Les Frères Bréchet are busy in the Southern Rhone. Making wine in Chateauneuf du Pape, Gigondas and now Rasteau.

Les Frères Bréchet are busy in the Southern Rhone.
Making wine in Chateauneuf du Pape, Gigondas and now Rasteau.

The Bréchet brothers, from the Southern Rhone, were the presenters of the latest in the  Zoom series of Liberty Wine masterclasses. Laurent works in Châteauneuf du Pape (Château de Vaudieu, the family flagship) while Julien may be found in Gigondas (Domaine des Bosquets). Liberty MD David Gleave introduced the siblings saying they each had a top estate in their respective appellations, both primarily growing Grenache. “So Gigondas or Chateauneuf, which is better? That’s today’s question.”

But the Bréchets were not to be drawn on that one! Indeed when David asked which wine they’d be having for lunch the reply, a nifty sidestep, was “We love Burgundy!” 
Laurent (left) and Julien

Towards the end, in the Question and Answer session, they were asked which was their favourite from the other brother. No hesitation from Julian: The Cuvée “Val de Dieu” from 2016. It has an extraordinary balance, a wine I would like every day". Laurent opted for Julian’s Le Lieu Dit 2017: The right expression of grenache, even more than the ’16”. So there you are, two good tips for you!

Q: Which region, aside from the Rhone, is best for Grenache?
A: Laurent picked Espana (Priorat) and California. Julien: “The same. But we are in a good place here!”.
Flowering in progress

Another questioner pointed to the tendency of Grenache to be high in alcohol. What other variety would you use to keep the abv down? Cinsault makes a very fine wine and with an abv 1.5% less than Grenache it could be the answer.

The men were sitting in Gigondas for the presentation  and reported that the growing season was going okay, a good period in flowering, the key to make good things. As it stands, all goes well, we’re happy, not late or anything, we are smiling!
Château de Vaudieu

Laurent said he was harvesting earlier and earlier, “Not just because of rising temperatures but to keep acidity. We might lose a little colour but we want to make a wine with personality. The soil, different to Gigondas, makes a difference.” And then he smiled: “as does the winemaker”. Julien said he was helped by being able to harvest a little earlier as compared to Chateauneuf. “Perfect maturity is an aim, we are always seeking the balance. Gigondas tends to have more freshness, while you get more maturity at C-d-P.”

Julian: “When I was younger I used oak but wines were not as expressive as I wanted”. Now he uses big old vats as he doesn’t want to put too much between the consumer and the expression of the terroir. Laurent wants to emphasise the elegance of the wine, so he makes wine with precision and attention to detail.
Domaine des Bosquets

Julien is now in organic conversion and that leads to lower yields and he’s happy with that as, with higher yields, you “can lose the personality". Laurent seeks the happy medium saying that “less is not always better.”

David Gleave asked Julien why he had chosen organic. Julien: “In order to be honest, you have to be clean. The best way to express the terroir is to go organic. Bosquets is a small estate, so not hard to convert. We are also a more isolated vineyard and the neighbours are organic as well. Clean grapes need less intervention in my mind, a good way to be.”

Laurent is not organic but sustainable. “We try to spray the  minimum. No herbicides, reduced sulphites and we limit production.”

And then there’s the style of wine. Julien has learned his terroir. “It's like a mosaic of terroirs, very different, different exposures, different altitude (from 180m to 400m). Each plot must be considered on its own merits.” Fourteen different plots have been designated and are each matured separately. “Blending is now more precise and better”. Indeed, so precise, that in 2019, only four of the 14 were considered good enough to be used. You do hear Julien using “No compromise” quite often.

Laurent said that while the traditional style is still loved by some customers that “we now like to have more elegance, more acidity, better balance. That’s what people like to drink now. If wine is too big, you might start the bottle but not finish. With harmony and acidity, you can enjoy it fully.”

“We are not against tradition,” said Julien. “We are improving on it by being more precise. No compromise in the process and the wine will not be just good, it will be better.”

Laurent is excited about a new project in the Rasteau appellation: “When I saw the plot, I said we’ll make something nice here. The idea is not to go too rich, to go more easy-drinking. It is a small plot, easier to control. We have a good team there and using old oak from the existing vineyard.”

And if you like the Rasteau Vin Deux Naturel (red, white and rancio), as one participant does, then rest assured. “It is still being made in the appellation and we want to restart it in our plot. We work on that. It will take time.” Laurent himself was quite excited about the ambré version of the VDN.