The Butterfly Effect in chaos theory holds that a minor act may have large consequences over time. Wikipedia puts it this way: “The name of the effect, coined by Edward Lorenz, is derived from the theoretical example of the details of a hurricane (exact time of formation, exact path taken) being influenced by minor perturbations equating to the flapping of the wings of a distant butterfly several weeks earlier.”
In the Roussillon region in the south of France, Marjorie and Stéphane Gallet make outstanding (and sometimes pricey) wines like their award-winning reds at Domaine Le Roc des Anges. Looking to spread the love both among local grape growers and maybe draw in new fans to the Roussillon region, they launched a more-affordable line called Effect Papillon.
It’s made at a cooperative called Cave Cooperative de Rivesaltes from local winegrower’s grapes. We bought the 2013 Effet Papillon Côtes du Roussillon Blanc made from Grenache Blanc recently and it’s the best inexpensive white French wine we’ve had in a while. I’m talking barely in the double digits. It was chock full of minerals and had lively, crisp acidity, heady floral aromas, and hints of white fleshy fruits like pears and white peaches. You could drink it without food or pair it with anything from salads to white meats in cream sauces, a wine for now and for colder weather.
Grenache is a global workhorse grape that does wonders in the Rhône Valley. For many years it was the most- planted red grape in Australia. In Spain, it’s the great grape of Priorat. Along with Grenache Blanc, there’s Grenache Noir and Grenache Gris. The Rhone Rangers of California raised its profile here and winemakers have been having a great time with it. We’ve had delicious Grenache Rosé from A Donkey & Goat Winery and Curran Wines in California.
The Gallets’ desire to spread the attention is nice, given that they’ve received so much of it. In 2001, with a degree in agricultural engineering from the University of Montpellier and a couple internships with famous winemakers under her belt, Marjorie bought a vineyard in the town of Montner in Roussillon near the Spanish border. It had ancient vines. She was 23 and had hit up her friends and her parents’ friends for the purchase price. She named it Domaine Le Roc des Anges (Rock of Angels) because of the vein of white quartz (Angel Rock) that runs through black slate, ideal for vines that thrive in hot climates and have to dig deep with their roots for water.
After moving to Roussillon, she met Stéphane, who was the winemaker at Mas Amiel, an organic winery in the Côtes du Roussillon named for a gambler who, according to the story, won it in a card game more than 200 years ago. In 2008, Stéphane joined her at Le Roc des Anges, which is farmed organically and biodynamically, with grapes hand-harvested. That same year, the couple purchased another winery, Les Terres de Fagayra, where Stéphane works his magic with Maury, one of the fortified wines of the Maury commune. They have two young sons, Arthur and Nathan.
In short order, Marjorie’s white, rosé, red and sweet wines from varieties of Grenache and Carignan, as well as Maccabeau, a white variety, and Syrah turned some very important heads. They are on the wine lists of 40 Michelin-starred restaurants in France, including some with three stars.
Back to the Butterfly Effect. The Gallets hope that by working with the many winegrowers in the area through the cooperative, they can convince them of the benefits of eco-friendly agriculture, and growing and harvesting grapes to achieve the best expression of the region’s diverse terroirs. They hope that better practices will make for better wines and result in financial gains for the area.
The grapes in the wine we had were harvested from select plots of Grenache Blanc in Rivesaltes. The Gallets supervised its production. It was harvested early and aged in stainless steel to retain its fabulous fresh fruit. I feel the winds of butterfly wings and hear the whoosh of a rising tide raising all boats. Maybe the angels are listening.
Dorothy J. Gaiter conceived and wrote The Wall Street Journal's wine column, "Tastings," from 1998 to 2010 with her husband, John Brecher. She has been tasting and studying wine since 1973. She has had a distinguished career in journalism as a reporter, editor, columnist, and editorial writer at The Miami Herald and The New York Times, as well as at The Journal.