As much as female winemakers are discussed today, the world of wine has historically been dominated by men. The phrase “& Fils,” appended to the family name of many French domaines, exemplifies the tradition of handing the family business from father to son, generation after generation. The southern Rhône’s Domaine de Montvac, however, follows a matrilineal tradition, passing from mother to daughter since 1860. Right now the winemaker is Cécile Dussere, a former ballet dancer-turned-winemaker, whose wines straddle the line between elegance and power – much like ballet itself.
Vacqueyras, the second appellation upgraded from Côtes du Rhône-Villages status, is located in the southern Rhône just northeast of the much larger Châteauneuf-du-Pape. This appellation, also smaller than nearby Gigondas, makes Grenache-dominant reds, along with whites and rosés. Compared to other similar appellations, Vacqueyras wines have historically been seen as less expensive and more rustic. Now, winemakers are focusing more attention on the region, and the wines can pack quite a bit of finesse along with intensity and minerality from the rocky Plateau des Garrigues soil that dominates much of the landscape.
Whereas it’s easy for many Grenache-based blends from the warm southern Rhône to become boozy, bitter, and overly fruity, the Arabesque remains perfectly in balance throughout. It’s full-bodied, but doesn’t sit heavy due to the plentiful acidity. It has fresh, brambly strawberry, cranberry, and raspberry fruit and perfumed notes, but there’s definite rustic earth as well. It’s impactful and intense, but round and soft. The estate is also certified organic as of 2013, though Cécile converted many of the vineyards to organic practices many years before that.
Another reason to love this wine? The next generation – three daughters, naturally – has already started to dabble in the family’s winemaking tradition, meaning that the women of Montvac won’t be stopping anytime soon.