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Raise Your Glass: La Vieille Ferme’s Excellent Rose



Wednesday, September 03, 2014
La Vieille Ferme, 
 Ventoux Rose 2013, $6.99



A few years ago, I received a memorable telephone call from a very pleasant Hanover resident who had a wine recommendation.

She was in her 80s and had spent most of her life in Europe, living much of the time in Switzerland.

While there, she and her late husband had discovered La Vieille Ferme, an affordable line of wines that were “very good for the money.” They loved it. They bought it by the case for their everyday wine.

After settling in the Upper Valley, they sought to find the wine in the area’s stores and were disappointed. La Vieille Ferme, which means the old farm, was not available. But, she said, it had just showed up on local shelves, and she thought I should write about it.

I gave La Vielle Ferme a try, and it quickly became one of our favorite wines and on my list as fodder for Raise Your Glass, a column that has been on sabbatical for more than three years now while I took on other duties at the Valley News.

In the meantime, I’ve been studying La Vieille Ferme and have become well acquainted with the complexities of the red, the white and particularly the rose , a type of wine that my wife and I enjoy from spring until the leaves drop.

In fact, we started out this season by purchasing a number of different rose wines priced under $10 from producers primarily in France, Portugal, Spain and California. The dry, crisp and refreshing La Vieille Ferme rose was clearly the best of the lot and one of the least expensive.

Making rose is tricky. I once asked a well-known zinfandel winemaker from the Lodi region of California if he produced a rose. He laughed and said he’d tried. He quickly found that he could buy better rose from France and Spain at retail stores for less than he could make it. “It’s hard to make, and if I made it, I’d have to sell it for a lot of money, and it wouldn’t be as good as the stuff I can buy in the store for under $10.”

All of the La Vieille Ferme wines are from the Rhone Valley of southern France and are made by one of the region’s top winemaking families, who proudly link their name with this line of wines, which I recently bought on sale from the New Hampshire Liquor Store for $5 a bottle.

The Perrin family has more than a century of winemaking experience. The Perrins are known for their top rated Cotes du Rhone wines and the Chateauneuf-du-Pape that is sold under the label of their ancestral home, Chateau de Beaucastel. The latest generation of the family also has a good reputation for advanced winemaking techniques and employing sustainable organic farming practices.

The La Vieille Ferme rose is made from three red grape varietals, Cinsault, Grenache and Syrah, grown in vineyards on the arid and chalky slopes of Mont Ventoux, a mountain where the road to the top is considered the most grueling stage of the Tour de France.

There are basically three ways to make rose: leaving the juice in contact with the black skins of the crushed grapes for two or three days before removing them; the bleeding method; and blending.

Winemaker Thomas Perrin uses the bleeding method to produce La Vieille Ferme rose by taking off some of the just pink juice from the crushed red wine grapes, and fermenting it separately for few months in stainless steel tanks. The process not only makes a good rose, but it also intensifies the flavors of the red wine.

Some winemakers make what they call rose — or something as awful as white zinfandel — by mixing a little red wine with white wine, but the practice is frowned on in most good wine circles, and it’s illegal in France.

The 2013 vintage is particularly good, Perrin said in a video on the company’s website. The year started with a long, dry winter followed by a short spring. The result was a small and slow growing crop of grapes that developed good acidity and richly balanced flavors.

Wine Spectator magazine rated the 2013 La Vieille Ferme Ventoux Rose as an 87 on its 100-point scale, and the reviewer said the wine had leading notes of white cherry and strawberry and a stony finish. He also recommended drinking the wine now.

White Cherry? What’s a white cherry?

I don’t worry too much about trying describe the aroma and flavors of a wine beyond saying it’s pretty good — but I do follow the reviewer’s sense of urgency. The wine’s importer, Vineyard Brands, only brought in 40,000 cases to the U.S., so we’d better drink up.

La Vieille Ferme rose is a perfect accompaniment for the fall weather we’re having and for gatherings with friends. Served chilled, it goes well with appetizers, a Chicago hotdog as well as grilled fowl and fish.

As the Hanover resident and Perrin both said, “it’s a wine for every day.”

All of the La Vieille Ferme wines are widely available in the Upper Valley on both sides of the river.

Suggestions of wines under $10 are always welcome. Warren Johnston can be reached at wjohnston@vnews.com or at 603-727-3216.