8 Buyers, 1 Store, 8000 Wines

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

On 10:39 AM by The Bloggers @ 67 Wine in , , , , , , ,    No comments
Avignon's Wall and Turret
       by Paul Bressler, 67 Wine Rhone Buyer 
and eCommerce Director
We actually made two visits to the small village of Chateauneuf du Pape, but I'll start the description where it belongs, in Avignon.

Palais des Papes
 The entire story of Chateauneuf du Pape began with a French Pope, Clement V, who move the seat of the Catholic Church from Rome to Avignon.. Seven popes eventually resided in Avignon, before the seat of the Church was permanently moved back to Rome.

Pont d'Avignon
Behind the Palais des Papes, is fortified area, now a large public park. From there, one can get a great view of the Pont d'Avignon, Built in the 12th Century, only half of the bridge over the Rhone remains standing. It was during the reign of the Avignon Popes that the wines of the region just to the north began to be
Avignon Square, as seen from the Palais des Papes
celebrated. When Pope John XXII built a summer palace in a small village, the village and the wine-growing region were dubbed Chateauneuf du Pape (the Pope's New Castle).

From Avignon, which we visited on a hot, humid day, we traveled north to the village of Chateauneuf du Pape where we met up with Stephan Avril, of Domain Juliet Avril. You can see a video of Stephan (on the Juliet Avril page on our website or all our videos on our YouTube channel) in our store talking about his wine.

The basic cuveé from Juliet Avril is 70% Grenache, 20% Syrah and 10% Mourvedre. As you may know, up to 14 grape varieties are allowed to be used in the blend, though very few makers us them all. Stephan has recently begun producing an old vine cuveé called Maxence, made from 100% Grenache. It is a selection of the best barrels from 100 year old vines.

After tasting the wines in town, we loaded into Stephan's pickup truck and drove north to where he has his vines. The first thing one notices are the galets -  the polished round stones that lay atop the soil and around the vines. These galets were left behind when the ancient Rhone River changed course. In response to my question, Stephan explained that the depth of the galets varied dramatically even in the same vineyard plot. In one spot, one only has to dig down two or three layers of rock to reach the soil; in other spots, the depth could be as much as two meters. Though from the picture the vineyard appears almost flat, it actually is a nicely rolling terrain.

We made one additional stop before dinner, visiting the tasting room of Domaine de la Cote de la Ange. While not currently in stock, this is a wine we often carry, in rotation with a few others that are favorites of mine (but not known names nor big sellers). We were able to taste both their regular cuvee and a new prestige cuvee (first made in 2007, and again in 2009 and 2010), called Le Secret de la Cote de la Ange. Both were big, full-bodied wines, high in alcohol and quite viscous. The flavors were of red and blue fruit, this the Secret having more structure. Both were dense, and seem the kind of wines destined for a long life.

The following day was marked by heavy rains, and rather than do any siteseeing, we went back to Chateauneuf du Pape to take advantage of the cluster of tasting rooms in the small town. We spent some time in the tasting room of Vignobles Mayard, where we tasted everything from a Vin de Table Rosé to a single vineyard (La Crau) Chateauneuf. The youngest red, the 2011 Clos du Calvaire, was sharp, young and tight, while the 2009 La Crau de Ma Mere showed some nice ripe fruit and some tannin, leading me to believe it will have the "stuff" to age well and develop further.

After a very nice lunch at La Maisouneta, we stopped at the Domaine Crozse-Granier tasting room. There we tasted their 2009 Cotes du Rhone, a nice medium weight wine with some good fruit and some secondary flavors already developed. The 2010 Lirac showed more tannin and less fruit than the '09 Cotes du Rhone, while having more balancing acidity. The 2010 Anciens Pontifs Chateauneuf du Pape had very nice blue fruit, good acidity, some tannin and some nice secondary notes. The 2009 Anciens Pontifs was a rounder, richer wine than the 2010; not as tight. It showed more fruit and had what was to me a more pleasing balance, though the extra year of aging may have had a lot to do with it.

Finishing off the Southern Rhone portion of the trip was a stop at Domaine de la Mordorée, located across the street from the Auberge where we were staying in Tavel. The 2011 Mordorée Tavel was as good as remembered, full-bodied, darker in color than Provence rosés, with big flavors of strawberry and other red fruit. The 2011 Cotes du Rhone Rose was much lighter, a wonderful summertime, beach rosé. While it was late in the day and we could not taste the 2010 Chateauneuf du Pape, we were able to taste two 2010 Liracs, the "Dame Rousse" and the "Reine des Bois". both were outstanding, with the "Dame Rousse" showing a bit more complexity and length.

Next Up: The Last chapter, the Northern Rhone.


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