Frédéric JULIEN – Domaine Gramiller
We interviewed Frédéric Julien for the first time during his Presidency of the Syndicate of Winegrowers of the Appellation Rasteau in 2015 when he was a winegrower and, at that time, Vice-President of the Cooperative Cellar of Rasteau – ORTAS.
Because we take an interest in the path taken by each winegrower at Rasteau, here we are 3 years later, talking to this passionate winegrower and brewer, whose precision and high standards are part and parcel of what he makes.
The birth of the Wine Estate
Domaine Gramiller was created in 2017. The estate takes its name from a part of Rasteau called “Gramiller” – a terroir of many soils (due to the folding of the little mountain, or ’Montagnette’) where Frédéric grows some of the vines in A.O.C Rasteau. A “Tarente” (or “gecko”) can be seen on the walls, labels and corks of the estate. “It is a creature that is constantly present around the Mediterranean, and it is very useful in the natural balance because it eats flies and mosquitoes”. And so it has become a visual signature that is dear to Frédéric Julien.
For a total of 18 ha of production area, 9 ha are shared with the “Cooperative Cellar” and the other 9 ha are made into wine on the estate: 6 ha in AOC Rasteau, 1.5 ha in Côtes du Rhône Red, 1 ha in Côtes du Rhône white and 0.5 ha in “Vin de Pays”.
Combining personal beliefs and commitment
Since his beginnings in winegrowing (twenty years ago now), Frédéric Julien has always been a big supporter of organic farming.
Frédéric JULIEN: “I can’t say I’ve seen a change in the quality of my wines because it is an approach that I have always led because it is what I have always believed in: no pollution means no harmful effects on health.”
From the outset, he took an interest in the biodynamic approach to growing vines – “but I am not a fan of the esotericism that goes with this approach, even though I am convinced that there is a benefit for the soil and the vines”. So, he turned towards organic farming, purely and simply. “Even if it’s not poetic, it demands a lot of precision. You need to observe and be attentive to the signs that nature shows you”.
One step at a time
He hides nothing about the different stages that he has gone through and the moments of self-doubt that he encountered.
Frédéric J.: “Obviously I had moments of doubt when I began to work the vines. I realised that if we wanted to stop using weed killers and other chemical products we would have to make sacrifices. Ten years ago, we started to work on the plots of vines… It took us a month and a half to tend to 15 ha”. And as he went on to say later in the conversation, “Passion makes work easy. When we work with passion, we are unstoppable”.
A.O.C Rasteau: Tell us about the wines from the Domaine Gramiller.
Frédéric J.: “Well, let’s taste them!” Frédéric J. heads towards one of his vats, glass in hand. We taste the wine with surprise and pleasure: we discuss the quality of the soil, the work in the vineyard and in the cellar, no stone is left unturned. But we can’t talk about wine without first discussing the terroirs…
Frédéric J.: “Today, most of my plots are in Rasteau, mainly in the areas called “Les Marcels” and “Gramiller”. Both areas offer excellent soils, which give the structure and generosity that is emblematic of the Cru Rasteau.
The area called “Gramiller” (2.5ha), which Frédéric J. calls “the mountain”, is made up of a soil of sandstone, sandy-clay marl, blue clay and limestone gravel, facing southeast. This geological complexity is marked by the predominance of clay soils, good exposure, and a high altitude which gives an excellent expression of the Grenache grapes which is “very powerful yet contained by a subtle freshness”.
The area called “Les Marcels” counts 2.2 ha of slopes warmed by the setting sun with a soil made up of very pebbly marls (from the Tertiary era, dating back around 10 million years) mixed with clay, sand and silt. It is still home to a few old Grenache vine stocks planted in 1901 (25% remain and are still tended today), as well as Mourvèdre vines of 6 years old on average. This plot also reveals the typicity of the wines of the appellation and the sun-drenched and punchy qualities are very intense in the wines from this area.
Art in a glass
As well as the fact that all the estate’s wines (and beers) are organically farmed and certified, Frédéric Julien is very attentive to the quality of the production methods. Even if the activity of the micro-brewery remains “a sideline adventure” and a part-time occupation, he still takes it seriously. Indeed, he reminds us that there is not such a big difference between hops and grapes. “Hops are a bit like varietals in wine, and each country has its own varieties, which express themselves better depending on the quality of the terroir in which they grow.”
This creative perfectionist puts a lot of emphasis on blending which allows him to test and adjust when necessary, following his intuition but also according to the preferences and reactions of tasters (professionals and the general public) which he really takes onboard. When asked what he is aiming for he replies “quintessence”!
“Technological” and natural wines
Frédéric Julien makes wines that he describes as “technological” due to the constant attention that he devotes to them, but that does not make them any less “natural”. “I like to make wines that are very precise but still very natural, with as little external input as possible: just a minimal dose of sulfite on all the estate’s wines and nothing at all for the Cuvée Nature. I am fortunate enough to work with the oenologist Didier COUTURIER, a great coach who I learn from each day and to whom I owe a great deal”, he adds.
Frédéric Julien has recently built his own cellar, before which he amused himself with some small-scale winemaking experiments. His wines are mostly blended wines but each plot is made into wine separately beforehand in concrete tanks that are conical (on the front side) for optimal submersion of the cap of must in the juice. He likes to work his grapes delicately and to always take their specificities into account: “When I am out in the vineyard and I bite into the skin of the grapes, I already have an idea of what the wine will be like”. For him, the grapes grown in “Les Marcels” express the more ‘classic’ side of the Cru whereas those from “Gramiller” are more unique. So, after meticulous parcellary winemaking, Frédéric J. opts for the art of blending because he wants to obtain the most perfect wine possible. But, nevertheless, he is very careful not to “stifle the terroir” as he puts it.
Frédéric J. is someone who likes to try new things and he recently tried out Austrian light-toast barrels for his white wines (Côtes du Rhône, mostly made with the Bourboulenc and Roussane varietals). And he was pleased with the result: “oak barrels make the wine taut as opposed to the overly rounded aspect that aging can bring”. The lucky participants in the “l’Escapade des Gourmets” event had the opportunity to taste these wines before their market release at the tasting stand!
A year of firsts
2018 is a landmark year for Domaine Gramiller which participated for the first time in the appellation’s major events; “l’Escapade Des Gourmets” (20 May 2018), “Quand VIN Le Soir… Rasteau WINE Bar” (11 & 18 July and 1 August 2018), and “la Nuit Du Vin” (14 August 2018). Although he was above all eager to be part of the events, Frédéric J. admitted to feeling a little stressed about presenting his wines to the general public for the first time: “I had to work hard to communicate about my wines, and participating in events at Rasteau is a real opportunity for the winegrowers of the appellation”.
Where can we find the wines?
Given his small production volumes, Frédéric Julien prefers local distribution channels. “At the moment I have a relatively small stock that I can sell alone”, but in the future he would consider working alongside a marketing professional.
Frédéric J.: “My first marketing experience will take place during the “l’Escapade des Gourmets” event on Sunday 20 May 2018. I am also thinking about participating in the “Millésime Bio” professional trade fair in 2019, but probably just to present my wines in the unofficial evening on the sidelines of the show”.
At the moment Frédéric Julien proposes his wines in places where he can also sell his beers: in small organic shops like “Biocoop” ( Vaison-La-Romaine), in the wine bars “L’Arbre à Vins” (Vaison-La-Romaine), “Ô gré des vendanges” (L’Isle-sur-Sorgues), at “Drôle d’Oiseau” in Carpentras, on the excellent bistro menu of Chef Christophe RENAUD at “Renaud’mets” (L’Isle-sur-Sorgues), and at the “Rasteau Bienvenue” tourist information point in the village which also serves as the “Maison des Vins” for the appellation.
You can also meet this winegrower in person and discover the fruit (or the cereal!) of his labour every Friday from 5-7pm at Domaine Gramiller when he organises visits of his wine cellar and micro-brewery, followed by a tasting session in the new tasting cellar.
3 Wine & Music pairings – Frédéric JULIEN: “I always work to music!”
We couldn’t end the interview without talking about music. So what is his ideal playlist? Here are his top 3 songs…
Thank you Frédéric for giving your time to the appellation! We wish Domaine Gramiller a great first summer season within the Rasteau appellation, full of success and enriching encounters!
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