Let the wine decide: Discovering a new style of Cairanne…

February 10, 2014 at 5:11 pm

Ever since 2009 when our winemaker Eric Monnin first stood in Boutinot Rhône’s highest plots – La Pauline and Les Six Terrasses – he knew that there was a chance to make truly magical wine. A year later in his new cellar, staring at the unwrapped new oak fermenters, still glistening in their packaging, he dreamed of making a Cairanne like no other.

That dream is now a reality with the release of  ‘Les Six’, Cairanne, Côtes du Rhône Villages 2011 –  a unique blend of six varieties rather than the commonplace two (Grenache Noir and Syrah). The latest release from our Fide et Arte range, this is the story of  ‘Les Six’…

December 2009 – A treasure trove of hillside vineyards discovered above Cairanne.

Grenache Noir vineyard, La Pauline, Boutinot Rhone

La Pauline, source of old vine Grenache Noir for Les Six

Looking at my feet, I could see that exceptional ‘terroir’ was staring me in the face” recalls Eric of the moment he first surveyed the vineyards. On the same ridge of hills as nearby Rasteau the jigsaw of plots offered low yielding old vines, some planted just after the end of the 2nd World War, on terroir of the much sought-after argilo-calcaire (chalky clays) and favoured by an ideal aspect, allowing the full benefit of both the sun and the cleansing effects of the hillside breezes.

Boutinot Rhone hand harvested vineyard

Les Six Terrasses can only be harvested by hand

May 2010 – Domaine Boutinot Rhône established….
Our 6ha estate and gravity-fed cellar are purchased and Eric’s dream of making stunning wines in the southern Rhône is closer to becoming reality. Over the summer vines are tended and the cellar refurbished to Eric’s exacting standards

Boutinot Rhone Cairanne cellar in 2010

Boutinot Rhône cellar Cairanne, before refurbishment

Large oak vat, Boutinot Rhone

‘Tronconique’ delivered to cellar


Large oak vat, Boutinot Rhone, Cairanne

View from above of the ‘tronconique’ (large open topped oak vat)

Autumn 2010 – Vinifcation of the first vintage
The first vintage from Boutinot Rhône’s base in Cairanne is safely in the cellar. Now equipped with ‘tronconiques’ (large wooden open-top fermenters) and a gentle basket press, conditions are ideal for vinifying wine slowly in the tradition of Rhône villages of days gone by. Long cuvaisons using only natural wild yeasts are aided by manual pigeage and gentle remontage.

Eric Monnin at work in the cellar

Eric hard at work during the 2010 harvest

Gentle pumping over (remontage)

On top of the large tronconique for ‘remontage’ (gentle pumping over)

Pigeage or treading grapes at Boutinot Rhone

Eric’s stained feet after manual treading of grapes (pigeage)

Manual pigeage at Boutinot Rhone

After many days of treading grapes a pigeageur can be used

Spring 2011…. Rare varieties revealed…
Eric becomes an accepted face among Cairanne vignerons, some of whom point out to him their prized parcels of old vines, predominantly Grenache Noir and occasionally of Mourvèdre. They also reveal with pride their ‘bijou’ plots made up of ancient varieties – Carignan Noir, Cinsault and Counoise – seldom seen today; plots their elders had tended which they couldn’t bear to replace with more populist grapes.

Old Mourvedre vines used for Les Six, Boutinot Rhone

Very old Mourvèdre vines

Rare varieties of vines next to Boutinot Rhone

Neighbouring vignerons reveal their bijou plots of ancient Rhône varieties

These vignerons love tending their vines but have very little interest in making wine. Having tasted our wines in bottle, they trust Eric’s skilled hand will craft terrific wine from their cherished grapes.

Summer 2011…. Eric’s light bulb moment
Eric is excited by the potential of these rare varieties. He has the idea to make a personal and distinctive style of Cairanne using hand-picked old vine Grenache and exceptional Syrah from his best plots vinified with the rare grape varieties from the prized plots of his neighbours.

Autumn 2011 – Eric’s Experiment begins

After a perfect harvest Eric begins the slow process of vinification. Using six varieties – as opposed to the usual three – takes skill and Eric carefully chooses certain varieties to be co-fermented together in the large tronconiques.


Foaming grenache in open topped vast, Boutinot Rhone

Fermentation solely by naturally present yeasts is underway in the open topped vats


May 2013 – A new style of Cairanne is born!

Matured for a total of ten months solely in oak tronconiques the final assemblage is made.



February 2014 – ‘Les Six’ released…

A unique style was born and we bottled it all (just 12,000 in total) calling it ‘Les Six’ after its parents.

In an appellation dominated by just three varieties, ‘Les Six’ is a new style of Cairanne which, due to the ancient varieties of Carignan Noir, Cinsault and Counoise included in the blend, is also a Cairanne whose heart holds dear the traditions of yesteryear.