admit that I have found the wines quite tannic and brawny in their youth, certainly so for the 1995 when I originally tasted it blind. But on the occasion of my 50th birthday bash at my home, a good friend brought a double magnum (3 liters) of the ’95. It was the wine of the party—supple and delicious, with lively but mature-tasting red fruit flavors balanced by what age had turned into silky tannins, all topped off with notes of beef and spice. I rated it 92 points, non-blind. The slow aging that occurs in large-format bottles certainly proved its value. The wine was still very much alive and drinking much better at this point than my original note had predicted. It was a happy surprise, and a treasured gift that I will long remember.
WineSpectator.com members: Read the original blind-tasting review for Domaine de Trévallon Vin de Pays des Bouches du Rhône 1995 (89, $28/750ml on release).