Domaine des Escaravailles
Building strong legacies in Southern France
Three generations of the Ferran family have owned Domaine des Escaravailles, a period of almost fifty years. Jean-Louis Ferran bought several hillside parcels above the southern Rhone villages of Rasteau, Roaix and Cairanne. He named the properties ‘Escaravailles’ the Occitan (an old Romance dialect) term for beetles. It also referred to the black-robed monks that inhabited the area’s numerous hill-perched monasteries.
The mantel was next passed to son Jean-Louis’ son, Daniel Ferran. In 1999, grandson Gilles Ferran assumed the duties at the estate after Gilles’ graduation in enology at the nearby University of Montpelier.
Today’s modern Domaine des Escaravailles is a state-of-the-art facility built into the hillside of Rasteau surrounded by terraced vineyards. It involves nearly 160 acres under vine that are planted in clay-limestone plots. The vineyards are planted at an average of 600 feet with steep slopes, considered as high altitude plantings for the southern Rhône Valley. These conditions helps for great drainage for the vines, and a helpful thermal amplitude between day and night temperatures.
The fortunes of Rasteau and some neighboring communes are continuing to improve. Two years ago, the IANO (Institut National des Appellations d’Origine) promoted Rasteau and allowed for the deletion of the former Cotes du Rhône appellation that had proved unwieldy for the past three decades.
Producers such as Domaine des Escaravailles hailed this new honor and have vowed to continue their upward battle for name and quality recognition.
Wine Regions of France
For centuries, France has been one of the world’s most important wine producing countries, largely because of its amazing variety of wine styles. This diversity is due, in part, to the country’s wide range of climates and various wine producing regions. While Champagne has one of the coolest climates anywhere in the wine-growing-world, the Rhône Valley is warm and dry, and Languedoc-Roussillon enjoys a definitively Mediterranean climate.
Each region’s terroir dictates the grape varieties used to produce its traditional wines and France’s appellation system strictly regulates the winemaking practices to uphold each region’s quality standards and reputation.
A Short History of French Wines
It is easy to observe the contentment of top tier French wine producers whose wines are situated above the normal levels of buying and selling. Their wines and reputations safely secure their places in the top stores and fine restaurant lists around the world. The remainder of the French wine business is not as fortunate as its elevated peers.
The rest of French wine production must compete with the wine producing world for sales and placement. In many cases, this competition is a cutthroat environment, worthy of plots in novels and magazines.
The Rhône Valley of Southern France is most certainly in this latter category. Their top tier wines, Hermitage and Cote Rotie, are secure and sell all of their relatively small production. Chateauneuf du Pape’s excellent reputation makes its sales chores easier. But, beyond that, the remainder of the huge Rhône production must claw its way into international recognition and acceptance. It had proven to be no easy job.
Many of the Rhône’s smaller communes, Cairanne, Rasteau and a number of Languedoc communes (including Minervois and Corbieres), sit on the threshold of upgraded appellations and expanded sales opportunities. A number of excellent wines are being produced by these relatively unknown growing areas at this point. Some of their better wines are certainly able to garner acclaim in international competitions if given the chance.
Recently, a number of British wine industry publications have begun the process to call interest to these seeming injustices within the wine world. Top British writers point out the similarities of growing conditions and the fervent strides many independent producers have chosen to get their messages across in the form of truly significant wines.
The obvious beneficiaries of these actions is the consuming public, the ultimate decision maker as to which wines are truly best. Many excellent Southern Rhône wines continue to be excellent price/value entries in a world where bargains seem fewer and fewer. The adventure that results in a new found wine that is even better than its price is a most pleasant accompaniment to dinner, and the wines of the Southern Rhône fit well into most parameters.
A short while ago, many of these wines were simply called Cotes du Rhône, an appellation with limited explanation and practically no upward mobility. It is now possible to enjoy these emerging estates and see for yourselves the quality currently emanating from this particular part of France.
We are delighted that our International Series can bring some of these marvelous wines to your attention. We hope you find them as stimulating to drink as we did in selecting them for this International Series shipment.
Gilles Ferran - Winemaker
At Domaine des Escaravailles, Gilles Ferran is a graduate enologist with extraordinary credentials. His best friend, Philippe Cambie, serves as consultant winemaker.