|Charles Neal Selections||
Domaine Le Roc
|Charles Neal Selections||
Domaine Le Roc
In 1988, Jean-Luc and Frederic Ribes took over their father's property, whose 13 hectares of grapes were habitually sold to the cooperative in Fronton. The brothers decided to get serious and bottle their own wine.
They called their property Château le Roc, but were later told by appellation authorities to remove the first word as no château had ever graced the property. Domaine Le Roc followed, and the name was finally shortened to Le Roc (which everyone had always called the property anyway).
Jean-Luc left school to work on his dad's farm. Undaunted by his lack of experience, he even broke the long-standing rules of letting grass grow between the vines.
That was 25 years ago, and today he is considered a pioneer of enherbement or "grassing over." In the winter, sheep graze between the vines which alleviates their need for synthetic fertilizers.
"When the vine is fine, the wine is fine," he states. When Jean-Luc isn't in the vineyard, the accomplished blues guitarist and gravely-voiced singer is playing music and singing in his R & B band.
Catherine (or Cathy) is the heartbeat of the domaine, lending a sensitive touch to the wine and a feminine voice to the estate. She fell into the business when she met her husband Frederic and stands at the heart of the team bound by friendship, love and good humor.
"I'm nothing without them and they're nothing without me," Cathy says while checking on the whereabouts of their three teenage kids.
Be it in mathematics, bio-chemistry or enology classes, Frederic Ribes filled the pages of notebook after notebook at university before discovering his calling-to work the land. He's a true vigneron, one who gives the terroir the freedom to express itself.
Once the president of the appellation, Fredo (as his friends call him), has tirelessly promoted not only Negrette but also the Syrah varietal, which thrives on the unique soil of Le Roc.
On one sunny morning in 1993, Pierre Salama wandered onto the Le Roc property. He was looking for some land to work and an adventure to share, and the Ribes brothers needed a helping hand. They said to him, "We have five hectares to plant. If you join us, we can get it done."
Pierre agreed and within a couple of months he had become a fixture on the property. Solid as a "Roc," Pierre is a loyal friend to the vineyard and to the winery.
Twenty-five years and hundreds of accolades later, Le Roc is at the forefront of Fronton producers. The winery now owns 24 hectares of vines. The most recent acquisition a 7-hectare plot called Ambat, from which Le Roc produces a cuvée of pure Negrette.
The Ribes are moving toward organic farming, and train their vines by the Cordon Royat method, leaving eight spurs on each shoot. They have also increased planting within the vineyards, from 4,000 vines per hectare to nearly 7,000.
Jean-Luc and Frederic Ribes
Le Roc Fronton - La Folle Noire d'Ambat
For a number of years, I pleaded with Fredo Ribes to make a cuvée of pure Negrette. After all, Negrette is what Fronton is all about, what sets it apart from other appellations. He finally made that cuvée in 2008, calling it Folle Noir(Crazy Black) d'Ambat (Ambat being the name of the vineyard used for the cuvée). This 3-hectare parcel is particularly rich in oxidized small stones called Rougets. Yields are just over three tons to the acre. (50 hl /ha). The grapes are destemmed and vinified during two weeks in small open tanks that help control their temperatures. The wine is aged in 2000-liter foudre for 8 to 10 months.
This wine expresses the unique fruit of Negrette, which combines black cherry and violets. Medium-bodied, with a velvety texture and light to medium-tannins, this wine has become a Southwestern classic!
Le Roc Fronton Le Classique
Field blend of 70% Negrette, 20% Syrah, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. Aged in stainless steel tanks for 12 months and bottled after an extremely light filtration. Medium-bodied, with notes of red berries, cherry, a hint of violet and a touch of spice. Extremely versatile at the table — ideal for everyday consumption.
Le Roc Fronton La Saignée Rosé
The rosé is a bleed of the Cuvée Classique and is composed of 65% Negrette, 30% Syrah and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon. The vineyard for this cuvée is composed of primarily clay and boulbenes. Yields are just over 3 tons an acre (50 hl /ha). Vinification is between 18 and 20 degrees centigrade to preserve its fruit aromas. The wine is aged on its fine lees for four months before being bottled at the end of February. Le Roc's rosé has a lovely deep color that announces the fruit to come: small red fruits (currants, raspberries, strawberries) along with a hit of spice highlight the nose. The flavors continue on the full-bodied palate, while the wine finishes with excellent length. This is in no way a techno rosé, but a gastronomic wine whose rich, earthy flavors serve as a great accompaniment to charcuterie or grilled sausages.