LePlan Winegrowing: respect for nature
Dirk Vermeersch does nothing half way. “Mr 100%”, to those who know him well, threw himself into researching and comparing the various viticultural and vinification methods. He aims for ideal compromise by finding the perfect association between modern techniques and more traditional and organic ones.
In fact, perfectionism is an inescapable character trait in any champion rally and racing driver. Not happy with simply “making wine”, Dirk deeply respects nature as the source of what we eat and drink, and humans, who couldn’t live without it.
Vineyards are cared for organically to ensure their health and future. At on average 40 years old, the vines already produce concentrated fruit at low yields (average 25 hl/ha), which is further concentrated by removing buds and thinning out leaves and clusters. Hand harvesting occurs as grapes achieve perfect ripeness.
the best of tradition and technology
Once in the cellar, they dedicate themselves to turning the fruit into its most authentic expression as a wine. Sometimes grapes are trodden by foot for better colour extraction and gentler tannins.
Traditional fermentation in temperature-controlled, stainless steel vats allow Ann and Seb to either bring out the fruit or develop structure and aromatic complexity. The cap is hand-plunged 2 times daily. Wines are pressed with a hydraulic press, to taste and check progress at any moment. Malolactic fermentation in oak barrels softens the wines’ acidity and increases its complexity.
The wines are then aged in a mix of French and American barrels for 12 months.
600 B.C. The Phoceans from Greece founded Marseille (Massalia) and started the first vineyards in the Rhone Valley. They introduced the Syrah variety to the village of Vienne, where it remains to this day the dominant variety throughout the entire northern Rhone Valley red wines.
1st Century During the 1st Century B.C., the Romans created several colonies, often in existing townships such as Orange, Vaison-la-Romaine or Vienne, and inhabited by retired legionaries. Rhone Valley wines had such a good reputation that they were exported to the Caesar in Rome. According to the well known Roman writer Pliny, the Romans taught the Gaul’s how to cultivate the earth, fortify their cities, prune their vines and plant the olive tree. He expounded on a wine from the “City of Die”, considering it the best in the Empire.
14th Century The Popes in Avignon assured the success of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. It were indeed the Popes, in the Middle Ages, after the Holy Throne had been moved from Rome to Avignon, who gave Rhone Valley wines a new lease of life. 18th Century Wine was sold in bottle for the first time, cork stoppers became generalised, the corkscrew made its appearance, as did wine labels.
1731 The first official grouping of wine villages, including Tavel, Chusclan and Lirac, used the CDR “Cotes du Rhone” denomination on their barrels before shipping them to England. The Principality of Orange (a Dutch property) was given back to France. The Prince’s castle in Suze-la-Rousse is now home to a wine university. 19th Century Louis XIII, King of France, gave the order to regularly supply the Parisian Royal Court with wines from the Rhone Valley.
1870 Two diseases originating in America were the scourge of all French vineyards, oidium (1856) and phylloxera. Following the phylloxera invasion, there were no vineyards left. Vaucluse and Drome viticulturalists replaced their vines with oak trees known to promote the growth of truffles.
1878 French vine growers learned to combat phylloxera by grafting their vine plants onto American rootstock, resistant to the phylloxera bug. 1890 Vaucluse and Drome vineyards were completely replanted, and the oak trees pulled out. Bit by bit, the vine made its comeback. 1930 The “Vin de Pays” denomination was used for the first time, and modified in 1979 (80 hl/ha).
1936 The first appellations were created in the Rhone Valley: ’36 Châteauneuf-du-Pape (maximum yield 35 hl/ha), ’36 Tavel (maximum yield 37 hl/ha), ’37 Cotes du Rhone (maximum yield 52 hl/ha), ’42 Clairette de Die (maximum yield 50 hl/ha).
1956 Lots of vines and oak trees died in the great frost (-20°C). Vines were replanted in their place.
2001 LePlan-Vermeersch produced its first bottle of Vin de Pays (with a yield of 25 hl/ha).