Keeping it Clairette with Poulet et Fils

Sometimes, there are wines that intrigue you. 

Years ago, while on a trip to Las Vegas (of all places), we found a small wine shop that focussed on French wines and had a substantial sparkling wine section. We were quite pleased, as you could imagine, and stocked up on a variety of different wines, including a Clairette de Die from Poulet et Fils. We bought it, but did not find the time to enjoy it in situ while in Sin City and off it went on a trip to Canada. 

What is it?

Clairette de Die is bound by the Clairette de Die AOC (French appellation system), and is a natural sparkling wine from the Rhone in France. More precisely, it lies between the northern and southern sub-regions of the Côtes du Rhône AOC area. It is an area characterized by chalky and clay rich soils, which store plenty of water over hot dry summers and supply vines throughout the year. 

A peek at a map will show that it exists without direct contact to other wine producing sub-regions, but as we learned from our research into Poulet et Fils years ago, winemaking goes back thousands of years and has been home to ancestral method sparkling wines for quite some time as well. There are legends in the region going back to the times of Gaul, and shepherds buried their wines, and subsequently forgot about them until the spring, finding wines that they called pétillant. Apparently, Roman authors documented this and the winemaking practice continued. Who are we to argue?

According to the Syndicat de l’AOC de Die, since the early 1970’s, the method of production for Clairette de Die has officially been the ancestral dioise process. Grapes are picked and pressed rapidly in vats at very low temperatures (replicating an ancient, local process where historically jars of grape juice were kept in the icy waters of local rivers), which begins a slow fermentation and sees bottling before complete fermentation. The bottles are stored at a constant temperature and fermentation stops when the wine is at a relatively low alcohol level – 7 – 9%.

For this wine, the permitted grapes are White Muscat (up to a maximum of 75%) and White Clairette. White Muscat has tight bunches and is fruity, aromatic and high in sugar, while the locally known White Clairette tends to bring delicacy and finesse to the blend. 

Wines made in this style will tend to have fruity aromas (white tree fruit), along with honeysuckle and should be consumed young. Luckily, we didn’t hang on to our original bottle for too long!

Within the Die AOC, Crémant de Die may also be produced and they are made in the traditional method of sparkling wine making. These Crémants tend to be drier, more finessed and were historically made only from the White Clairette grape. Today, Aligoté and Muscat are permitted. Though made in the traditional method, the Crémant de Die tend to have the minimum required amount of lees aging, providing a fresh style of wine.

Poulet et Fils

Not too long after the trip, we posted about this unique wine and the producer – Poulet et Fils. 

Domaine Poulet et Fils has four generations of winemaking experience in the realm of Clairette and beyond, and they are located in beautiful Pontaix in Southeastern France. Ah, what a treat it would be to visit … but for now, a simple Google Streetview will have to do (with a sip of their Clairette, perhaps?). 

Since 2004, son Alain has spearheaded the winery, and has helped to bring awareness to the ancestral method and winemaking. Which, by the way, sounds so much more romantic in French: ‘il perpétue un savoir faire ancestral.’ The winery is sustainably certified.

In true internet magic, Poulet et Fils found our posts from years back and contacted us with more information about their other wines. They even have a local agent, who was able to provide us with a few samples of their products. And so, off we went, to explore the wonderful world of Poulet et Fils (while pretending to be in Southeastern France). 

The Wines

Poulet et Fils Tradition Clairette de Die is made in the ancestral method from a blend of mostly Clairette followed by White Muscat. This wine is golden in colour and fresh, invigorating and aromatic: fruit, white flower petals, citrus and tropical notes likely coming from the generous amount of White Muscat in the blend. This profile is rounded out by generous residual sugar and will be a favourite among those who enjoy Prosecco. 

The Brut Crémant de Die is made in the traditional method, from a blend of Aligoté, Clairette and White Muscat. The wine is golden in colour and like it’s Clairette de Die cousin, is fresh and invigorating. The aromatic profile is more delicate than the Clairette de Die, with acacia and white flowers on the nose and a palate that builds on this profile as well, with a bit of honeysuckle. Slightly higher in alcohol than the Clairette de Die, this wine could be described as more finessed and with a more effervescent profile.

Up next: the Divine Tradition and Divine Tradition Rose, both of which are made in the Clairette de Die ancestral method. After four months in the bottle the sediment is taken out, offering both a clear and clean profile. Both wines have a generously sweet profile but have a wonderful place as an aperitif or at the dessert table, especially fruit salad or fruit tarts.

The Divine Tradition is made from 75% White Muscat, rounded out by 25% Clairette, sourced from south facing vineyards. The wine has a very aromatic profile, defined by tropical fruit – like lychee – and acacia and honeysuckle. 

The Divine Tradition Rose – as the more elegant cousin of the Divine Tradition – is made from a blend of 85% White Muscat, 10% Clairette and 5% Gamay. The Gamay undergoes a one-week cold maceration, during which the pressing occurs, and adds a beautiful colour to the blend. The profile is unsurprisingly a bit ‘redder’ in its fruit profile than the Tradition.