The Story of Les Six - Boutinot International in Cairanne

The origins of an unconventional classic

Selected by the Syndicat des Vignerons de Cairanne to represent the best of Cairanne AOC at this year’s ProWein, the fifth vintage of our beloved “Les Six” continues to make a name for itself. A blend of six varieties, this wine was the brainchild of our head winemaker, Eric Monnin, created through a combination of good fortune, bold thinking, blood, sweat and…well, grapes.

Eric knew he had discovered something special from the moment he set foot in the vineyard of La Pauline on the hillsides above Cairanne: “Looking at my feet, I could see that exceptional terroir was staring me in the face”. The low-yielding, old vines from this jigsaw of sloping plots, planted on sought-after chalky clay with an ideal aspect would, Eric realised, produced truly magical wine.

His dream came one step closer to reality as a 6ha estate and gravity-fed cellars in the village were purchased, and Domaine Boutinot Rhône was founded. Over the summer months, the cellars were refurbished and equipped with large, wooden, open-topped fermenters or “tronconiques” and a gentle basket press.

The First Harvest

Autumn 2010 saw the arrival of the first hand-harvested grapes, which Eric vinified using traditional techniques (long cuvaisons, natural yeasts, manual piegage and gentle remontage), giving the wines enough time to develop fully and to the best of their potential, always being expressive of their origin and terroir.

After a year in Cairanne, Eric gradually gained the trust of the local vignerons, who showed him their prized parcels of old-vine Grenache Noir and Mouvèdre. With time they also trusted him to visit their ‘bijou’ plots of ancient varieties seldom seen today: Carignan Noir, Cinsault and Counoise. Plots that their elders had tended, which they couldn’t bear to pull up and replace with more populist grapes. Discovering these rare, ancient varieties gave Eric an idea: he could make a personal and distinctive style of Cairanne using Grenache and Syrah from his own exceptional plots and vinifying them traditionally with the rare varieties from the ancient vines of his neighbours.

Les Six Is Born

During the 2011 harvest, an injury in the cellar left Eric with 6 commemorative stitches in his arm (we told you there was blood!), but the harvest was as perfect as he could have hoped, and he finally began his experiment. Vinifying six varieties instead of the usual three, and doing so in pairs, takes skill and Eric carefully chose exactly which pair of varieties were to be vinified together using only the ambient yeasts present on the grape skins.

Les Six was born in May 2012! There was no handing out cigars in the waiting room, but after waiting 10 months for the wine to mature in the same oak tronconiques used for fermentation we were certainly proud of our first-born vintage.

From these foundations, Julien Dugas, who is now the winemaker at Domaine Boutinot, continues to craft Les Six in much the same way; skilfully co-vinifying the grapes, blending together the aromas, textures and flavours of all six varieties, while allowing the individual nuances to shine through. A truly “haute couture” wine.

Cairanne Becomes A Cru

In 2016 Cairanne was granted Cru status by the INAO; the highest appellation status possible in the Rhône and equivalent to that of Gigondas and Rasteau. “Les Six” 2015 was the first cru Carianne Appellation d’Origine Controlée released from Domaine Boutinot and was awarded 91 points by The Wine Advocate (31st October 2017).

Les Six 2016 will represent the best of cru Cairanne AOC, along with just 4 other red wines, at ProWein on Monday 18th March at 11am, Hall 12 / C69, and will be available to taste on the Boutinot stand, Hall 9 / A15, throughout the fair.

It’s clear that this wine holds a special place in Boutinot’s heart. If you’d like to find out more about it click the link below…

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