Thierry EYSSERIC – ORTAS Cave de RASTEAU
Thierry EYSSERIC © ORTAS-Cave de Rasteau
At the grand old age of 90, Rasteau’s cooperative winery is still a major player – the appellation’s Grande Dame. She has witnessed the rise of the AOC, but, more importantly, she has been the driving force behind events which have left their mark on the appellation. Making Grenache into VDN by a process of mutage? That was her, in the 1930s. Promotion of these same VDNs to Cru status in 1944? There she was again. And who re- submitted the Rasteau reds’ application for cru status to INAO when they were Côtes-du-Rhône Villages, and had already been turned down on the grounds of insufficient bottled sales in the mid-1980s? Yet again, our Grande Dame. And was the meteoric rise in popularity of wine tourism – with the accompanying surge in wine sales – anything to do with her? Without shadow of a doubt, because in terms of tourist provision, Ortas Cave de Rasteau is one of the 2 most dynamic cooperatives, and offers a full range of visitor activities based around wine and wine production.
The Cave has been a vibrant force since its early days, consistently investing in equipment – in the vat room initially, then in the tasting cellars. The winery building is iconic, designed to evoke the image of mineral rock, and features a living roof; the stone to build it was sourced locally in Vaison-la-Romaine, and the structure blends perfectly with its natural surroundings.
Successive managers have taken a modern stance, making strategic decisions with great success – focusing, for example on increasing bottled sales at the start of the 80s, or managing production and sales separately.
In its most productive years, the Cave can make up to
35,000 hl. 90% used to be sold as bulk; then the efforts of the sales teams began to bear fruit, both on the domestic and export markets. Sales rose to around 4 million bottles. The Cave’s brand strategy was re-worked for food service and the large-scale retail markets, and from around the year 2000, production across the entire operation was restructured, from vineyard work to sales
A patchwork of terroirs
“Our bond with the terroir is very important. We manage the Cave as we would a large estate.” explains Cave de Rasteau president Thierry Eyserric. The Cave’s commitment to quality never wavers – not in the vineyards, where 90% of harvests are manual, nor in the winery, where most vinification is carried out in the traditional way.
“Our terroir is like a mosaic, and quality is exceptional. It’s very diverse: row orientation, exposure and incline can be very different in different areas. Our work consists of choosing the right combination from each area to give freshness, substance, earthy aromas and tannins – all in very precise quantities.”
This is meticulous, painstaking work, which begins at source – back in our partners’ vineyards. The vineyards vary in size and can measure less than 1 hectare, but average size is 8 ha. They comprise a total of 1,800 vine parcels, inspected throughout the year to make sure they are producing well. To help supervise the vines, the Cave’s Vineyard Manager uses a smartphone app – essential in this day and age. With one click he can home in on a particular area, check the status of the vines and interact with partners in real time. Our Grande Dame is definitely not showing her years!