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

Domaine des Lises Crozes-Hermitage Rouge 2020
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Domaine des Lises Crozes-Hermitage Rouge 2020

As always, Maxime’s estate Crozes comes from a grouping of vineyards near the village of Beaumont-Monteux, only a couple of kilometres from his father’s vines. The lieu-dits are called Les Bosquets and Les Pichères. 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 (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 2020 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 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. The acronym John Livingstone Learmonth uses in his note below, “w.o.w”, stands for “what one wants”. In John’s words, a w.o.w wine “is a wine that immediately declares its pleasure. It provides immediate joie and lends to conviviality among friends, or breaks the ice with strangers.” Spot on. There’s an engaging buoyancy this year, even if there is a wealth of punchy flavour and spice-licked fruit. Berry fruits, florals, spice and mineral aromas lead to a palate flush with measured ripeness, tight-grained and beautifully integrated tannins, snappy acidity and a densely compact and multi-layered mouthfeel. The finish is prolonged and studded with notes of graphitic minerals and more spice. At just 13% abv, it is not as deep as 2019 from the same sites, yet nonetheless, it makes for some delicious drinking young. As Alain once said, “The vintage changes, but the spirit remains the same.”

The acronym John Livingstone Learmonth uses in his note below, “w.o.w”, stands for “what one wants”. In John’s words, a w.o.w wine “is a wine that immediately declares its pleasure. It provides immediate joie and lends to conviviality among friends, or breaks the ice with strangers.” Spot on. There’s an engaging buoyancy this year, even if there is a wealth of punchy flavour and spice-licked fruit. Berry fruits, florals, spice and mineral aromas lead to a palate flush with measured ripeness, tight-grained and beautifully integrated tannins, snappy acidity and a densely compact and multi-layered mouthfeel. The finish is prolonged and studded with notes of graphitic minerals and more spice. At just 13% abv, it is not as deep as 2019 from the same sites, yet nonetheless, it makes for some delicious drinking young. As Alain once said, “The vintage changes, but the spirit remains the same.”

“Deep violet. Lively aromas of fresh blackberry, cherry and candied flowers, along with cracked pepper and olive flourishes. At once rich and energetic, offering juicy, mineral-laced black and blue fruit flavors and hints of candied violet and five-spice powder. Picks up a smoky nuance with air and finishes gently tannic and very long, leaving behind resonating mineral and floral notes.”
91 points, Josh Reynolds, Vinous
“Bright dark red, with purple; there’s raspberry fruit on the nose, but it’s reserved, has a nice sunny tone, offers a pure front. The palate is a touch on its lees, but has good balance, fine body, with discreet tannins, some herbal notes within, the sunshine effect. This will be open, tuneful, has gentle length, w.o.w. potential.”
John Livingstone-Learmonth, Drink Rhône
Domaine des Lises Crozes-Hermitage Rouge 2020
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Equis Equinoxe Crozes-Hermitage Rouge 2021
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Equis Equinoxe Crozes-Hermitage Rouge 2021

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 very closely together. It is this collaboration that has seen the Equinoxe cuvée reach ever-greater heights. Roughly 80% de-stemmed, 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. Although Graillot tells us that he wants this to be a “hyper-light wine”, it is never light in the negative sense of the word. There is too much intensity for that. Instead, it’s an exuberantly fruity, delicious, drink-it-straight-from-the-bottle kind of Crozes with agile tannins and plenty of acidity for focus. Leaping out of the glass, the newly minted 2021 is flush with perfumes of berries, sweet spice, earth and an enticing mineral accent. On the palate, it’s bright, refreshing, and dripping with svelte red fruits mopped up by the crunchy acidity and twist of salinity. It closes long and vibrant with a lick of piquant spice and anise. It’s a delicious reminder of how close the Northern Rhône is to Beaujolais—and not just in terms of distance.

Although Graillot tells us that he wants this to be a “hyper-light wine”, it is never light in the negative sense of the word. There is too much intensity for that. Instead, it’s an exuberantly fruity, delicious, drink-it-straight-from-the-bottle kind of Crozes with agile tannins and plenty of acidity for focus. Leaping out of the glass, the newly minted 2021 is flush with perfumes of berries, sweet spice, earth and an enticing mineral accent. On the palate, it’s bright, refreshing, and dripping with svelte red fruits mopped up by the crunchy acidity and twist of salinity. It closes long and vibrant with a lick of piquant spice and anise. It’s a delicious reminder of how close the Northern Rhône is to Beaujolais—and not just in terms of distance.

Equis Equinoxe Crozes-Hermitage Rouge 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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