Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Domaine Rabasse Charavin Corinne Couturier Cainanne Cuvee Estevenas, 1999

If I had opened this wine last week, it would have been my Wine of the Year for 2012. And I seriously doubt I will encounter anything in the next 12 months to match it.

Corinne Couturier took over Rabasse Charavin from her father, Robert Charavin, in 1985 and has been crafting some of the best wines in the Southern Rhone since that time. Cuvee Estevenas is her top Cairanne offering, with 80% of the juice coming from Grenache vines 100 plus years of age. The rest is Syrah from vines 25 to 30 years of age. The grapes get excellent exposure to the southern sun for complete ripeness and concentration. Cuvee Estevenas, like all of Couturier's wines, is made traditionally in enamel-lined stainless steel and bottled unfined and unfiltered.

The color is very dark cherry, still bright and youthful. Even though I didn't decant the wine, as the domaine suggests to release all of the nuances, the bouquet is beautifully deep and broad--very old viney. Leather, anise, dried and fresh fruits. Like some of my favorite Chateauneufs du Pape, it has the compactness of a rich fruit cake--deep, deep layers of smells and flavors. On the palate, the wine is surprisingly fresh with delicate red berry flavors from front to back. A haunting kind of elegance that comes only from a special wine that has been well aged. An hour later, the wonderful flavors are still lingering in my memory as well as my tongue.


  1. Dear Fred, enjoyed your comments on the 1999 Estevenas. I have been very fortunate to have visited the last six years, and shipped 12 cases each visit. Madame Courturier and daughter Laurie have been most generous with time and the wines are superb, including many not shipped to USA, including the blanc Estavenas. best regards Bill PS, getting the first shipment was quite a story!

  2. Thanks Bill. Wow, you are a lucky man. I really have not had a source for Rabasse Charavin since the mid-1980s, and the wine seems to have improved considerably under Madame Courturier and her daughter.

    I was actually quite lucky myself. I noticed the Estevenas on WineBid for $10 a bottle. I guess everyone assumed a 1999 CDR Villages would be over the hill, so I got all three bottles. A few months later, the 2004 regular Cairanne was up for bid--again $10. So I took all eight of them. Like finding an ounce of gold on the sidewalk.

    Who sells Rabasse Charavin in the United States? I used to buy from Village Corner in Ann Arbor, but they apparently can't get the wine any longer or they would definitely carry it. The wine from the 1980s had many fans.

  3. Dear Fred, I'm glad the bottles were in good shape! It's funny, there is no one that sells Rabasse Charavin in the US that will ship to my state, so I am lucky having made all the connections. There is a place in Houston that is a direct importer retailer, French Country wines I think, he has about 4 or 5 labels. there is another importer on west coast, Estelle Imports, that brings in some Rabasse Charavin. I had a retailer send me a case [to friends in Santa Fe NM] of Laurie Blanc. Kermit was the importer in the 80's, but I think, Corinne wouldn't do an exclusive contract, which might have made possible my little shipments. The only hiccup was the year I added 7 5 liter bag in boxes to my 12 cases, thinking this would save me on the air freight 'per bottle' cost with no glass. But the bags all swelled at 30,000 ft and developed small holes and went sour pretty quick! It's neat she does 5 liter unfiltered Cairanne red 27 euros! If I was an importer I'd bring the red white and rose 5 liters. Now that my original customs officer has retired, it's a strain at that port office but I keep succeding. Enjoy your blog, best regards, Bill

  4. Oh yes; five liters of the Cairanne red would warm my soul for weeks on end! The Cuvee Estevenas for special occasion.

    My other favorite Cairanne, of course, is Domaine l'Oratoire Saint Martin. For many years, I was able to buy a case of both the Reserve and Prestige each year for less than $150. Not so any longer.