A cork, a wine bottle, and a glass of wine on white background.

The Dark Side of Syrah, with Domaine de Fondreche Persia 2012 (Ventoux), for #Winophiles

I love cool-climate syrah. I’m always searching for the earthy flavors and sensual experience of Cote Rotie… for less than $80 a bottle, and preferably with at least 14% ABV.

Enter Domaine de Fondreche Persia 2012, from Ventoux, France. Persia is the vineyard; Ventoux is an area east of the southern Rhone where the local climate and weather are influenced by a single mountain.

Notably, while summer days are very hot, nights are cooled by air coming down from Mont Ventoux. Hence, northern Rhone-like cool climate syrah, from a region much farther south, where land is much cheaper.

When I was done with my first bottle, I rushed back to buy a case. I should have bought two.


Yes, lots of flavor here, and 14.5% ABV. It feels luscious and thick to the mouth, with tannin you could call ‘noticeable’, and acidity that helps it feel spicy. It’s 80% syrah, plus 20% mourvedre, so Great Big Reds’ favorite, with ++ for some extra mourvedre wildness.

Hold a big mouthful for as long as you can stand not to swallow. Result: zingy, with a bit of the tannin feel — your mouth feels dry, even though you just had a big mouthful of wine. Next, breathe in and out through your nose. How long can you still taste the wine? A long, long time. ‘Length’, they say. It’s a good thing.


If you love Great Big Reds, sit back and prepare to enjoy the ride.

Describing the flavors, wine experts talk about blackberries and dark fruit — definitely there — and go on to fancier, earthier wine-words like ‘wild herbs’, ‘brambly’, ‘tobacco’, and I’m pretty sure I saw ‘saddle leather’ of some sort, though I don’t recall if it was ‘old’ or ‘worn’ or ‘sweaty’. On a scale of fruity to earthy, we’re way off to the earthy side. The color is very dark.

I put it in a Riedel ‘old world syrah’ glass. Sniffing doesn’t have the same eucalyptus/cedar/menthol bright and almost harsh smell that I love in many syrahs, but I liked this a lot. It’s not one overriding — shockingly great — smell, with the rest lurking underneath. Rather, all the smells are there together, intertwined. I could sit for *hours*, just sniffing and thinking ‘what the what (smile)’ and then noticing something else and thinking ‘what the what (smile)’ again.

Note about the glass: the shape of a wine glass can have dramatic effects on the smells and experience of drinking a wine. The glass — see photo above — was designed for syrah.


I’d pair this with the Riedel glass I mentioned, a comfortable chair or couch, and nothing — just time to sit there being dazzled with no distractions.


There are some wine rating experts who give Persia (red) 90+ points, or 15 or 16+.

On a scale of some number to some other number, I definitely give it a strong ‘what the what (smile)’, with a lot of extra hmming and ahhing, and wow.

Finding It

Good luck! I stumbled across a tasting at a good wine store. The 2015 seems to be generally available, and it also gets high ratings.

Here’s a WineSearcher link.

Domaine de Fondreche

My French is a might rusty, but Domaine de Fondreche seems to be doing a great job of using better, more natural approaches to growing and making wine. On their press page they quote many experts saying nice things, including Jeb Dunnuck saying, “This is an incredible estate, which along with Chateau Pesquie, is leading the charge for quality in the Ventoux appelation.”

Also check out their photo gallery, and notice the ‘soil’.

Domaine de Fondreche makes some red blends with grenache, and some whites and rosés.

Cool-climate syrah saga at GreatBigReds.com

My first taste of cool-climate syrah — after years of loving Barossa shiraz — was in a tent at Cline Cellars on a brisk Sonoma December evening. Cline review.

Kind of the ultimate experience — inspired by Karen MacNeil’s Wine Bible — was to splurge on a bottle of E. Guigal Cote Rotie Brune et Blonde. Whoosh!


According to the internets, Ventoux is mostly about bicycling… up the mountain. Tour de France does it, so it seems very popular.

But Ventoux seems good for wine, too. Fondreche.com quotes Jancis Robinson: “Ventoux – the next hot thing”. It’s a bit east of Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Robinson has a free article “Ventoux – conveniently cooler” about the region, and how Mont Ventoux affects the wine growing.

Fun facts: ‘ventoux’ means ‘windy. And they’ve measured winds of 200 mph (320 km/h) on the mountain. No biking that day.

Here’s some wine-related info on the Ventoux appelation from rhone-wines.com.

#Winophiles / #WBC2017

In publishing this article, we’re crashing a monthly party of French-wine-loving wine experts who chat on Twitter the third Saturday of the month at 11am ET. #Winophiles. Great Big Reds has followed along with their blogs and sometimes the chats.

The topic this month is Rhone, and ‘roaming’ near the Rhone. Ventoux and Domaine de Fondreche Persia seemed a perfect match.

When we attended the Wine Blogger Conference #WBC2017, we met several #Winophiles in the course of things, and I rushed to introduce myself to Martin, Michelle, and Jeff, whom I’d followed most closely.

If you’re interested in wine, and especially French wine, there’s an awful lot available to learn from the #Winophiles folks.

#Winophiles articles for March, 2017

Gwendolyn Alley at Wine Predator tells us about “Duck à l’Orange with M. Chapoutier’s Biodynamic, Organic Rhone Wines”

Jill Barth from L’Occasion writes about “Braille on the Label and Other Pioneering Moments of Chapoutier”

J.R. Boynton from Great Big Reds writes about “The Dark Side of Syrah, with Domaine Fondreche Persia 2012  (Ventoux)”

Jeff Burrows from Food Wine Click shares “Northern Rhone Wines and My Steak Tartare Disaster”

David Crowley at Cooking Chat at tells us about “London Broil Steak with Châteauneuf-du-Pape”

Rob Frisch at Odd Bacchus writes about “Return to the Rhône”

Susannah Gold at Avvinare writes about “Rhône Gems from Chapoutier in Chateauneuf, du Pape, Crozes-Hermitage, and Luberon”

Nicole Ruiz Hudson at Somm’s Table tells her story of “Cooking to the Wine: Les Vins de Vienne Gigondas with Gratinéed Shepherd’s Pie”

Camilla Mann from Culinary Adventures with Camilla shares a post on “Sober Clams + a French Syrah”

Jane Niemeyer at Always Ravenous shares “Bison Burger Paired with Northern Rhône Syrah”

Martin Redmond Enofylz at shares “A Taste of The House of Chapoutier”

Rupal Desai Shankar at Syrah Queen writes about “Chapoutier: King of the Rhône”

Lauren Walsh at The Swirling Dervish writes about “France’s Rhône Valley: Mountains, Sea, Wind, and Wine”

Michelle Williams at Rockin Red Blog writes about “Maison M. Chapoutier: Expressing Terroir Through Biodynamics”


Attending the Wine Bloggers Conference in November was great fun, and motivational, and we learned a lot. They gave us a ‘Citizen Blogger’ discount, in exchange for which we agreed to write several times about the conference. We’ll have some specific articles about things we learned there, but we like to mention it whenever it’s at all relevant, like having met some of the #Winophiles in person there.

Corrections/changes: Corrected the timing of the chat, some spelling glitches, and added links to other GreatBigReds.com articles.