Villard Vertical: Three Vintages of “Le Gallet Blanc” Cote-Rotie
It may be fair to say that Francois Villard makes too many wines. Aside from the dozen or so he produces under his own domaine, he also partners with Gaillard and Cuilleron to produce the negociant wines under Les Vins de Vienne. The wines are, amazingly, all of high quality. But I think the breadth of Villard’s ambition limits his focus. He has no single wine that sits at the top of the appellations in which he works. Instead, those wines belong to producers dedicated to a much smaller range (E.g. Jamet, Clape, Chave, etc.).
However, the counterpoint for Villard has always been the excellent QpR – most of his wines sell for far less than competitors and offer a high quality example of their appellation.
Le Gallet Blanc is one of Villard’s best wines, though at times I feel his style does not always suit cooler, less powerful vintages. Perhaps that is due to Villard’s use of about 50% new oak, or his 50% stem inclusion, but in wines like the 2004, the greenness of underripe stems conflicts with the quantity of oak on the wine.
On the other hand, Villard seems able to handle difficult hot vintages well. The 2003 is expressive and lively despite the extreme challenges of that vintage for Cote-Rotie. The wine doesn’t have the same structure or complexity of a better vintage like 2005, but it is charming.
Villard claims his goal to be to produce a silky and elegant mouth feel. He achieves this with long cuvaison (fermentation when the juice is in contact with the must), but no pigeage (pushing the cap down). Villard assembles the wine from seven different plots from the southern end of Cote-Rotie.
Villard co-ferments a tiny amount of Viognier with the Syrah, but usually no more than 1-2%.
2003: Soft as expected with the vintage, but charming and expressive. Drink now. Very Good+.
2004: Some green aromas from stem inclusion, but also toasty oak aromas like chocolate and coffee. There is good structure to the wine and its incongruity started to come together better with a few hours’ air, but I was disappointed. Drink now or age for 3-4 years. Very Good+.
2005: Extremely tight right now. Quite a powerful wine. The fruit can handle the oak, and the stem inclusion is successful given the ripeness of the vintage. Ultimately, the best wine of the three but not ready. Hold for at least 4 more years, but will likely go another 10-15. Very Good (for current drinking) but I anticipate Excellent with more bottle age.
I think Villard has been successful with all three wines above in producing the silky texture for which he strives.
I purchased each of these wines for about $70 CAD upon release from Marquis. I think current vintages are priced way too high in B.C. (I’ve seen them for $120+tax at Kits Wine) and perhaps better to seek out in another jurisdiction (they are $50-$70 USD down south).