The location of Routas is spectacular; in the heart of Provence, equidistant from the French Riviera on the Mediterranean coast and the foothills of the Alps. It is surrounded by tiny medieval villages that cling to steep cliffs and overlooks miles of spectacular hillsides, woods and rivers.
Currently 22,000 cases are produced of Rhone-style, estate-grown and bottled wines that have been met with positive comments since their first vintage in 1992. In 2005, Scotland's Sir David Murray took ownership ushering in a new era for Chateau Routas and hired Jean Lous as winemaker.
Jean Louis was raised about five hours to the north in Chablis, famous for its limestone soil. Upon leaving school, however, he headed for Provence and learned the art of making exquisite rose at Bandol's Domaine Ott, a skill he has brought to bear on the acclaimed Chateau Routas rose.
A tall man with working hands and half-moon eyebrows, Jean Louis loves to discuss his philosophy of wine. He speaks of grape varieties in almost human terms. "It is not a good idea ever to have a 50/50 blend," he said; "they fight each other for dominance."
The blend is 90% Viognier and 40% Chardonnay. Thirty percent of the blend is barrel- fermented and undergoes malolactic fermentation. The remaining 70% of the blend is fermented in stainless steel and blocked from malolactic fermentation to add a crisp component to the wine. All grape varietals are fermented separately, blended prior to bottling and finished in stainless steel and French oak barrels.
For those used to seeing a sea of vines stretching to the horizon, the Chateau Routas estate vineyards come as a surprise. There are many small non-contiguous plots interspersed among stands of trees and other natural features, including a forest of truffle oaks. The scrubby, stony wildness of the area is one of its most appealing features. Each planting of vines seem to exist in their own distinctive environment.
This offering is fresh and fruity with delicate rose petal notes of pear and dried apricot flavors. It has a light spicy finish that does well with shrimp in a slightly spicy Asian sauce.