Not So Traditional

When I see a wine with the word ‘Tradition’ in its name, I get an immediate sense of the taste I expect when I open the bottle.  And that’s particularly true when the label is as classic and restrained as that pictured above.  Depending on where the wine is from, I’m thinking of an old-fashioned style of claret or Burgundy or, perhaps, a Rhône. 

Domaine Richeaume’s Tradition (Wine Society, £16.50) is none of those.  It comes from Provence, in the south of France, North-East of Marseille, an area best known for rosés and simple, everyday drinking reds.  But it’s neither of those either!  In fact, it’s so far from the traditions of the area that it can’t claim any of the local ‘Appellation Contrôlée’ designations, being sold, simply, as an IGP Méditerranée (part of the category formerly known as ‘Vin de Pays d’Oc’).

But it’s far from a simple wine; it’s a delicious, full-bodied (14% alcohol), rich, spicy red packed with lots of juicy black berry and attractive dried fruit flavours, hints of leather and a long savoury finish.  A lovely food-friendly wine just crying out for a good rare steak.

So, why do the producers call it ‘Tradition’ when, as I’ve suggested, it’s nothing of the sort?  My guess is that they’re trying to get over the fact that everything is done carefully by hand, the grapes are harvested at very low yields to maintain intensity of flavour and quality and that the Estate is fully organic (which all vineyards would once have been before the introduction of artificial fertilisers).

On the other hand, they’ve ignored 2 of the most important traditional local grape varieties – Carignan and Cinsault – and the only ‘native’ grape that appears in the blend is Grenache (and that comprises only 15%). Instead, we have Syrah as the key component (widely planted in the south of France now but originally from the Northern Rhône) mixed with more recent arrivals from Bordeaux in Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot and the definitely untraditional (to this area) Tempranillo – a grape from over the border in Spain’s Rioja region. 

Clearly, I didn’t get the wine I was expecting from a quick look at the label, but I did get something delicious and at a ‘buy again’ price.