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Matthieu Barret - Domaine du Coulet Côtes du Rhone Petit Ours 2016

Matthieu Barret - Domaine du Coulet Côtes du Rhone Petit Ours 2016

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Winegrower: Matthieu Barret – Domaine du Coulet
Region: Cornas, North Rhone, France
Grape: Syrah
Vintage: 2016
Color: Red
Alc: 12.5%
Available: Fall 2017

“Matthieu Barret represents the future in Cornas. His Domaine is, in my opinion, the single most exciting new domaine in the appellation today.” James Molesworth, Wine Spectator

Today we head back to the northern Rhone to revisit the stunning, biodynamically farmed wines of Matthieu Barret. You might recall that we introduced one of Matthieu’s top wines, his Brix Cailloux at $65 back in July and it was an instant hit. Today we offer its cousin, a fabulous Côtes du Rhone Petit Ours (little brown bear) that comes from a vineyard that Matthieu calls “no man’s land” because it lies between the boundaries of Cornas and St. Joseph. This is a brilliant 100% Syrah from low yielding (18 hectoliters per hectare), 40 year old vines. It combines the power of the south with the elegance of the north. And it’s pure magic; exactly what you would expect when tasting a cool climate Syrah from the North Rhone, a style of wine that most winemakers abandoned long ago to produce big wines for the international market. This wine is all about freshness; it’s young, intense, and precise, with a medium full body. You will be surprised by how fast you empty the first bottle and go for a second. This biodynamic Syrah is an excellent, hands-off expression of the northern Rhone, and at $24 eminently affordable. 

Matthieu inherited his domaine in 1998 at the age of 23 from his grandfather. From the beginning he has employed natural, organic practices and by 2002 the domaine received its biodynamic certification. Today, Matthieu makes some of the most distinctive and finest wines in the northern Rhone. If you’re into the point’s thing; he’s accumulated plenty of high scores from the likes of Robert Parker, Wine Spectator and others. But don’t expect high alcohol, high extraction wines here; granted, Matthieu’s wines have power but they also have grace, freshness and life, which is a combination that’s hard to find. Matthieu makes natural wines that accurately reveal the uniqueness of his different vineyards in an unapologetically fruity style.

Matthieu’s focus is on his vineyards: “Great wines are made from great grapes. No vinification, however perfect, can improve on what nature provides. The grape contains the magic and it is up to us not to destroy it. Our vinification is ‘flexible’ to let the wine do as it wishes so that it expresses its terroir and vintage. The key is to pick just before really big maturity. I want a straighter, brighter wine."

Grown and aged naturally, he protects his wines from becoming funky by the addition of a tiny amount of sulphur at bottling, a mere 2 gms/hl., and he fully de-stems his grapes to ensure they are more drinkable when young. His is a very natural, minimalist approach to winegrowing. But have no illusions, this is not a mixed farm, and there are no goats, sheep or other animals to be found. Matthieu uses gravity to move his grapes and wine in the cellar. During fermentation, which is done with ambient yeasts, he does a single daily punch down of the cap. Pressing is done at low pressure to avoid the extraction of hard tannins and clarification is carried out naturally with the interest of preserving the purity of the fruit. The wine is aged for 13 months in concrete tanks to help preserve freshness, it is then bottled unfined and unfiltered with a just a touch of sulphur added. Aging potential is 8 years. Annual production is about 400 cases depending on the vintage.

Today’s Côtes du Rhone Petit Ours 2016 is a seductive ruby plum in the glass. From the outset, there’s a defined blackcurrant, cassis and liquorice intensity to the nose with hints of sweet red apple and earthy beetroot. Still youthful, the palate shows a level of quality that far surpasses most of the Cotes-du-Rhone that is available. There are layers of plum confit, sweet tart black cherry, blueberries and spice nuances. The finish is medium long, vital, saline and tight, and suggests that ageing this wine for another 5 or 6 years might yield something very special indeed. But considering how delicious it is I certainly wouldn’t find fault if you enjoyed it now. Serve at 16˚ to 17˚ in Burgundy stems to capture the nose then enjoy with friends while indulging in this delicious rack of lamb.