Should you be looking to gain some insight into Rhône Valley wines, you would be smart to explore the wines of Ferraton Père & Fils. For the last 70 years, the winery, founded by Jean-Örens Ferraton in 1946, has been producing top-quality wines in Tain l’Hermitage, the sweet spot of the Rhône Valley. Going back more than 20 years, Ferraton was one of the early practitioners of biodynamic farming in the region and is in constant search of true terroir expression.
Divided into two regions, the climate in the Rhône ranges from Mediterranean in the south to continental in the north. The two key elements are the Mistral winds and the mosaic of terroir. Thanks to the neighboring mountains and the Rhône River, the region shows various soil types such as limestone in the south and granite in the north, allowing diversity in wine styles. In the Northern Rhône, home to Ferraton, Syrah, Viognier, Marsanne, and Roussanne reign. Grenache is the dominant grape in the south. The overall production of Ferraton wines reflects the versatility of the Rhône Valley vineyards, from approachable wine to collector’s pieces.
Jean-Örens started the winery with less than an acre of land. Still, in the 1960s, his son Michel expanded vineyard holdings to include plots in Saint-Joseph, Hermitage, and Crozes-Hermitage, giving Ferraton access to some of the most sought-after land in the Rhône. Ever since, the winery has produced red and white AOP wines from some of the most prized parcels in the region.
In the late ’90s, Michel Ferraton decided to move his winery into a more sustainable direction and enlisted his close friend and biodynamic innovator, Michel Chapoutier of Maison Chapoutier, to help. The two formed a partnership, and in 2006 Chapoutier became the sole proprietor of Ferraton Père & Fils, though the winery operates independently.
Today, Ferraton has 18 hectares of biodynamically farmed vineyards. In addition to owning vineyards, Ferraton also has long-term partnerships with grape growers throughout the Rhône Valley, working as a négociant to make wines from Côte Rôtie, Côtes du Rhône, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, and more. While it is under the ownership of one of the world’s most prominent wine producers, Michel Chapoutier, the winery is led by a young and passionate team perpetuating the Ferraton’s family legacy.
Since 2004, head winemaker Damien Brisset has blended Ferraton’s heritage with Chapoutier’s philosophy to craft a collection of single vineyards and a range of Rhône classics. “Our philosophy is to showcase the true essence of each terroir through our wines, and work with each vintage and its specificity, just like we would do with a newborn,” Brisset says.
Biodynamic winemaking is a vast subject, but very briefly, it is a philosophy of seeing the vineyard as a collective ecosystem, where the action in one part has an immediate reaction in another. Thus, using natural fertilizers and pest control, and treating, harvesting, pruning, etc. based on the lunar cycle, the vineyard is a healthier organism. By farming under biodynamic principles, winemakers believe that the grapes are not only healthier, but that they can express the place where they are grown more definitively. While not all Ferraton’s wines are biodynamically produced, the team is dedicated to crafting fine wines guided by nature’s balance.
Today, prices for wines from the Northern Rhône can verge on astronomical. Still, Ferraton grants access to the region’s authentic character affordably, which is part of what makes it such a great starting place. The beauty of Ferraton’s range of wines is that it is possible to find a bottle that fits whatever your needs may be, from the classic Rhône style to the unconventional single vineyards.
Want to tackle the late-summer heat with rosé or a bright juicy red? Pas de problème. Ferraton’s Samorëns Côtes du Rhône Rosé, a blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre, is a tasty way to cool off. Bright and juicy red, Ferraton’s Samorëns Côtes du Rhône Rouge, a blend of Grenache and Syrah, is ideal to relax southern French-style.
The nimble quality of these wines at the table cannot be overstated. At the end of summer days, the decadent bite of a sweet and buttery lobster roll meets its perfect mat ch with a glass of Ferraton’s Samorëns, a medium-bodied zesty white blend of Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, and Clairette from the Côtes du Rhône.
Should dinner center on grilled meat and vegetables, like beef, chicken, or eggplant — especially with coriander, cumin, or a five-spice blend — it will bring out the plum, black pepper, and ripe raspberry flavors of the Crozes-Hermitage Calendes Syrah. Calendes, or day of the new moon, is a terrific expression of Syrah from the Northern Rhône’s cooler climate, homeland of this world-renowned grape.
On the other side of the Rhône River, Ferraton’s Saint-Joseph Lieu-Dit Bonneveau — a 100 percent single-vineyard Syrah from the hilltop of Tournon — is perfect for grilled lamb with a rosemary and garlic rub. With an intense nose of fresh black fruits and violets, the palate is pleasant, with balanced tannins and minerality thanks to the 12 months it spends in old and new oak.
For smoked meats and robust earthy cheeses, you will want something just as mighty to drink. Ermitage Le Méal is made from 60-year-old vines and is an excellent taste of Ferraton’s 70-year heritage. With its integrated tannins and notes of leather, this wine is worthy of laying down for some years.
Whichever bottle you choose, you will taste the history and evolution of how Ferraton Père & Fils grew to become one of the most highly respected producers in the region, showcasing Rhône Valley wines in their purest and most expressive forms.
This article is sponsored by Ferraton Père & Fils.