Grêle Rouge 2012 (Hail Red)

In our last post, we spoke about being in the wrong place at the wrong time with disastrous consequences. But its opposite, being in the right place at the right time with fortuitous consequences is happily serendipitous. Sterosberaher And this is indeed what happened to me last night having decided to go to Semilla for dinner with friends.

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Standing at the bar I saw none other than Raimond de Villeneuve coming in to sit at a nearby table who I’d missed seeing when I went to his vineyard this past summer. We had a very animate exchange and I quickly learned that he had brought a bottle of Grêle red to taste with Juan and Drew (Semilla’s Cuban American and New Zealand owners), so I was invited to join.


After a delicious dinner that included a sensational Arancini with beet coulis, an exquisitely prepared cod filet served with braised Brussels sprouts and a ginger lemon reduction and gravlax-like slices of their own home-smoked salmon, Drew poured glasses of the Grêle Rosé, which was lovely to taste again. But the real treat was Grêle rouge, which has not yet been officially released.

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This, like the Grêle rosé is an assemblage of grapes from 35 vineyards*, all of which came forward in Raimond’s hour of need, volunteering portions of their own harvests so he would not be left destitute. This act of solidarity and generosity was all the more moving in a region where hardened peasants traditionally tend to delight in other’s misfortunes.

So these wines are entirely unique assemblages that are incomparable and inspiring in their originality. Instead of having a distinct expression of a single terroir, there are 35 different terroirs coming together as one, creating an oeuvre that is masterfully balanced and distinctive. When has there ever been such a wine?

The Grêle rouge is refined and elegant, rather light compared to Villeneuve’s own richly concentrated reds. But the mark of the master is on this wine, whose distinctiveness, freshness and balance are all the more appreciated in the context of its origins – 35 vineyards in one glass.


It is a story with a very happy ending, proving that disaster and loss can also be occasions for the human spirit to rise above adversity and for the selfless generosity of friends to lead to greatness.

*The appellations include Bandol, Cassis, the Coteaux Varois, Ste Victoire, the Coteaux d’Aix, Les Baux de Provence, Côte du Rhône, Cornas, Rasteau, Cairanne, Châteauneuf-du-pape… with the same diversity in terms of varietals (grenache, mourvèdre, carignan, syrah, cabernet, cinsault, etc.). He collected a total of 1,100 hectolitres (as opposed to 1,200 for the previous year), but will likely be compelled to complement this year’s harvest as well as an estimated 50% of the vines will not recover for another year.

The ‘who’s who of the wine community

Chateau Ste Anne, Domaine De St. Bacchi, Domaine Du Bagnol, Domaine De La Bastide Blanche, Domaine Les Beates, Chateau De Beaupre, Domaine De La Begude, Domaines Bunan, Domaine Du Coulet, Domaine La Fourmente, Domaine De Gayolle, Domaine Henri Milan, Mas Juliette, Chateau Lacoste, Domaine Saintlouis Jayne, Domaine Les Luquettes, Chateau Les Mesclances, Domaine De La Mongestine, Domaines Ott, Chateau De Pibarnon, Domaine Pinchinat, Chateau Pradeaux, Domaine De La Realtiere, Chateau Revelette, Domaine Richeaume, Domaine Sorin, Domaine La Suffrene, Domaine De Sulauze, Domaine Tempier, Domaine Les Terres Promises, Domaine De La Tour Du Bon, Domaine Du Trapadis, Domaine De Trevallon, Chateau Vignelaure, Domaine De Villeneuve and Chateau De Roquefort (with 15 kg)

*Grenache, Mourvedre, Carignan, Syrah, Cinsault, Cabernet, Merlot, Ugni, Clairette, Rolle, Chardonnay, Sauvignon, D’origine, Selon Les Provenances, De Bandol, Cassis, Coteaux Varois, Cotes De Provence, Coteaux D’aix, Les Baux De Provence, Cotes Du Rhone, Chateauneuf Du Pape, Rasteau, Cornas.

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