If there was one theme we kept hearing throughout the seminar it was “2007 was as perfect a year for growing wine as one could hope for.” Despite experiencing one of the worst droughts in more than 20 years (only 1.38″ of rain between June and mid-September), the consistently mild temperatures (average of 73ο F) and over 20 days of strong, cool Mistral winds blowing across the Rhone Valley which kept the vines from drying out after the rains, resulted in near-perfect growing conditions across the region. As a result, the 2007 vintage is consistently one of the best across all Châteauneuf-du-Pape producers.
Joining Alain and John Junguenet in leading us through this exploration of the 2007 vintage were many of the winemakers or winery owners. A couple only spoke French, but it was a rare and fascinating treat to hear their impressions of the wines we were tasting. We kicked off with the
Hommage à Henry Tacussel 2007, Domaine Moulin-Tacussel. Presented by Didier Latour, the cellarmaster and winemaker at Henry Tacussel. Blend: 93% Grenache, 7% Syrah; Parcel: Charbonnière. The Charbonnière parcel has a mix of Galet (rocky) soil in the higher elevations and sandy in the lower. The vines are between 80 and 90 years old and were planted by Henry Tacussel, who created the domaine in the late 19th century. The wine is aged in oak barrels for twelve months, and only 1800 bottles were produced.
The color is a rich, dark purple. The nose is earthy with very discernible notes of pepper. In the mouth, the wine has light notes of cherry, and the mouth feel is smooth, rich and full. There’s a slightly sharp finish that I felt primarily in the top and back of the mouth, but that should soften with cellaring and when paired with food.
Réserve Spéciale, Château Fortia. Presented by winery manager, Pierre Pastre. The domaine was founded by Baron Le Roy de Boiseaumarie, the man credited with organizing the region’s winemakers in 1936 and creating France’s first AOC, and is now owned by his son, Bruno Le Roy, who is also Fortia’s winemaker. The domaine, and the parcel, are named for the castle, Château Fortia, that sits on the land, and the estate is one of the few whose vines and cellar are all within the same parcel.
Blend: 85% Syrah, 15% Mourvèdre; Parcel: Fortiasse. This average age of the syrah vines is 35-36 years, with the Mourvèdre averaging just over 50 years. Château Fortia vinifies the wine in cement tanks before aging for 14 months in oak barrels. While not a common blend for a Châteauneuf-du-Pape, I found this one of the more interesting wines of the seminar. The color is a very dark purple/dark ruby color, almost black. The nose was very soft with deep rich notes of blackberry and black currant. In the mouth, the flavors are layered but well balanced, with notes of blackberry, black currant and a gaminess which I found quite interesting. Pastre described the gamey notes as touches of venison, and I must say they provided an interesting richness and depth. The wine opens in the mouth, and finishes with notes of black licorice. While definitely drinkable now, the wine was designed to be aged 10-15 years, and production was limited to only 250 cases in an attempt to improve the overall quality.
Réserve Sixtine 2007, Cuvée du Vatican. Presented by John Junguenet. Cuvée du Vatican is owned by Jean-Marc Diffonty, who is both proprieter and winemaker, heir to a long family history of winemaking which dates back to the 17th century. Diffonty’s father, Félicien, also served as Châteauneuf’s mayor for more than 30 years. Jean-Marc Diffonty took over the winery from his father in 1993, and since then has been credited with bringing “the estate a very long way in the last 14 years” (source: Alain Junguenet Selection Seminar Notes). He was the first winemaker in the appellation to have a punch-down machine, designing his own machine.
The Réserve Sixtine 2007 is a blend of 55% Grenache, 30% Syrah and 15% Mourvèdre grown on three parcels: La Crau, Barbe d’Asnes, and Rayas. The age of the vines is roughly 60 years, and a blend of grapes are gown in each parcel, allowing for a blend of terroir in addition to the blend of grape. The Réserve Sixtine is a relatively newer wine for Diffonty, who first began producing it in 1998. Diffonty also uses a relatively high percentage of new oak in his wines, aging the wine for 12 months in a combination of foudres (40%), new oak barrels (30%) and stainless steel tanks (30%). 2,009 cases were produced.
Like the previous two wines the color is a dark purple, but leaning more towards shades of dark plum rather than ruby. The nose is soft with very discernible notes of cherry. In the mouth, the wine is bright, but elegant with a lush mouth feel. The cherry is also present on the palate and there are notes of pepper on the finish, which lingers beautifully in the mouth. While I liked the wine, I did feel it was still young, and would definitely benefit from cellaring.
Tuesday, 4.20.2010 – the exploration of the 2007 Châteauneuf-du-Papes continues.