Last fall, I had the opportunity to visit the winery of Jean David in the town of Seguret in the southern Rhône valley. Seguret is a walled medieval town perched on the edge of the Dentelles de Montmirail mountains, equidistant between the towns of Rasteau to the northwest and Gigondas to the south. We were there in October and the weather was great! We had come directly from cool, rainy Burgundy where everyone was clad in thick sweaters, and when we arrived in the Rhône, we saw people everywhere walking around in flip-flops and t-shirts.
Jean David and his wife run their small winery together with just a bit of help harvesting in the fall. They farm around 17 hectares of vineyards where they grow red grapes – Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault, Mourvèdre, Carignan and Counoise – and white grapes – Roussanne, Bourboulenc and Clairette. Jean also has a little Tempranillo in his vineyard that his father planted. When asked about the proportions of grapes in the vineyard, Jean replied: “sometimes I say to myself, ‘Jean… you should plant more Syrah…but then…’” and he shrugged and smiled.
All of the David’s vineyards have been certified organic since 1987, but even before certification they never used pesticides or herbicides. As we walked through the vines, we could see all kinds of native plants and grasses growing in the dusty, rocky soil.
The David homestead is a rambling old stone house perched on a steep hillside. The house is surrounded by forest, a huge vegetable garden, olive trees and grapevines. We tasted with Jean on his terrace overlooking the valley. Jean proved to be the ultimate chill winemaker, lounging back in his chair and rolling cigarettes while his adorable little grandson played around his feet. He and Martine were equally relaxed at dinner, where Martine served up a simple meal of carrot and raisin salad, grilled sausages, and tomatoes Provençal.
We keep Jean’s perfectly delicious Côtes-du-Rhône in stock whenever it’s available. A blend of mostly Grenache plus Cinsault, Carignan, Syrah, Mourvèdre and Counoise, this purple-tinted red has lovely notes of cherries and blackberries and just the right balance of fruit, acidity and tannin. It’s a lovely everyday wine and a great value. We love this wine with a bit of extra-aged goat cheese like Pouligny St. Pierre.
While we’re waiting for the Côtes-du-Rhône to come back in stock, we currently have Jean’s Seguret Village on the shelf. This cuvée is a blend of the same grapes but in different percentages (less Grenache, more Carignan). The label features a shovel because Jean’s wife Martine collects shovels, they’re all over the yard at their house! This cuvée is richer, darker and earthier than his basic Côtes-du-Rhône. The Seguret is better suited for big meals like meaty stews or roasts.
In the fall of 2006, we introduced Jean David’s boxed wine to the Boston market for the first time as a Formaggio Kitchen exclusive. It took a lot of sampling and explaining to convince wary wine lovers that this unassuming box actually contained delicious, handmade, organic wine! Eight years later, Jean David’s 5-liter box is one of our bestselling red wines. The box wine is a Vin de Pays blend of pretty much all of his red grapes, including the Tempranillo, and is easy drinking and versatile. Last spring, for the first time, we had Jean’s rosé in a box. Our 50 boxes sold out fast — don’t worry though, we’re getting lots more this time! Look for our announcement of its arrival in late March/early April. Until then, warm up with Jean and Martine’s delicious reds!
Julie Cappellano is the General Manager and Wine Buyer at Formaggio Kitchen South End, Boston.