Domaine de Trevallon Tasting
Wednesday, 3 July 2013 by Stephen Browett
The Durrbach family, friends of Pablo Picasso, purchased Trevallon in 1955 but it was not until 1973 that the first vines were planted. In a region where Grenache and Carignan are the main varieties, Eloi Durrbach chose Syrah (sourced from Chave) and Cabernet Sauvignon (sourced from La Lagune) as he believed that they would best suit his terroir and North-facing vineyard. The resultant wines are rarely above 13% alcohol and much the better for this. Originally there were just 3 hectares, which produced their first fruit in the late 1970’s, producing 600-700 cases per year. One of the first customers was Steven Spurrier, who bought the wines for his “Caves de la Madelaine” wine shop in Paris and Robin Yapp in Wiltshire, England. I first came across, and fell in love with, the wines myself in the early 1980’s when La Reserve (where I worked) stocked the 1979 and 1980 vintages.
Eloi Durrbach’s choice of grape varieties did not please the local authorities and the early vintages were simply labelled as “VDQS Coteaux des Baux” then, from 1985, as “AOC Coteaux d’Aix en Provence”, subsequently, from 1995, as “Vin de Pays des Bouches du Rhône” and, finally, as “Appellation IGP les Alpilles” from 2009. Despite all this nonsense, the wine has never changed from a 50:50 blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah, organically produced in the vineyards and then matured in old oak foudres with very little human intervention. This is a real “vin de terroir” and a wine that is quite unique.
There are now 19 hectares of vines, which include 2 hectares of white varieties. The first vintage of white was 1991 (made from Marsanne and Roussanne vines from Chave) and in 1998 a small percentage of Chardonnay was added to the blend.
Robin Yapp’s son and step-son (Jason and Tom) now run the family business and continue to import the wines of Trevallon into the UK. Farr Vintners bought large quantities of the 2007 vintage (sold out) and now list the 2009. Jason and Tom hosted a very special Trevallon tasting in July 2013 that I was delighted to attend along with a group of restaurateurs, sommeliers and wine writers including Steven Spurrier, Jancis Robinson, Victoria Moore and Matthew Jukes. The wines did not disappoint and, as great wines do, varied considerably from vintage to vintage. Here are my tasting notes:
2009 - Some fade already at the rim. This has a spicy nose and is already quite forward and approachable. On the palate there are notes of leather and garrigue. It’s quite rustic and “animal” in style and will give good drinking over the next 5 years. It’s good but it’s not great. 16 points.
2007 - This has a much deeper colour than the 2009 and looks considerably younger. This dense, youthful, black wine has a fabulous nose of roasted barbecued meat with hints of straw and herbes de Provence. There is lots of fruit on the palate. This is a real powerhouse. Solid, chunky and with great depth and length. Certainly the best young Trevallon that I’ve tasted. 18.5 points.
2005 - Also looks younger than the 2009. Still quite a deep colour with a little fade. This has an “animal” nose with hints of sweaty horse saddles. On the palate it is quite hot and roasted and seems more tannic and less dense than the 2007. Good, but needs a bit more time to develop. 17 points
2003 - There is a fair bit of brown at the rim here. As is typical in 2003, this is hot and “furry” with big “legs” on the side of the glass. In the mouth it is very approachable and easy to drink. Great to swig back with a steak tonight. Quite decadent and ripe. Ready to go. Not a keeper. 16 points
2001 - This still has an impressively deep colour at 12 years old. Little fade. There is a big wafting nose full of dense fruit. The palate is full of sweet cassis with spice and roasted meat. This is complex, rich and earthy and lovely to drink now. For me the Cabernet comes through a bit more than the Syrah in this vintage but Trevallon is a wine that can taste of Bordeaux, Rhone, Burgundy and Barolo from bottle to bottle (often in the same vintage). 18 points.
1998 - This is fairly faded on the rim but still red at the core. Very earthy, rustic and Sourthern. The Cabernet is on the back-burner here today. Almost old-school Burgundian with its forest floor flavours and hints of mushroom, black truffle and straw. This is an earthy, gamey wine that would be perfect with a well-hung grouse. 16.5 points
1997 - Pretty brown and murky on the palate. A fairly rustic note with Brett (not the former Farr Vintners van driver) present. Very earthy, sweaty and dirty. Almost a touch of drains. You’d need to like risky wines to enjoy this. Perhaps it’s “natural”? 13 points
1995 - This has a mature colour and an Autumnal nose. Fairly hot and roasted and blind I would have guessed it as Chateauneuf du Pape. Leathery and earthy, rustic like the 1997 but cleaner and with more depth. 16 points
1990 - This has a mature colour so one is quite taken aback by the intensity and sweetness of the wine. Supple, rich and opulent with roasted meat flavours and lots of mature cherry and plum fruit. Great complexity and impressive richness despite the maturity. Lovely and more-ish. Really fine. 18 points
1985 - This has a very mature colour. There is an opulent nose with leather and cassis notes. The palate is mature but still has sweetness of fruit and great complexity. This used to be an absolutely amazing wine (15 years ago) and it’s still very good but declining now. 17.5 points
1982 - A legendary wine. It is sad to hear that the Domaine does not possess a single bottle. I’ve drunk this many times in London and at Beaugraviere in France, but this might be the first bottle I’ve tasted for 10 years. It now has a brown, mahogany colour and has developed into a fine old Burgundy. It reminds me of DRC and Vogué wines from the 1950’s. There is great complexity here and sweetness mingled with forest floor notes and a lingering, gentle, sweet finish. Fading away but still a beauty. 19 points.
2011 White - Rich, oily, quite thick and dense with notes of marzipan. Weighty and long, it reminds me of a top White Hermitage. 16.5 points
2006 White - Impressive density. This is thick, with big legs and a nutty nose. Marzipan and marmalade on the palate. Low acidity. Needs drinking. 16 points.
Many thanks to Jason Yapp and Tom Ashworth for putting on this excellent tasting.