Domaine Rabiega is situated in the heart Provence on the outskirts of town of Dragugnan. Previously owned by Sweden’s Vin and Spirit, it is now in private hands and has ambitious plans to make serious red wines, using both grapes not widely planted in the local area such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah.
Our report is from a visit in early August 2010.
Domaine Rabiega is situated in the heart Provence on the outskirts of the garrison (and not very interesting) town of Dragugnan, just off the road to Flayosc.
Covering an area of 10 hectares, a vineyard has stood on this site since the 15th century, but commercial wine production began in the 1960’s and in 1986 the property was sold to Vin & Spirit, the Government owned Swedish company that produced Absolut Vodka, along with having control of the whole of the Swedish alcohol market.
The estate was used as a training centre for V&S and as a result some, errrm, let’s say “experimental” planting took place, which were not necessarily well suited to the climate in Provence.
In 2006, Anders Åkesson, a entrepreneur in the Swedish wine industry bought the estate and set about improving the quality of the vineyards and resulting wine.
The result is definitely a set of wines with some promise, although slightly esoteric in places, the potential of the estate is clear.
The customer base of Rabiega is dominated by the Swedish market, which accounts for about 70% of their sales. Therefore the wines are rarely seen on the UK market, and talking to Mr. Åkesson, he seems pretty happy with the status-quo, which is a bit of a shame, as I think the wines have some commercial value in the UK.
Domaine Rabiega’s prestige wine Clos Dière and seems to generally get positive reviews where ever it is found.
So, always one to like to mix business with pleasure, my Australian “wine consultant” and I left the kids with Mrs WMW for the day and set off on a trip around the byways of Provence; first stop Domaine Rabiega.
We arrived unannounced to the well stocked and rather pleasant shop, to be met by Mr Åkesson Jnr who was attending to a large group of Nordic customers. This was a serious set up. For a start all the tasting samples where help in enomatic wine dispensers, some investment for a start – much better than the usual vacuvin!
The wines were tasted as follows:
Domaine Rabiega Rosé 2009
80% Grenache, 20% Syrah
Attractive salmon pink but the nose seems to excude some considerable volatile acidity, slightly masking the attractive strawberry and redcurrant fruit. Nice and refreshing on the palate where the red fruits follow through, but there is some alcohol “after burn” which is surprising given its modest 13.5% alcohol. Good.
Cuvée Selection Sauvignon Blanc 2008
100% Sauvignon Blanc
Needless to say I was surprised to see a Provençal Sauvignon Blanc. And after tasting it, I was no longer surprised…
The nose offers rich, almost tropical fruit, with a good ripe citrus undertone. The palate lets the wine down – there is very little of that refreshing Sauvignon “zing” that one expects from cooler climate examples. Unfortunately, that simply leaves a rather flabby and flat wine. Although an undoubtedly well made wine, it’s now fading and SB is probably not well suited to the climate. Average.
Cuvée Sélection Viognier 2008
This one came as a bit of a surprise; the typicity of the nose was almost stunning. Rich, ripe apricot and spice promised great things that unfortunately didn’t quite come through on the palate. Maybe I was expecting a good Condrieu from the nose and unfortunately I didn’t get that. However, undoubtedly a well made and attractive Viognier which good weight to the palate, but lacking in a great deal of complexity. Good to Very Good.
Cuvée Selection Chardonnay 2008
This wine is made in a very “international” style – my Aussie companion found it very much to his liking for example.
The nose had discernable, but well balanced oak, with nice tropical fruit and a balancing acidity on the palate that makes for an overall pleasurable experience, although I wouldn’t see this as anything special given the gamut of Chardonnays on the market at this price point (c. €10). Good.
Rabiega Cuvée Rouge 2008
Grenache , Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah .
This is a pretty attractive, early drinking Côtes de Provence wine. An attractive ruby red colour with a fresh nose of blackberries, blueberries and redcurrant. The palate has good structure, some really attractive up-front red fruits and a just enough tannic backbone to hold food. Good to Very Good.
Le Rocher 2007
75 % Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Syrah
We’re getting a little more serious now and I think this is where Rabiega starts coming into its own. This is definitely one of those wines that illustrates how good Cabernet Sauvignon can be in part of Provence – if only the INAO would embrace it a little more….
The nose was slightly closed, but after a bit of swirling, it started to release lovely autumn fruit pudding aromas of blackberry, spiced apple and blackcurrant. The palate followed through with some nice vanilla spice from the oak, the deep black fruit character and some well balanced, fine grained tannins. It’s all freshened up with some bold acidity and a long finish. Very Good to Excellent.
Clos Dière 2006
This is Rabiega’s flagship wine and certainly holds up to some of Provence’s finest. The 06 was pretty closed on the nose, but showing a very deep, almost black colour. What was released from the nose was reminiscent of ripe blackberries, cloves, vanilla and liquorice. The black fruit and spice came out quickly on the palate as did the well balanced tannins leading to a long and complex finish. Excellent.
Clos Dière 2007
The 2007 Clos Dière was certainly more yielding on the nose, showing lots of extract and the characteristic Syrah blackberries. Lots of spice and oak here too. Rich ripe fruit on the palate and very fine grained and balanced tannins complete the picture. This one is very young but has 10 to 15 years ahead of it, where it should develop a complex and meaty character. Excellent.
Well there we have it. I think the top end red wines are great examples of what can be done if Provence if producers move away from the traditional blends of Grenache, Cinsault, Carignan and Syrah and try something more experimental – Cabernet Sauvignon does seem to work well here. That said, I don’t think Sauvignon Blanc and the heat of Provence mix.
Domaine Rabiega wines are not yet available in the UK, although West Mount Wine is considering bringing in a small amount of the two top reds to launch on the market. Watch this space.
If you in the area, the address is:
Domaine Rabiega , Clos Dière, 83300 Draguignan , France . Tel +33 (0) 4 94 68 44 22