Who: Agnes and Philippe Badea
What: Vin de France, Southern Rhône
Where: Tulette, Drome
When: Since 2012
Husband and wife Agnes and Philippe Badea, both natives of Provence, worked at Domaine Jean David for many years, Philippe for nearly twenty years and Agnes continues to work there. Jean David, in Seguret, one of the Côtes du Rhône Villages, is a long-established reference point for classic, traditionally made organic wines.
In 2010 they took the leap, of faith and economically, to establish their own Domaine, buying four hectares in one holding near Tulette, in the valley just north of Cairanne, and just west of St Maurice (reference Philippe Viret) and Vinsobres (reference Chaume-Arnaud). It’s all planted to Grenache Noir and thus all the wines are labelled Vin de France since INAO Appellation laws dictate that Côtes du Rhône, within which boundary these wines are produced, must be a blend; must include some Syrah, or Cinsault or otherwise. It’s kind of a pity because Badea’s wines are excellent representations of traditionally styled Côtes du Rhône – but Vin de France is home to many good wines these days so the Badea’s make do with. They are full bodied, richly flavoured wines with the gentle energy and refreshing relief of the best natural wines, or wines of yesteryear. Neither rustic nor especially elegant, they all possess vivid and delicious fruit and well balanced integrated and ripe acidity and tannin. They are certified organic, AB.
The vines were planted 2.5 hectares in 1945, and 1.5 hectares in 1982, on various slightly different, and differently draining, soils of clay-limestone with silt and sand and silex in varying degrees and expositions within the holding around the family home. They’re farmed organically, following the lunar calendar and using herbal preparations like ortie piquante (stinging nettle) or seaweeds to promote natural health. Cover crops are encouraged, grasses are mown, and the soils are “scratched” rather than ploughed, to allow the crops to continue to give cover from the heat of the sun for all the living population of worms and other natural life to thrive and nourish the soils.
The harvest is hand-picked into 40 litre/ 15 kg cases. The wines are made in the garage adjoining the house, all vinified in the same manner, by whole bunch using only natural yeasts, in fibre glass or enamel tank, with a gentle extraction by delestage and varying lengths of maceration according to the quality of the fruit and aims of the cuvee from one to four weeks. An old, classic basket press is used and the wines are put back in tank for 6 to 12 months ageing.
We first met the Badea’s at La Remise natural wine salon in March 2018 when their Rosé jumped out at us, signalling very different intent from the ubiquitous and bland style of today’s Provence rosé. Here was something to chew on in all the senses. Agnes and Philippe quietly and modestly introduced the rest of the wines, the labels and stories behind the labels, all created by an artist in Seguret, helped to win us over.