Photo credit: Ferraton Père & Fils (Saint Joseph vineyards)
The French have a wonderful word for describing certain wines: digeste. I have never been able to find an adequate counterpart in English. The literal translation is digestable which, one would hope, most wines are.
Basically, the term refers to wines that are elegant, balanced and fresh, with low to medium alcohol. In my experience, these are the kind of wines that make you thirsty for another sip and, when consumed in moderation, won’t leave you fuzzy headed the next morning. They are pretty much the exact opposite of the big, oaky fruit bombs that coat your tongue, and finish warm and boozy.
Cool climate Pinot Noir, Gamay and Cabernet Franc are the most frequently cited digeste reds. And what of Syrah? Cue the raised eyebrows. If you think Syrah (aka Shiraz) is the poster child for massive, jammy reds, you have clearly not tasted enough Northern Rhône.
In the Northern hemisphere, the vast majority of wine growing regions lie within the 30th and 50th degree of latitude. The 45th parallel runs directly through the Crozes-Hermitage appellation, making the Northern Rhône among the more northerly, cooler vineyards of Europe.
If you think Syrah (aka Shiraz) is the poster child for massive, jammy reds, you have clearly not tasted enough Northern Rhône.
Syrah here is mainly crisp and lively, with tart red fruit, medium body and earthy, peppery flavours. The famed hill of Hermitage and roasted slopes of Côte Rôtie offer denser, more powerful reds yet, even here, beautifully fresh acidity and tangy fruit flavours provide exceptional balance and, yes, digestibility.
A couple of weeks back, I had the good fortune to attend a tasting of Ferraton Père & Fils wines. Before we delve into the reviews, I’ll give you a little background on the estate.
Ferraton Père & Fils was established seventy-odd years ago. Jean Orens Ferraton started out with just one tiny plot of land; less than half a hectare of Hermitage. The estate was passed down, as the name suggests, from father to son for several generations. As time passed, the estate grew, acquiring well situated parcels of Crozes Hermitage, Hermitage and St Joseph.
Concern for the health and sustainability of their vineyards led the Ferraton family to embrace biodynamic farming techniques in the nineteen nineties. With an eye to expansion, the Ferratons took on a likeminded investor: the Maison Chapoutier.
The quality is consistently high, even in lesser vintages. This, to me, is a sure sign of a strong estate.
Sadly, Samuel Ferraton suffered a bad motorcycle accident in the early two thousands which left him unable to carry on the family business. In two thousand and six, Ferraton was officially purchased by Maison Chapoutier, with the aim of maintaining and even furthering the high quality for which the Ferraton name stood.
Fast forward 10 years, and Chapoutier’s promise seems kept. The estate’s vineyard holdings continues to be managed according to strict biodynamic principles. The négociant wines (made from purchased grapes or wine) are essentially sourced from sustainable or organic farms. The quality is consistently high, even in lesser vintages. This, to me, is a sure sign of a strong estate.
Until recently, the tendency in the Northern Rhône was to create just one blend per appellation. Many producers still espouse this philosophy, claiming that the whole is better than the sum of its parts. However, a growing band of outliers are starting to bottle individual vineyard plots separately, to showcase the particular features of the terroir. This Burgundian approach is dear to the heart of Ferraton’s team.
“Our parcel selections allow us to showcase the superior qualities of our vineyard sites” says Ferraton’s Sales Director Patrick Rigoulet. “They play a critical role in defining what makes our wines unique”.
Our parcel selections…play a critical role in defining what makes our wines unique
Ferraton Père & Fils has been a favourite of SAQ and LCBO buyers for years now, with a variety of the following wines on offer currently.
What do VW, PW and LW mean? Click on my wine scoring system to find out:
Ferraton Père et Fils Côtes du Rhône red “Samorëns” 2014 – 88pts. VW
Moderately intense aromas of ripe black fruits, violets and subtle spice feature on the nose. The palate is medium bodied, with a fairly firm structure and lots of juicy black fruit. Ripe, chewy tannins give way to a hint of sour cherry that lifts the finish. This is a serious style of Côtes du Rhône, to be paired with food. Drink within 3 years.
Where to Buy: LCBO (15.95$) – as of January 2017
Pierre Henri Morel Côtes du Rhône Villages Laudun White 2014 – 89pts. VW
Pierre Henri Morel is one of Ferraton’s négociant labels. Fragrant, moderately complex nose featuring honey, macerated apricots, poached pear, and hints of cinnamon. Lovely balance on the palate; the rich, rounded mouthfeel is nicely lifted by fresh acidity. This dry, medium bodied white ends with a vibrant kick of ripe lemon and just a touch of bitterness. Drink now.
Where to Buy: LCBO (18.95$)
Ferraton Père & Fils Saint Joseph “La Source” White 2014 – 92pts. PW
This 100% Marsanne offers a lot of finesse. Elegant aromas of white flowers, lemon curd, marzipan and subtle minerality feature on the nose. A fresh, lively attack gives way to a moderately rich, rounded mid-palate with great depth of flavour. The finish is long; layered with honeyed fruit, lemon and lingering minerality.
Where to Buy: Enquire with agent Mosaiq
Ferraton Père & Fils Crozes Hermitage “La Matinière” Red 2014 – 89pts. PW
Attractive, somewhat restrained nose of tart red fruits, with perfumed floral hints and earthy undertones. The palate offers crisp acidity, a full bodied, densely structured style and concentrated, just ripe red fruit flavours. The tannins are still quite firm, though are ripe and finegrained.
Where to Buy: SAQ (24.95$)
Ferraton Père & Fils Saint Joseph “La Source” 2014 – 92pts. PW
This is a very well crafted Saint Joseph. Elegant, layered aromas of violet, ripe red berries, red currant, white pepper and spice feature on the nose. The fresh acidity is nicely balanced by the full body and concentrated red fruit flavours. Despite a certain firmness of structure, the texture is quite silky, finishing with ripe, finegrained tannins. The oak is quite subtle, adding more structure than aroma. The finish is long and nuanced. Drinking well now, but will certainly improve with 3 – 5 years’ cellaring and should hold well for another couple of years.
Where to Buy: SAQ (31.50$) – 2012 vintage
Ferraton Père & Fils “Les Miaux” Hermitage 2009 – 92pts LW
2009 was a warm vintage in the Northern Rhône. This is evident on the heady, fragrant nose featuring crushed red berry and cherry aromas, overlaid with toasty, spiced notes. Hints of leather and tobacco emerge upon aeration. The palate is big and bold, with fresh acidity, a muscular structure and lovely depth of fruit and dark chocolate flavours. The oak is subtle and well integrated, and the finish is long and layered.
Where to Buy: SAQ Signature (90.00$)
Ferraton Père & Fils “Les Miaux” Hermitage 2010 – 93pts. LW
The 2010 Les Miaux from Ferraton is a highly complex, beautifully balanced expression of Hermitage. While it lacks the full throttle fruit and power of 2009, it amply makes up in finesse and precision. Ripe red fruit, exotic spice, candied orange peel and hints of leather feature on the nose and in mouth. The palate is full bodied, with lovely fresh acidity and great concentration. The finish is very long, with subtle oaked nuances.
Where to Buy: SAQ Signature (90.00$)
Ferraton Père & Fils “Le Méal” Ermitage 2013 – 95pts. LW
Intense, highly complex nose featuring tobacco, red currant, cherry, earthy notes and attractive minerality. A fresh, lively attack gives way to a full bodied, firmly structured, yet velvetty textured mid-palate. The depth and concentration of flavour is impressive, as is the long, layered finish. This powerful red needs 3 – 5 years additional cellaring for the grippy tannins to soften. It should continue to improve for many years to come.
Where to Buy: Enquire with agent Mosaiq