In 2007 we stumbled across a young man not far from Chateauneuf-du-Pape called Pascal Chalon, making biodynamic Côtes-du-Rhone-Villages in his Granny’s garage. (Biodynamic = the extreme end of organic, ruled by the lunar calendar)
We clambered around, amongst the tools and apples, squeezed ourselves around her beaten-up Renault and, as soon as we had tasted his two wines, “La Petite Ourse” and “La Grande Ourse”, were quick to back the van up and load the last 9 cases he had. La Petite Ourse is 60% Syrah and 40% Grenache, has a meaty nose, then really pure fruit and supple tannins. La Grande Ourse has some old-vine Mourvedre in the mix. To be more precise: 49% Grenache, 23% Mourvèdre, 13% Syrah, 12% Carignan, 3% Counoise and Muscardin. Ursa Major is 80% old vine Grenache and 20% Carignan and built for the long haul.
More recently, he has added a broad, nutty, oily white; 75% Grenache Blanc, 15% Roussanne, 10% Bourboulenc with the tiniest splash of Ugni Blanc and using wild yeasts.
When we visited him late 2019, in the middle of a tempest, Pascal told us about the name and label changes afoot. There is no cause for alarm – the wines are the same, but all his wines will now carry the Grande Ourse label. The former Petite Ourse still exists but with a different name. The 2017 (which has just arrived) still has a white label. The 2018 will carry a black label and, to make it harder to distinguish from the Grande Ourse (which already has a black label), it will also carry the Grande Ourse name. Confused? Yes. The clue will be on the back label. The former Petite Ourse will feature (in small print) Visan on the back label. La Grande Ourse will be labelled Suze la Romane.
Potential confusion aside, his wines are always pure, biodynamic Rhone heaven – fragrant and gutsy.