Domaine des Lises

Son of A Gun: Terrific Northern Rhône from La Famille Graillot

Maxime Graillot no longer stands in the shadow of his celebrated father. Today he has the senior winemaking role at Domaine Alain Graillot and is carving out his own chapter in the history of the Northern Rhône. Naturally, he is best known for the outstanding wines that bear his own name. The latest releases from Maxime’s own vineyards compare very favourably to those of Domaine Alain Graillot, ignoring obvious stylistic differences. Displaying an intensity and minerality as though they were a birthright, the leitmotif in Maxime’s wines is juiciness, freshness and poise. It’s these qualities that are setting them well on the way to becoming regional benchmarks—if they are not already.

Maxime Graillot’s Estate-grown Crozes, Domaine des Lises, comes from a single vineyard near the village of Beaumont-Monteux. Here, in the most south-easterly part of the appellation, the soils are full of gravel and alluvial stones, low in clay and fast draining—very similar to the Domaine Alain Graillot soils in Les Chênes Verts, just to the north. This soil type lends itself to a refined, aromatic Syrah with a pronounced savoury profile. Planted throughout the 1980s, the vines are now managed organically.

Like the Alain Graillot wines, the fermentations are entirely natural, although Graillot Jr. uses only a small whole bunch component, usually in the realm of 20-30%, and Maxime’s Crozes tends to ‘come around’ earlier than the wines that carry the Alain Graillot name

Equis is Graillot’s boutique negocé, established with Maxime’s long-term friend, and talented winemaking partner, Thomas Schmittel. We ship two wines in the range, sourced from a roster of first-rate, cultivated vineyards where Graillot and Schmittel have a close working relationship with the growers.

In terms of volume, the deliciously playful Equinoxe Crozes-Hermitage is the ‘poster wine’ of the project. The fruit for this early-drinking Crozes is sourced from a mature, organically farmed and gravelly site in Pont de l’Isère that has not seen any herbicide or pesticide use for 10 years. The guys have also settled, for now, on a more composite élevage for this wine, which is now raised in a mixture of concrete tank (60%) and old oak (in a range of formats). As intended, this juicy, gluggable Crozes is all about the purity and primary fruit freshness; a Crozes for thirst—though it does not want for fruit intensity or crisp structure.

The Equis Cornas is drawn predominantly from a 20-year-old parcel on the slopes of the great Cornas lieu-dit, Les Chaillots, with the balance from old-vine parcels in La Sabarotte and La Côte. All are hillside sites where the soils are very rich in granite. The vines have always been organically managed, and the owner/grower is a respected friend of the Graillot clan. Although it is made from purchased fruit, Max and Thomas are quick to point out that they could not manage the vines any better themselves!

The Range

Equis Saint-Joseph Rouge 2020
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Equis Saint-Joseph Rouge 2020

This is drawn from two parcels on the steep, granitic slopes of Saint-Jean-de-Muzols, the historic heart of Saint-Joseph that lies opposite the hill of Hermitage. Three-quarters of the blend comes from 1980s planted Syrah, while the remainder of the vines were planted in the 1950s. Both parcels are organically farmed without herbicides by the Desbos family, and both lie on steep gradients that necessitate work by hand and horse only.  In the cellar, the winemakers work with around 20 to 30% whole bunches, and the wine matures for one year in used ex-Burgundy 228-litre oak casks for 11 months, followed by six months in tronconique. Bottled unfiltered, it’s a layered, deep, rocky style of St-Jo, with taut red and blue fruits complemented by crushed stone, dried dark flowers and iron filing nuances.          

“The bouquet has an oily intensity, is well together, centres on smoky blue fruit, delves in and carries mystery for now. The palate links closely, via an immediate run of shapely black fruited content, a little local rockiness well etched into it, with a flourish of fruit on the finish. It’s a vivid and genuine St Jo, plenty of bounce and character, rocks really well. It’s moving into shape – from late-2024.”
John Livingstone Learmonth, Drink Rhône
Equis Saint-Joseph Rouge 2020
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Equis Equinoxe Crozes-Hermitage Rouge 2022
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Equis Equinoxe Crozes-Hermitage Rouge 2022

Maxime Graillot and Thomas Schmittel’s nouveau-style Crozes is sourced primarily from a mature, gravelly, organically farmed site in Pont-de-l’Isère. This site is owned and managed by a good friend and neighbour of the Graillot clan, and the vigneron and producer work closely together. It is this collaboration that has seen the Equinoxe cuvée reach ever-greater heights. Roughly 80% destemmed, the wine is fermented in concrete tanks and large wooden tronconique vats (with a degree of carbonic maceration) and aged for nine months in the same vessel. This is gorgeously fleshy, forward, drink-it-straight-from-the-bottle kind of Crozes, with a touch more density than in 2021, but just as delicious. 

“The nose has an air of crushed nutshells from its oak, green olives, blackberry fruits, a hint of blood-iron. The palate is juicy and unrestrained, gives an immediate surge and sensation of plentiful black fruits, mild tannins in the wheel. Its length is steady, pretty resolute, and the finish well rounded. Its open features will please. From mid-2024.”
John Livingstone Learmonth, Drink Rhône
Equis Equinoxe Crozes-Hermitage Rouge 2022
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Domaine des Lises Crozes-Hermitage Rouge 2021
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Domaine des Lises Crozes-Hermitage Rouge 2021

As always, Maxime’s estate Crozes comes from vineyards near the village of Beaumont-Monteux, only a few kilometres from the Domaine Alain Graillot vines. The lieux-dits are called Les Bosquets and Les Pichères. Here, in the most south-easterly part of the appellation, the fast-draining soils are made up mostly of alluvial stones and gravel. They are low in clay and, in fact, very similar to the Domaine Alain Graillot soils in Les Chênes Verts, just to the north. Planted throughout the 1980s, the vines are now managed organically (certification is due soon). The fermentations are entirely natural, and Graillot Jr. uses only a small whole-bunch component, usually in the realm of 20-30%. It is, therefore, a wine that tends to ‘come around’ earlier than the 100% whole-bunch wines that carry the Alain Graillot name. The 2021 was fermented in concrete vats and then racked into one-, two- and three-year-old Burgundy barrels—purchased from some of the top estates—and a 12-hectolitre Stockinger cask. There is also a tiny component (less than 10%) of new barrels purchased from the Atelier Centre France, whose bespoke steam-bent barrels are now used at Guiberteau, Didier Dagueneau and François Chidaine. The wine spent 11 months in barrel and was brought together for three months in large fût tronconique. It is bottled unfiltered.A brilliant wine! Although it was a tricky year—frost, hail and lots of pressure—the 2021 is a fabulous release for this wine. It’s sappy and mineral with a delicious core of blackberry, dark cherry and iodine scented fruit and a twist of herbal/smoky complexity. Graillot is now aging this wine for six months longer to allow for finer integration between the wine’s fruit and tannin, and it has really worked here. Those who love classic Northern Rhône Syrah will be thrilled.  

Domaine des Lises Crozes-Hermitage Rouge 2021
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Domaine des Lises Crozes-Hermitage Blanc 2021
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Domaine des Lises Crozes-Hermitage Blanc 2021

The Les Pends lieu-dit is one of the very finest for white in Crozes-Hermitage. Maxime Graillot had been waiting and waiting to get a parcel and finally succeeded in 2014. It’s a sloping, south-facing hillside on white clay and chalk described by Rhône authority John Livingstone-Learmonth as a “high, high-quality terroir”. The site’s appeal lies in its ability to ripen its fruit while retaining a mouth-watering structure courtesy of the limestone-rich soils. Simply, Les Pends is one of the most coveted terroirs in the region for white grapes, and Maxime’s wine—full of alluring floral fruit and stony intensity—explains why. Graillot owns just 0.4 hectares of 40-year-old vines densely planted to 75% Marsanne and 25% Roussanne. The grapes are whole bunch-pressed, spontaneously fermented and raised in 600-litre demi-muid and a 300-litre cigar. Unlike the Domaine Alain Graillot white—grown on the deep alluvial soils of Pont-de-l’Isère—Graillot does not block the malolactic conversion; the limestone soils provide enough freshness and tension. The 2021 is a seriously classy white Crozes—fleshy yet racy, floral and honeyed and with a long juicy close. A fabulous white Rhône.

A seriously classy white Crozes of floral elegance, the aromas woven through with yellow fruits, white flowers, white honey and wet pebble minerality. The palate is compact, vibrant and fleshy, with sculpted intensity aligned to the silk-lined texture. Building complexity in the glass, the finish is long and finessed, with hints of chamomile and fennel. It’s a fabulous white Rhône that calls for an equally fabulous piece of fish.

Domaine des Lises Crozes-Hermitage Blanc 2021
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“Outward-looking and motivated, Maxime Graillot is a good receiver of his father`s baton. He is determined to make wine in his own style, emphasizing elegance. This is likely to become well-known and fashionable wine. The Crozes from his own vines is called Domaine des Lises. The two merchant wines from Saint-Joseph and Cornas are sold under the name Equis.” John Livingstone-Learmonth

Country

France

Primary Region

Northern Rhône

People

Winemakers: Maxime Graillot and Thomas Schmittel

Availability

National

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