This time around we focus upon the Mollard varietal, a grape that one will find almost entirely exclusively in the Hautes-Alpes department of south eastern France, almost becoming entirely extinct after mass uprooting and a switch to international varietals during the 1980s. Thankfully a handful of growers have persevered with this gorgeous, late-ripening, thin-skinned, black/blue little berry.
Not to be confused with the Mollard that one sometimes finds in Rioja (actually Carignan), the Mollard from the Hautes-Alpes is an entirely different beast. Meaning “little mound” or “little mountain” the Mollard grape is an integral component of the winemaking history of this lesser known French region.
Well adapted to the mountainous terrain of the region, the Mollard makes wine of a strikingly beautiful intense ruby/garnet hue, and yet they tend to be lighter in the mouth, and rarely exceed 12% alcohol. Aromatically I find the wines to exhibit many of the berry characteristics of a good Beaujolais although with quite a bit more cracked black pepper and pungent spiciness. On the palate there is always a defined acidity along with an appealing mineral character from the region’s calcium-rich soils (there’s a fair bit of limestone to be found).
The two “major” players with this grape in the Hautes-Alpes are essentially the same operation, as both Domaine Allemand and Domaine Petit Aout are the brainchildren of vigneron Marc Allemand and winemaker Yann de Agostini, the two champions of this almost forgotten varietal. Currently, excepting some recent new plantings, the youngest vines of Mollard here are around 40 years old, the oldest coming in at over 100 years old.
They aren’t exactly easy to track down, but if you happen to be skiing nearby I’d suggest that you check in at Domaine Allemand and/or Domaine Petit Aout and try some Mollard out for yourself.
Edinburgh-born/Toronto-based Sommelier, consultant, writer, judge, and educator Jamie Drummond is the Director of Programs/Editor of Good Food Revolution… And Mollard really does fit his palate.