Ico(o)n, the new French iconic wine

Iconic wine, yes but coming from Provence instead of Bordeaux, Burgundy or Champagne. Surprising? No, if you think about it: quality is mostly a matter of work, terroir and talent. Let me take you to Rasteau (pronounce ras-to) in the Rhone Valley:

Southern part of the Rhone Valley

Ortas Cave de Rasteau was established in 1925. Believe it or not, it is a “cooperative winery”, member of the upscale club “Marques&Coops” (Brands & Coops) showcasing 12 cooperative wineries to promote high quality wines.

The coop is the leading producer of the appellation and has several assets to promote the quality of its wines:

  • a semi-underground cellar made out of stone from Vaison-la-Romaine, including a wine shop and a tasting room;
  • a roof of 840 solar panels, supplying sustainable energy to the site.

The know how, the location between Provence and Rhone, the specificity of the grape varieties largely dominated by Grenache made Rasteau one of the finest producer of the area. That’s why Orvas Cave de Rasteau created Ico(o)n, a small production (about 3 to 4,000 bottles) whose first vintage is 2009.

Ico(o)n bottle and packaging. Photo: Orvas Cave de Rasteau

For this iconic cuvee the best varieties and the best parcels were chosen: Grenache from the yellow clay soils of the Saint-Didier, Girards, Chaberte and Crapons localities; Syrah from the deep clays and loamy sands if Encostes and Combe Julière; Mourvèdre, from the first layer of gravel of Blovac Nord. This elegant combination was blended in its own small cellar, after being hand picked in crates. The cellar provides a vibrating table to sort the grapes, a stalk separator, a selection berry by berry and an anti-gravity filling method. It does sound very Bordeaux style!

This beautiful wine also benefits from an unusual label — very elegant and contemporary — as well as a different marketing strategy. Its small number of bottles allows the Cave de Rasteau to market it mostly to upscale wine stores and restaurants in Belgium, Canada, the US and Ireland.

The innovative strategy set by Antoine Müller and the Cave de Rasteau team gives this unusual wine the aura of a new icon, not only because of its name but mostly because it represents the French terroir expertise and winemaking talent at its best. Launching a new upscale brand in France is a risky but rewarding adventure for a winery. Hat off to the Cave de Rasteau team for their daring and wonderful initiative!