A Tale of Two Roties: Francois Villard’s Le Gallet Blanc 2004 and 2005

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Francois Villard is a newcomer and a modernist in the Rhone Valley, and has been an exciting addition to the Northern Rhone. Villard is also one of the new breed of Northern Rhone producer that is happy establishing an open relationship with the United States, both respecting U.S. Rhone producers and brining his wines into the U.S. market aggressively. For some this sort of relationship with the U.S. can be both a blessing and a curse. It is great to get more exposure for the Northern Rhone and the potential for cooler climate Syrah in California and Washington; however, Parker and the U.S. critics’ influence on Syrah has been largely towards overextraction and high alcohol, two things that the Northern Rhone does not do well and that obscure its amazing terroir. Luckily Villard successfully combines modernism and a view to America with respect for tradition.

I’ve had and very much enjoyed Villard’s Condrieu’s before, which are quite opulent, though never over the top. These two reds, however, were much more elegant and suggested a growing sophistication in Villard’s approach.

The 2004 Le Gallet Blanc was the more immediately accessible of the two vintages, offering black fruits, olives, game and a good punch of rich extract but well integrated acidity. I thought it was easy to drink and showing really well right now. Very Good+. $75 ($45 on sale) at Marquis Wine Cellars.

The 2005 Le Gallet Blanc, however, showed how Villard is starting to craft truly elegant and age worthy wines. While you can drink this wine now, that would be a shame given its perfect aging potential. Some wines get a free pass by critics claiming that they need age but that are utterly unenjoyable in their youth and that don’t actually offer the balance to go the distance. The 2005 Gallet Blanc, on the other hand, clearly is very well balanced, has great fruit and even though the tannins are firm, they are ripe and destined to resolve amazingly well. This is an outstanding wine for cellaring and would be perfect to revisit in 5-10 years, depending on how much fruit you like. There are fantastic underlying characteristics of smoke, bramble, and fresh picante olives. The fruit is pure blackberry. Excellent $75 ($48 on sale) at Marquis Wine Cellar

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