A chance meeting in the mid-nineties was the start of a partnership between two influential winemaking families, the Laughtons of Jasper Hill at Heathcote, Victoria and the Chapoutiers of Hermitage in France’s Rhône Valley. A common belief in biodynamic farming led to the forming of a shared vision: to create wines that were from the opposite sides of the world, yet that were joined in the philosophy of their creation, as true expressions of their terroir.
In the spring of 1998 a small vineyard was established on virgin red Cambian soils in Heathcote Victoria, at the home of Jasper Hill. Here, adjacent to Georgia’s Paddock, half the plot would be planted to Australian Shiraz evolved from the original importations of Syrah from Hermitage almost two centuries ago and half would be planted to Michel’s selection massalefrom his current vineyards in Hermitage. La Pleiade derives its name from the Pleiades star cluster (the Seven Sisters) in the constellation of Taurus, visible from both Heathcote and Hermitage and revered in the same way in the mythology of most ancient cultures.
Meanwhile inthe Agly Valley in Roussillon, old hillside vineyards planted to Syrah, Grenache and Carignan lay abandoned. Here, just outside the little village of Latour de France, on the border of the old kingdoms of Catalonia and France, a handful of small plots was purchased in 2002. Since then, the old vines have been nurtured biodynamically and brought back to life to fully express these exceptional low-yielding sites. The Carignan and Syrah is planted on a gneiss-based, north facing slope at 250m, whereas the Grenache is planted on a south-facing slope on a schist-based soil that sits over a layer of limestone.
WINE NOTES AND REVIEWS
2015 Agly Brothers Côtes du Roussillon Villages
70% Syrah and 30% Grenache, hand harvested, 100% destemmed and native yeast fermented in wax lined concrete vats. After a 3-4 week cuvaison the wine is matured in French oak barriques for 18 months.
‘Tasted out of tank, the 2015 Cotes du Roussillon Villages is a total blockbuster that could be the finest cuvee yet from this collaboration between Michel Chapoutier and Ron Laughton of Jasper Hill. Its inky purple color is followed by full-bodied, pedal to the metal-styled aromas and flavors of blackberries, currants, licorice and roasted herbs, with a marine like minerality showing with more time in the glass. Beautifully concentrated, ripe, unctuous and luxuriously textured, it will drink well on release and keep for a decade. The blend in 2015 is 60% Syrah and 40% Grenache, completely destemmed, aged 18 months in concrete tank. Drink 2016-2026.’ (94-96) points, Jeb Dunnuck, RobertParker.com, April 2016.
2014 Agly Brothers Côtes du Roussillon Villages
‘From a more difficult vintage that struggled with ripeness, the 2014 Cotes du Roussillon is shockingly good. A 60/40 blend of Syrah and Grenache–and the first vintage to not incorporate Carignan–it has incredible purity and elegance to go with lots of kirsch, black raspberry, violets, crushed rock and olive tapenade characteristics. Also medium to full-bodied, with beautiful concentration and ultra-fine tannin, this will most likely surpass the 2013, yet I suspect it will drink at an earlier age. While the 2013 was harvest on September 15 (and this was a cool year), the 2014 wasn’t brought in until the September 25. Again, these cuvees are made in tiny quantities, so don’t miss a chance to try this. Drink 2016-2028.’ (94-97) points, Jeb Dunnuck, RobertParker.com, April 2015.
2013 Agly Brothers Côtes du Roussillon Villages
‘Probably the greatest wine yet from this collaboration between Michel Chapoutier and Ron Laughton, the 2013 Cotes du Roussillon (60% Syrah and 20% each of Grenache and Carignan) was harvested on September 15 and sees only concrete-tank aging. It has the purity and focus of the vintage to go with superb notes of blackberry and black-cherry-like fruit, pepper, bouquet garni and incredible minerality. A big, rich, medium to full-bodied effort, it has great acidity, a silky, elegant texture and knockout length. It should be relatively accessible on release, yet benefit from short-term cellaring and have 10-15 years of overall longevity. Unfortunately, there were less than 300 cases produced. Drink 2015-2030.’ (94-96) points, Jeb Dunnuck, RobertParker.com, April 2015.
2012 Agly Brothers Côtes du Roussillon Villages
‘The 2012 Cotes du Roussillon Agly Brothers comes from a collaboration between the Chapoutier family and the Laughton family (of Jasper Hill in Australia) and was first made in 2004. A blend of Syrah (from granite soils), Grenache and Carignan, it offers a knockout bouquet of sweet blackberry-styled fruit, olive, leather, crushed rock and hints of mint that flows to a structured, rich and beautifully textured profile on the palate. There’s solid underlying structure here, so short-term cellaring is advised. It will drink nicely for 10-12 years or more. Drink 2014-2026.’ (92-94) points, Josh Raynolds, Vinous, April 2016.
2011 Agly Brothers Côtes du Roussillon Villages
‘A smoky overtone to almost paste-like compression of fresh blackberry with tartness of skin and crunch of seeds renders the Agly Brothers 2011 Cotes du Roussillon a pungent and piquant mouthful, its charred meat and crushed stone components emphasizing the wine’s metaphorically sinister character. Hints of anise, vanilla, and bitter chocolate add alluring complexity to this firm, finely tannic cuvee, which while it’s hardly long on charm is certainly impressively long, period. Give it a few years in the cellar and expect it to remain vigorous through at least 2022. Drink 2014-2022.’ 90 points, David Schildknecht, RobertParker.com, January 2014.
Agly Brothers Côtes du Roussillon Villages 2010
91 points, Robert Parker Jr, December 2011.
Agly Brothers Côtes du Roussillon Villages 2009
‘Tasted assembled and awaiting bottling, the Agly Brothers 2009 Cotes du Roussillon smells of peat and black fruits, but with a detached aura of toasted oak in the guise of lanolin, coconut, and caramel, which accompany cooked boysenberry and cassis on a rather obviously tannin-starched palate. A low-toned finish lingers impressively, though without much brightness. In the context of an illustrious series, the present installment is a bit disappointing. While it ought to serve well over the next several years, I would not be tempted to try to attempt waiting-out the resolution of the tannins.’ (89-90) points, David Schildknecht, RobertParker.com, May 2011.
Agly Brothers Côtes du Roussillon Villages 2008
‘The Agly Brothers 2008 Cotes du Roussillon smells and tastes of blueberry and blackberry preserves laced with mint, cinnamon, and lavender. Polished, expansive, and soothing, this offers a seductive performance, but with suggestions of berry skin tartness, huckleberry bitterness, and crushed stone warding off any tendency for it to finish entirely elixir-like. It ought to give great pleasure over at least the next 6-8 years. Drink 2011-2019.’ 91 points, David Schildknecht, RobertParker.com, May 2011.
Agly Brothers Côtes du Roussillon Villages 2007
‘The wine matures in demi-muids, followed by tank, from which I tasted the 2007 Cotes du Roussillon. Blackberry, blueberry, soy, kelp, iodine, toasted nuts and buddleia perfume in the nose lead to an intensely-fruited, savory, and persistently perfumed palate and a finish impression of remarkable lift and refreshment that completely belies the wines sheer ripeness and alcohol. This totally intriguing wine seems to have borrowed some of the smoke and floral enhancement of Cote Rotie and peat from an Islay distillery. My only reservation is that unlike the other Chapoutier Roussillon cuvees, this has a certain obvious graininess of tannin, but the intention is for the wine to be laid in a cellar, and I certainly cannot imagine it declining within the next 5-7 years. Drink 2009-2016.’ (91-92) points, David Schildknecht, RobertParker.com, June 2009.
Agly Brothers Côtes du Roussillon Villages 2006
‘The Agly Brothers 2006 Cotes du Roussillon smells brashly of ripe blackberries, toasted nuts, wood smoke, and leather. A soy-like saline savor reinforces the carnal and leathery side of the wine on palate, while deep black fruits tinged with pepper and herbs segue into quite evident, slightly grainy tannins. With the sort of energetic finish that characterizes so many of Chapoutier’s Roussillon wines, this promises to be worth following for at least 4-6 years, although it must be pointed out that the project’s originators have their sights set on twice that many.’ 90 points, David Schildknecht, RobertParker.com, June 2009.