DOMAINE LUCIEN BARROT
Châteauneuf-du-Pape and there's Châteauneuf-du-Pape.
This is Châteauneuf-du-Pape.
But it's more of a traditional style rather than the souped-up versions
some importers are demanding of their producers so they can get high
numerical scores from various critics who seem to rate wines based upon
"size" rather than elegance and complexity.
That's why we find so many wines "on steroids," or so it seems.
You see, to obtain a high score, it's best to have a wine of intense color
and high impact. To do that you typically need ripe to over-ripe
We were dismayed a few years ago to taste so many high octane Châteauneuf-du-Pape
wines. I asked "Who's your winemaker, Jim Beam or Jack
I found the wines to be undrinkable.
Now I'll admit that with increasingly warm growing seasons compared to 20
or 30 years ago, even old-timers are making more potent wines in Châteauneuf-du-Pape.
So the key is balance. Some importers urge their producers to blend
their wine to have features which will appeal to those who spend all of a
couple of minutes with a wine so they can rack up 90+ point scores.
Lucien Barrot launched his wine adventure in 1975, though his family
traces its roots back to the late 1600s in the Southern Rhône. They
have 16 hectares of vineyards in the Châteauneuf-du-Pape appellation and
2 hectares which are "merely" Vins de Pays. The Châteauneuf
vineyards are scattered around the region which helps them hedge their
bets in the event of an untimely hail storm. But also the different
parcels allow them to assemble a nicely complex bottle of wine.
They're an old school producer. Lucien's son Regis runs the place
and they have a lot of old vines. Something like 80% of their
vineyards are 60 years of age or older.
Regis prefers traditional, old-fashioned winemaking it seems and he does
not de-stem the grapes when they arrive at the cellar door. The
juice is fermented in old cement tanks and then the wine is matured in
large "foudres" for aging. No small barrels are employed
and Barrot doesn't want oak to get in the way of the Grenache.
There's 10% Syrah in most vintages and another 10% split between Mourvèdre
and Cinsault. These are all co-fermented. The wine spends
maybe three to four weeks on the skins, so it picks up a bit of
tannin. Barrot then ages the wine in large wood until he feels it's
at the proper stage for bottling.
- We have had a number of vintages of Barrot Châteauneuf-du-Pape and the
wines have been consistently good. We sometimes use the word
"rustic" to note wines which are a bit quirky, but it's an
appropriate adjective for these as they're not slick, gussied-up, woodsy
The 2011 is the current vintage. It's a charming Châteauneuf-du-Pape
and you can certainly enjoy it now. On the other hand, another 5 to
10 years of bottle aging isn't out of the question, either.
Pairing this with a classic Provençal leg of lamb ain't a bad idea.
Neither is duck or a daube of lamb. We normally decant this an hour,
or so, before dinner. Cellar temp is ideal, especially on warm
Currently in stock: 2011 LUCIEN BARROT
CHÂTEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE Sale $44.99
A late winter-time snapshot in Châteauneuf-du-Pape
DOMAINE CÉDRIC PARPETTE
seeds for this small domaine were planted in 1986 when 2.5 hectares of
abandoned vines were purchased by René Fernandez, father-in-law of
You can understand why the parcel might have been abandoned in those
days. Grape and wine prices were low and working a steep vineyard
site with 35° to 40° slopes was not walk in the park.
- Most people would not be remotely interested in working such a vineyard
site. It's called Montmain and this is located in the Côte Brune
part of the Côte-Rôtie appellation, as opposed to the Côte
Blonde. Wines from this area are described as being darker and more
structured than those of the Côte Blonde.
Parpette's vineyard sites now comprise 3.5 hectares and the average age of
his vines is 30 years. He makes but 6000 bottles of wine in a
bountiful vintage, so we are lucky to have a few bottles in the shop.
The grapes are hand-harvested, of course, as you'd topple head over heels
into the river if you were foolish enough to think you could drive a
machine harvester in the vineyard. The grapes are de-stemmed and the
juice is fermented in concrete tanks. There's a two to three week
maceration period, depending upon the vintage. The new wine is then
racked into 228 liter barrels, with some of the cooperage being brand new
and some having had one or two wines. Parpette likes to bottle the
wine after a year, or so, in wood.
- The wine, with a relatively short evolution in wood, then needs a bit of
time to blossom in the bottle. If you have experience with young Côte-Rôtie,
then you know how these Syrah wines, a bit like Barolo or Barbaresco, need
bottle aging to develop and hit a point of development where they are
seriously interesting and complex. Otherwise, these sorts of bottles
are tight and wound-up.
Cédric bottles his wine without filtering it, so with a few years in the
bottle, decanting it is probably a good idea. And if you're going to
drink the 2013 in its youth, decanting it for aeration is also a good
We currently have the 2012...a beautiful baby of a wine, but nicely
charming to drink presently and it ought to age handsomely.
Currently in stock: 2012
DOMAINE PIERRE GONON
- The appellation which is today called Saint-Joseph, is said to once have
been called Vin de Mauves once upon a time. It was even mentioned in
Victor Hugo's Les Misérables.
It's a large appellation, along with Crozes-Hermitage. The domaine
of Pierre Gonon is regarded by most as a benchmark for the appellation.
Pierre Gonon has been instrumental in elevating Saint-Joseph to a level of
prestige and he helped draw up the delimited boundaries for the Saint-Joseph
Gonon Senior hung up his picking knife in 1989 when his sons
Jean and Pierre took over the estate, which comprises 10.5 hectares within the
The sons cultivate in an organic fashion and the vines are, within the
Saint-Joseph appellation, almost all planted around the mid-1980s. They do
have a small parcel of Chasselas (hey, they're not too far from Switzerland)
whose vines are said to be more than a century old. There's a
"young" parcel of fifteen year old Syrah vines which, while situated
within the Saint Joseph area, is declassified to merely a "Vin de
Pays" as the Gonon brothers will tell you it's on a flatland and the soil
does not produce as noble a wine to be worthy of the grander appellation.
Midway through a tasting of various vintages of Saint-Joseph...
...nearing the end of a vertical tasting of Gonon's magnificent Saint Joseph
Most Rhône wine aficionados will tell you Pierre Gonon is the
benchmark for the wines of Saint-Joseph and, given the limited production, you
can understand why these have cult status.
The brothers are a bit old-fashioned. For example, the vineyards are
plowed by horse except for the ultra-steep areas where they have the plow on a
cable and it's motored by a winch. And yet a few spots are even too
treacherous for this!
We have a 2014 Saint-Joseph and it's a baby. It needs
until maybe 2012, or so, before it will hit its stride.
In visiting the domain and being privileged to taste numerous vintages, one
could see, apart from vintage variation, a learning curve. The older
vintages were quite good, though, but I'd say the more recent vintages are even
Currently in stock: GONON 2014 SAINT-JOSEPH
Rouge Sale $49.99
What do you serve with good Saint-Joseph?
How about a great leg of lamb?
The Chien du Cave.
More Wines Coming.
Watch this Space.