Franck Balthazar took over the family domaine, dating back to 1931, in 2002. His father René had been in charge since 1950 and had overseen the move into domaine bottling in the 1970s, at the same time as his contemporaries Auguste Clape and Noël Verset. The domaine has extended from the 2 hectares of 2002 (1 ha of centenarian vines Chaillot and one 50 year old hectare in Mazzard) to around 3,5ha today - plantings on an extreme site above Sabarotte were added in 2005 & 2008 on newly formed terraces. This willingness to do things the hard way in pursuit of excellence is a hallmark of Franck's work, in keeping with time-honoured tradition that his grandfather, Casimir, would recognise. Vineyards are organic and ploughed with a horse, ferments are whole cluster with native yeasts in concrete vats. To retain the perfume gifted by old vines and high-perched plantings all wines are aged in old 600 litre demi-muid. Sulphur is kept to an absolute minimum, indeed all winemaking techniques are as natural as possible.
Franck Balthazar Cotes du Rhone 2017
Deep vivid ruby. Lush and expansive on the nose, displaying intense red and blue fruit scents and hints of cola, dark chocolate and mint. Smooth and appealingly sweet, offering sappy black raspberry and cherry flavors and a touch of succulent herbs. Clings very nicely on a smooth, broad finish shaped by supple, even tannins.
90pts, Josh Raynolds, Vinous
This is Franck’s non-estate bottling composed of 50% Grenache, 45% Syrah, Mourvèdre, 5% Carignan from Seguret & Vinsobres dans la Drome. After wild yeast ferment (destemmed) the wine is aged in fibreglass for around 10 months.