A7 APRIL 28-29TH, 2017
Halter Ranch Vineyards & Winery
8910 Adelaida Road, Paso Robles, CA 93446 map
Fri. April 28th & Sat. April 29th, 2017
A7 will host an intimate, educational, invitation-only gathering of Rhône-style producers & growers this year April 28-29th at Halter Ranch in Paso Robles, CA. Official program to be announced soon. Lineup includes:
- Philippe Cambie– the “God of Grenache” according to Robert Parker
- Puech-Haut (Languedoc)-“Easily one of the top estates in the Languedoc (if not southern France)” (Jeb Dunnuck)
- Domaine des Bosquets (Gigondas)- Stunning wines from Gigondas. WA gave their 2015 top cuvees- 95-99pts. Family also owns Vaudieu in Chateauneuf du Pape.
- Font du Loup (Chateauneuf du Pape)- Amazing vertical of Puy Rolland 100% old vine grenache.
- Lorgeril– 9th generation winemakers spanning 6 family estates. Very well known in France, virtually unknown in USA. Have an estate, “Little Versailles of Languedoc” built for King Louis the 13th.
- Viticulture Seminar- Michael Larner (Larner Vineyard)
Friday April 28th
Saturday, April 29th, 10am- 4pm
Please remember that space is extremely limited and each invitee is allotted 3 tickets on a first-come, first-served basis. The list is invite only for wine producers, viticulturists, and industry professionals. Please do not tell other people about the event. The best way to ensure your space at this event is to purchase tickets early; every year it sells out.
Thank you for your continued support of A7. Please feel free to reach out to us with any questions about the upcoming event. See you in Paso soon!
GIGONDAS These 89 wines seemed definitely less ripe than the Châteauneuf 2015s, and more astringent on the finish, as though the phenolics didn’t always ripen fully. The floral and black-cherry aromas I found in many a Châteauneuf were largely absent here. Overall I felt the appellation was rather less successful. To reduce the number of wines tasted to a manageable level, I limited the number of cuvées tasted per producer in some cases.
Tardieu-Laurent, Vieilles Vignes 2015 Gigondas 85% Grenache (80 to over 100 years old), 10% Syrah (80 to over 100 years old), 5% Mourvèdre (80 to over 100 years old). From the Dentelles, Boussière, Garrigues and Teysonnières. Two-thirds whole bunch. Aged in one-year-old barrels.
Dark purplish crimson. This sample smelt just a little tired unfortunately. There is massive ripeness here and almost animal savour. A little saltiness. This particular sample didn’t quite hang together and seemed a tad scrawny on the end but I can quite believe this was down to the condition of the sample rather than the intrinsic worth of the wine. 14.5% Drink 2017-2022 £195 per case of 12 ib RRP 15.5
Dom de Longue Toque 2015 Gigondas 60% Grenache, 40% Syrah. The Grenache is matured in mix of concrete vats and demi-muids, the Syrah in French oak for about 18 months. Cask sample.
Tasted blind. Bright crimson. Very fresh nose with lots of drive and energetic tannins. An excellent package for mid-term drinking though not one of the most long-term wines. Drink 2020-2027 16.5
Gabriel Meffre, La Châsse Grande Réserve 2015 Gigondas Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre. Cask sample.
Tasted blind. Slightly dull crimson. Rather muddy, vegetal nose. Edge of sourness rather than freshness and very solid fruit that seems quite evolved. Useful for restaurateurs? Drink 2018-2024 16
Louis Bernard 2015 Gigondas Grenache, Syrah. Cask sample.
Tasted blind. Bright crimson. Sweet, rich, unadorned, almost rude fruit. Very straightforward with good freshness. Super-healthy. Drink 2020-2028 16.5
Ravoire & Fils, Olivier Ravoire 2015 Gigondas 85% Grenache, 15% Syrah, destemmed and vinified separately. 20% of the final blend is aged 12 to 18 months in new barrels (225 litre for Syrah and half barrels for the Grenache), the rest is aged in stainless-steel tanks. Cask sample.
Tasted blind. Dense, velvety crimson. There is even a hint of black-cherry opulence here. Velvet texture – very worked? – but nothing overripe. A Gigondas in ‘modern’ idiom with some oak influence evident. A love or loathe wine. 14% Drink 2021-2028 16.5
Dom des Bosquets (Bréchet) 2015 Gigondas 70% Grenache, 20% Syrah, 7% Mourvèdre, 3% Cinsault. Vinified in stainless steel. Matured for 12 months in various sized oak vessels for the Syrah, concrete tank for the Grenache, Mourvèdre and Cinsault. After blending, the wine will mature a further six months in concrete tanks before bottling. Cask sample.
Tasted blind. Slightly grey crimson. Very ripe indeed and then some leathery tannins. So sweet! Not quite fresh enough for my taste. Falls away a little on the end. 15.6% Drink 2020-2026 16
Dom des Bosquets (Bréchet), Le Lieu Dit 2015 Gigondas Mostly Grenache. Vinified in stainless steel, matured in 600-litre old oak demi-muids. Cask sample.
Tasted blind. Relatively light crimson. Sweet, ripe Grenache on the nose. Light and lively. Well-judged, sprightly, entertaining wine. 16.2% Drink 2019-2026 17
Dom des Bosquets (Bréchet), La Colline 2015 Gigondas Grenache-dominated blend. Vinified in stainless steel. Matured in 500-litre demi-muids, first and third use. Cask sample.
Tasted blind. Blackish crimson. Full, opulent, floral notes on the nose. Racy palate with real energy. Sweet finish. The fruit almost obscures the fine tannins. 16.3% Drink 2020-2027 16.5+
Dom de Cabasse, Jucunditas 2015 Gigondas 80% Grenache, 20% blend of Syrah and Mourvèdre. 100% destemmed. Vinified in concrete tank, matured in oak, a mix of demi-muid and barrique. Cask sample.
Tasted blind. Pale-rimmed crimson. Meaty nose with very fine tannins. Good freshness without its being dominant. A well-balanced wine for fairly early drinking. Some heat on the end. 14.5% Drink 2019-2025 16.5
St-Damien, Les Souteyrades 2015 Gigondas 80% Grenache, 20% Mourvèdre. Cask sample.
Tasted blind. Dark ruby with a fading rim. Sweet, salty and floral on the nose with medium weight, fully ripe fruit. Lightly grainy tannins. Nice package for early to mid-term drinking. 15% Drink 2019-2025 16
There was very exuberant fruit on palate entry in these 67 wines in general (and sometimes the distinct impression of residual sugar) with few wines showing great sophistication. And as with Gigondas 2015s, many of these Vacqueyras showed notably drying tannins (was this a lack of phenolic ripeness?) and some of the wines were marked by a strong green streak on the palate. Overall they seemed much earlier-maturing than either Gigondas or Châteauneuf.
Tardieu-Laurent, Vieilles Vignes 2015 Vacqueyras 70% Grenache (over 60 years old), 25% Syrah (40 years old), 5% Mourvèdre (40 years old). Two-thirds whole bunch, aged in one-year-old barrels.
Blackish ruby. Sweet and silky on the nose – most alluring already. Heady. Round with very gentle tannins that make their presence felt only on the very end, along with a hint of alcoholic warmth. This really does taste of Provençal sunshine; there could even be a hint of lavender along with the sautéed plums. 14.5% Drink 2018-2026 £175 per case of 12 ib RRP 17
Dom de la Charbonnière 2015 Vacqueyras 60% Grenache, 40% Syrah. Aged in large oak.
Round and ripe with some structure. Ambitious and a little dry on the end but not excessively drying. Ambitious. 15.5% Drink 2019-2026 16.5+
Dom de la Charbonnière, Cuvée Spéciale 2015 Vacqueyras All Grenache, a new cuvée made from a parcel acquired in 2014. Philippe Cambie now consults here.
Tasted blind. I seem to have been more impressed by this producer’s Vacqueyras than by their Châteauneuf. Purplish. Some interesting ripe fruit on the nose here. Ripe and well balanced. Proper full ripeness and some ripe and substantial but not drying tannins too. Serious stuff. 15.5% Drink 2020-2027 17
Ravoire & Fils, Olivier Ravoire 2015 Vacqueyras 80% Grenache, 20% Syrah. Destemmed. 20% spends 12-18 months in new barrels of 225 litres for the Syrah and in demi-muids for the Grenache, the rest in concrete tanks.
Tasted blind. Opulent texture and candied rose petals on the nose – but just a bit too sweet and sickly for comfort. Shame because it has so much going for it. Falls off a ledge at the end. 14% Drink 2017-2020 15.5
Gabriel Meffre, Laurus 2015 Vacqueyras 70% Grenache, 30% Syrah. Destemmed. A third of the blend spends 14 months in new 275-litre barrels.
Tasted blind. Blackish crimson. Light nose with a suggestion of carbonic gas. Sweet start and some raciness. Not the subtlest, deepest wine but it is appetising. No great length but should give considerable short-term pleasure. 14.5% Drink 2017-2021 16
Gabriel Meffre, Barthélemy 2015 Vacqueyras Grenache, Syrah.
Tasted blind. Blackish crimson. Not much nose – just a slightly industrial whiff. Sweet start and then very drying finish with rather a hollow middle. Drink 2018-2022 15.5
Dom de Longue Toque 2015 Vacqueyras 60% Syrah, 40% Grenache. Destemmed. Grenache spends six months in tank and Syrah in oak.
Tasted blind. Dark purple. Really quite a lot of blue in the colour here. Spicy ripe fruit. But also drying tannins on the end – just a bit pinched. 15% Drink 2019-2023 16
I tasted these immediately after the Rasteau and noted an enormous difference. The Cairanne wines were more refined and obviously from cooler climes, but were notably good.
Dom des Coteaux des Travers, Terra Rosea 2015 Cairanne 70% Grenache, 30% Mourvèdre. Destemmed and fermented in wooden tronconic vats. Élevage in 70% concrete, 30% 228-litre one- and two-year-old barrels for 10-12 months.
Tasted blind. Mid crimson with shading. Notably spicy nose. Green-strawberry flavours. Very racy and refreshing. Cool site? No weight at all. The thirst-quenching side of southern Rhône. 14.5% Drink 2017-2021 16
Dom des Escaravailles, Ventabren 2015 Cairanne 70% Grenache, 20% Syrah, 10% Carignan. Élevage in concrete tanks. Tank sample.
Tasted blind. Dark crimson. Straightforward, sweet fruit without any exaggeration. Clean and workmanlike with Cairanne freshness. Very brisk indeed. Quite long and neat. 15% Drink 2018-2024 16+
Dom des Escaravailles, La Boutine 2015 Cairanne Mostly Grenache. Nine months in concrete tank.
Tasted blind. Light crimson. Straightforward, fully ripe fruit, unadorned. Round, juicy and thoroughly local. Pure pleasure in the strawberry/rose-petal idiom. Masses of sweetness and transparency. Very honest. Even if not for the very long term. Real grunt and authenticity to this wine. Lovely freshness on the end after all that sweet fruit. 15% Drink 2018-2022 16.5
Good density of fruit here.
Maby, Nessun Dorma 2015 Lirac 50% Grenache, 25% Syrah, 25% Mourvèdre. Destemmed. 60% aged in oak (one-third new), 40% in concrete tanks for 15 months. Tank sample.
Tasted blind. Blackish crimson. Ripe, opulent nose. A little confected with some sharp drying tannins on the end. Not settled down to a comfortable whole yet but there is masses of ripe fruit anyway. Exuberant. 15% Drink 2018-2023 16-
Maby, Bel Canto 2015 Lirac 100% Grenache, whole bunch. Aged in demi-muids (half new) for 15 months. Tank sample.
Tasted blind. Blackish crimson. Very opulent nose and round tannins. Very drying end. A bit uncomfortably over the top. And then it all falls away on the end. 15% Drink 2018-2022 15.5
Maby, La Fermade 2015 Lirac 80% Grenache, 15% Mourvèdre, 5% Syrah. Destemmed. In cement tanks for 15 months. Tank sample.
Tasted blind. Blackish crimson. Intense, glossy, glamorous wine with real line and punch. Very appetising with ripe but not particularly sweet fruit. Carefully guided. Very smart indeed. May be GV? 14.5% Drink 2018-2024 16.5
I thought most of these wines showed particularly well, with the Pique Basse and Beaurenard better than many a Châteauneuf.
Dom des Coteaux des Travers, La Mondona 2015 Rasteau 70% Grenache, 20% Syrah, 10% Mourvèdre. Destemmed and fermented in wooden tronconic tanks. Tasted blind. Aged 10-12 months in 70% concrete and 30% 228-litre barrels of first and second use. Tank sample.
Tasted blind. Dark crimson. Intense and gorgeous on the nose though a tiny bit astringent on the finish. Good combo of ripeness and freshness but not quite a hedonistic whole. 15% Drink 2019-2024 16
Tardieu-Laurent, Vieilles Vignes 2015 Rasteau 65% Grenache (80 years old), 25% Syrah (40 years old), 10% Mourvèdre (40 years old on limestone clay and blue clay). One-third whole bunch, aged in one-year-old barrels.
Dark ruby. Colour not quite out to the rim. Notably gamey/meaty on the nose (a Mourvèdre effect?). Sweet, roasted start and without quite the concentration of the top Côtes du Rhône bottlings. But masses of tannins on the end. 14.5% Drink 2018-2023 £155 per case of 12 ib RRP 16+
Grand Nicolet, Terre des Bertrand 2015 Rasteau 70% Grenache, 15% Syrah, 15% Carignan. Élevage in concrete tank. Tasted blind.
Dark crimson. Racy and fully evolved. Expressive, confident, no-frills fruit . Edgy and energetic. Long and relaxed. Really most impressive on the finish. But a very different style to the most ‘worked’ examples. 15% Drink 2018-2023 16.5
Grand Nicolet, Vieilles Vignes 2015 Rasteau 60% Grenache, 30% Syrah, 10% Mourvèdre. Élevage mostly in concrete with 10% of the Syrah in one- to three-year-old barriques for 12 months. Tank sample.
Tasted blind. Very dark crimson. Sample rather oxidised. Thick and soupy on the palate – this has lost its mojo. Hugely impressive concentration but not enough true freshness. There is even a hint of mousiness on the end but this may just be a sample problem. 15% Drink 2018-2022 15.5
Grand Nicolet, Les Esqueyrons 2015 Rasteau 50% Grenache (80-year-old vines), 50% Syrah (50-year-old vines). The Syrah is aged in one-year-old barriques for 12 months. Tank sample.
Tasted blind. Blackish purple. Raw, purple fruits on the nose. Sweet and velvety. Fades a bit on the finish though. Like the Grand Nicolet Vieilles Vignes, this may be a sample problem but both wines seem a bit over the top. 15% Drink 2019-2023 15.5
Dom des Escaravailles, Héritage 1924 2015 Rasteau Mostly Grenache. In concrete tanks for nine months.
Tasted blind. Dark ruby. Some damp-fur elements plus very ripe, intense fruit. Dry tannins on the end but lots of concentration and ambition. Hot end (rare for Rasteau). Fun to drink! Racy strawberry fruit. 15% Drink 2017-2023 16.5
Dom des Escaravailles, La Ponce 2015 Rasteau 80% Grenache, 20% Syrah. The Grenache is in concrete tank for a year and the Syrah in oak barrel for a year. Tank sample.
Tasted blind. Blackish crimson. Rather oxidised sample but with lots of suave fruit underneath. Drawing-room Rasteau rather than the rustic sort! Maybe another sample would be even more impressive… Lots of punch. I suspect I am under-scoring this wine. 15% Drink 2018-2025 16
CÔTES DU RHÔNE-VILLAGES, PLAN DE DIEU
Calendal 2015 Côtes du Rhône-Villages, Plan de Dieu 70% Grenache, 30% Mourvèdre. Aged in 225-litre barrels for nine to 10 months.
Tasted blind. Bright dark crimson. Sweet with oak more in evidence than the fruit. Lots of sweet juiciness and very smoothed tannins but it’s more a cellar wine than a vineyard one. 15.5% Drink 2018-2022 15.5
CÔTES DU RHÔNE-VILLAGES, ROAIX
Dom des Escaravailles, Les Hautes Granges 2015 Côtes du Rhône-Villages, Roaix Mostly Syrah. Nine months in oak.
Tasted blind. Dark, glossy blackish crimson. A charred nose. This wine seems to have been overworked. So much extraction that it has virtually lost its fruit in the middle. Too much emphasis on the phenolics? A rather bitter end. 15% Drink 2018-2021 15
CÔTES DU RHÔNE-VILLAGES, SABLET
Dom de Cabasse, Les Deux Anges 2015 Côtes du Rhône-Villages, Sablet 75% Grenache, 3% Carignan, 22% Syrah. Vinified in concrete but spends some time in wood.
Tasted blind. Dark ruby with a pale rim. Warm, spicy, slightly animal nose with only medium intensity. Seems very advanced without much tannin evident. Pleasant, quite simple wine with slightly stewed fruit. 14% Drink 2016-2019 15
CÔTES DU RHÔNE-VILLAGES
Tardieu-Laurent, Les Becs Fins 2015 Côtes du Rhône-Villages 50% Grenache (60 years old), 40% Syrah (30 years old), 10% Cinsault (60 years old). Ten months in cement.
Dark purplish crimson. Vibrant peppery fruit on the nose and still quite tight on the finish. Clearly made to last. Drying tannins on the end at the moment. GV 14.5% Drink 2017-2020 £95 per case of 12 ib RRP 16
CÔTES DU RHÔNE
Look out for the popular Guigal red Côtes du Rhône 2015 when it is released early in 2018. It is exceptional quality for a wine of which five million bottles are made and has, in the past anyway, represented outstanding value.
Tardieu-Laurent, Guy Louis 2015 Côtes du Rhône 60% Grenache (50 years old), 35% Syrah (40 years old), 5% Mourvèdre (30-40 years old). From parcels in Lirac, Rasteau, Beaume de Venise , Vacqueyras and Cairanne. One-third whole bunch and aged in one- and two-year-old barrels.
Very ripe, luscious nose with very well-managed tannins. I might take this for a Gigondas blind. Sweet and much more approachable than the Becs Fins bottling. GV 14.5% Drink 2016-2022 £130 per case of 12 ib RRP 16.5
Tardieu-Laurent, Cuvée Spéciale 2015 Côtes du Rhône 95% Grenache, 5% others (70 years old). All whole bunch and aged in two-year-old barrels.
Spicily perfumed. More aromatic and lifted than the Guy Louis 2015. On the palate it is still pretty grainy and, with all those tannins on the end, needs further ageing but it should age very gracefully. Definitely many cuts above the appellation average. Ambitious. This will be released only in autumn 2017 and Corneys are selling it specifically in magnums. Drink 2018-2024 £180 per case of 6 magnums ib Corney & Barrow 16.5
Le Clos du Caillou, Bouquet des Garrigues 2015 Côtes du Rhône 65% Grenache, 15% Syrah, 10% Mourvèdre, 10% Carignan. Tank sample.
Light garnet. Sweet, light, sweet and simple. A tad pinched on the end. Drink 2017-2020 £110 per case of 12 ib H2Vin 15.5
Le Clos du Caillou, Les Quartz 2015 Côtes du Rhône 85% Grenache, 15% Syrah. Tank sample.
Sample a little tired on the nose but it’s extremely luscious on the palate. Sweet, salty and strawberry. May be a bit much for some palates but there is no shortage of personality. Drink 2018-2023 £159 per case of 12 ib H2Vin 17-
Le Clos du Caillou, Réserve 2015 Côtes du Rhône 85% Grenache, 15% Syrah. Tank sample.
Light, fresh and much tighter than the Quartz Côtes du Rhône. Broad and polished with rather a severe finish. Drink 2019-2025 £205 per case of 12 ib H2Vin 16
Tardieu-Laurent 2015 Bandol 95% Mourvèdre (over 50 years old), 5% Grenache (over 50 years old). Clay-limestone soils on Le Castellet. One-year-old barrels.
Purplish crimson. Not as expressive on the nose as the southern Rhône wines. It’s all tarry and buried… Very sweet start and then it really dries out the inside of the mouth. Quite a different build! It could do with a little more juice. Not very expressive on the palate either at this stage. 14% Drink 2020-2026 £185 per case of 12 ib RRP
Tardieu-Laurent 2015 Condrieu 100% Viognier (45 years old, from parcels in Paton, Chanson and Rocharde and Vernon). New and one-year-old barrels.
Deep straw colour. At the moment this is a bit dumb on the nose. There is good weight on the palate but it doesn’t quite have the tension and conviction of the 2014. It’s a little unfocused at present. 14% Drink 2016-2017 £295 per case of 12 ib RRP 16
Tardieu-Laurent, Vieilles Vignes 2015 St-Péray 50% Marsanne (50-100 years old), 50% Roussanne (over 40 years old). New and one-year-old barrels.
Deep straw. Really tangy on the nose – great vivacity and raciness but with a honeysuckle undertow (from the Marsanne presumably) and just a hint of struck match. Utterly satisfying already. Depth and refreshment. I’m not surprised it is already sold out chez Corney & Barrow. Too rich to sip without food though. GV 14% Drink 2016-2018 £175 per case of 12 ib RRP – SOLD OUT 17
Tardieu-Laurent 2015 Hermitage 80% Marsanne (over 50 years old), 20% Roussanne (over 40 years old). New and one-year-old barrels.
Deep straw colour. Ethereal and deceptively light on the nose but with lots buried underneath. Great weight and intensity with some lemon cough drops and lots of blossom but no heaviness. Apparently quite sweet, but with a most engaging quinine twist. Racy and refined plus massive density. Should make excellent old bones. Real grip and conviction. 14% Drink 2020-2030 £325 per case of 12 ib RRP 18
Chêne Bleu Viognier 2015 IGP Vaucluse Bottled two weeks ago. Lovely round nose with arresting blossomy varietal character. Quite big and round and it doesn’t have the savour of a great Condrieu but it’s way better than most varietal Viognier. Drink 2017-2018 16
Tardieu-Laurent, Les Becs Fins 2015 Côtes du Rhône 35% Grenache Blanc (40 years old), 35% Viognier (20 years), 20% Roussanne (20 years), 10% Clairette (40 years). Six months in cement.
Pale greenish straw. A bright, sweetish cocktail on the nose. Racy and rich on the palate with all sorts of gorse smells. Medium weight and a satisfying mouthful for early drinking. 13.5% Drink 2016-2017 £120 per case of 12 ib RRP 15.5
Tardieu-Laurent, Guy Louis 2015 Côtes du Rhône 35% Marsanne (60 years old), 30% Grenache Blanc (70 years old), 20% Roussanne (40 years old), 10% Viognier (40 years old), 5% Clairette (40 years old). Organic. Aged in a mix of barrels.
Deep straw colour. Most appealing edge and drive to the nose of this which has masses of energy on the nose and the weight of the Grenache and Marsanne on the palate. Already open and drinkable. 14% Drink 2016-2018 £135 per case of 12 ib RRP 16
Tardieu-Laurent, Vieilles Vignes 2015 Châteauneuf-du-Pape 50% Grenache Blanc (60 years old), 35% Roussanne (30 years old), 10% Clairette (40 years old), 5% Bourboulenc (40 years old). New and one-year-old barrels.
Pale straw. Light honey nose. Quite weighty and well balanced but it lacks a real spark for me. Just a bit chewy and grainy on the end and seems a tad heavy. That’s Châteauneuf Blanc! Though there is some potential for further development. 14% Drink 2016-2019 £275 per case of 12 ib RRP 16
Tardieu-Laurent, Vieilles Vignes Rosé 2015 Tavel 60% Grenache, 35% Cinsault, 5% Syrah. All between 40 and 50 years old. Rounded pebbles and sandy soils in Vallongue. Six months in concrete.
Very pale tomato red but not the strong orange you can find in many a Tavel. Clean, even a tad neutral on the nose. But certainly not hot or heavy. Reasonably energetic but I’m struggling to find any superiority over many other rosés. It’s technically fine but just very slightly sticky and not quite at its peak. 14% Drink 2016-2017 £135 per case of 12 ib RRP 15.5
ANDRE DEVALD écrit dans la revue Penge & Privatøkonomi, . La cuvée Serre Rouge 2014 du DOMAINE DE BRAMADOU a gagné le titre comme meilleur vin pour le repas de noël danois. En plus , le panel de dégustateurs a jugé (à l’aveugle) son valeur à plus que le double que le prix de vente. Autrement dit, une bouteille très réussis avec un rapport qualité-prix imbattable.
- The vintages in « 5″ that often bring luck.
- 1985, 1995, 2005 and 2015 – are carriers of successes in the Rhone Valley,
-. It must be said that 2015 has Trump argue, with almost optimal climatic conditions for each season! Thus, the winter is rainy, allowing the vines to build good water reserves. the year was the warmest and sunniest throughout our territory since the beginning of meteorological statistics. Sunniest so that 1947 or 1921. Spring is relatively late with 3 weeks late compared to 2014. But the good weather sets in gradually and flowering takes place in excellent conditions: the output of grapes is simply exceptional. Then the summer comes quickly, the months of June, July and August are extremely hot. one can not speak of heat, because the nights are cool. The temperature ranges are very high, which promotes the presence of tannins and color. No disease pressure, the vineyard and the winemaker breathe freely. Everything is in good shape before starting the harvest!
- The Syrah are exceptional in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, but the Grenache and Mourvèdre gave the feeling of being blocked by the heat wave. They were released after the September 22-23, in the final great wines with great elegance, both on the sands on clays, a beautiful millesime that gives pleasure.
Like the Tradition bottlings described yesterday, most of these supposedly special cuvées were tasted blind by me in the village of Châteauneuf, pictured here in the early morning sunshine from a vantage point I was taken to in order to film a little video paying tribute to Austrian wine (yes, strange). The long day’s blind tastings, from carefully paper-bagged bottles, take place in the tasting room of the efficient interprofessional headquarters that sees most commentators on Rhône wines each year.
Before arriving there this year I was rather taken aback to learn that there would be more Cuvées Spéciales than Tradition bottlings. The former are meant to be really superior seasonings while the latter represent the meat of the appellation. Some producers such as the hugely admired Clos des Papes and Ch Rayas refuse to play the Cuvée Spéciale game and make only one red wine each year, no matter what the growing season throws at them. But an increasing number of others, it seems, are making a growing number of special bottlings – distinguished by coming from a special plot, or having a different varietal make-up from the main blend.
(As with the Tradition bottlngs, Tam has worked incredibly hard, using information provided by the producers and the Syndicat, to provide the make-up of, and technical background to, each wine as an accompaniment to my tasting note. Note that the acidity (TA) levels are expressed as sulphuric so they may look low. To convert them to tartaric, multiply by roughly 1.5.)
In many cases with these 2015s I found it difficult to see why they were superior. Indeed I found more faulty, or borderline faulty, wines among the 119 Cuvée Spéciales I tasted blind in Châteauneuf than in the 118 Tradition bottlings I tasted blind there, with excess volatile acidity being a particular problem in wines from this very hot summer.
As with the Tradition wines, I found the colours more varied than ever. There were very few of the unappetising fruit bombs that one used to encounter, and very few obviously oaky wines. Instead, many of the better wines described below showed a quality that could be described, fashionably, as ‘minerality’ and freshness. Despite the relatively high alcohol levels, there was no shortage of wines with cool finishes, I’m delighted to report. As elsewhere, better winemakers seem to have solved the problem of uncomfortably hot finishes associated with high alcoholic strength.
So, overall, the trends among these Cuvées Spéciales mirrored those among the Tradition bottlings and the main difference between the two groups was more stylistic than qualitative.
A total of 125 wines are described below and they are listed in the order tasted so that if you choose the default setting, you will be able easily to spot any late additions at the end of the list. But you are, as usual, free to choose how they are ordered, as below.
Order by defaultscoreproducervintage ascendingvintage descendingappellation
Tardieu Laurent, Cuvée Spéciale 2015 Châteauneuf-du-Pape 99% Grenache (over 100 years old), 1% mystery grape! Bottom of La Crau on sandy soils. 100% whole bunch, aged in one- and two-year-old barrels. (No Châteauneuf Vieilles Vignes this year because Michel Tardieu thought the sandy soils succeeded more than the galets.)
Deep ruby. Very rich nose. Really intense fruit followed by almost medicinal flavours and masses of tannin. Ambitious. But great finesse of texture too. And quite a bit of alcohol on the end with real juiciness. 14.5% Drink 2020-2030 £325 per case of 12 ib RRP 17+
Ch de Vaudieu (Bréchet), Val de Dieu 2015 Châteauneuf-du-Pape 60% Grenache, 30% Syrah, 10% Mourvèdre. Destemmed. Vinified at 25 °C in stainless steel (40%) and concrete tanks (60%). Aged for 18 months, 80% in demi-muids, 20% in stainless steel vats. pH 3.7, TA 3.2 g/l.
Tasted blind. Dark crimson with some minerality. Even a bit of finesse. This is really quite exciting. Nervy as well as very ripe. 15% Drink 2023-2033 17.5
Le Clos du Caillou, Les Safres 2015 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Les Bédines. 95% Grenache, 2% Cinsault, 2% Mourvèdre, 1% Vaccarèse. Destemmed and vinified in tronconic vats. Aged in foudres for 17 months. pH 3.54, TA 3.74 g/l.
Tasted blind. Healthy crimson. Overripe notes on the nose. And then rather pinched acidity and astringency on the palate. Not a great success. 15% Drink 2021-2027 15.5
Ch de Vaudieu (Bréchet), Amiral G 2015 Châteauneuf-du-Pape 100% Grenache. Destemmed and vinified at 25 °C in concrete tanks. Aged for 18 months in demi-muids. pH 3.9, TA 2.91 g/l.
Tasted blind. Mid ruby. Pale rim. Looks very evolved. Sweet and rich and as comfortable as an old pair of slippers – though it’s difficult to see how a 2015 can be so mature! Sweet and spicy with structure but no obvious tannin-in-waiting. 15% Drink 2018-2026 16.5
Le Clos du Caillou, Les Quartz 2015 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Les Cassanets. 85% Grenache, 15% Syrah. Destemmed and vinified in tronconic vats. Aged for 17 months in demi-muids (85%) and old barriques (15%). pH 3.5, TA 3.55 g/l.
Tasted blind. Deep crimson. Gamey, spicy notes and awfully sweet on the palate. Could do with just a tad more freshness. Rather astringent, messy finish. 15% Drink 2023-2032 16
Ch de Vaudieu (Bréchet), L’Avenue 2015 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Vaudieu. 100% Grenache. Destemmed. Vinification at 25 °C in concrete tanks. Matured for 18 months in demi-muids. pH 3.64, TA 3.7 g/l.
Tasted blind. Mid crimson. Hint of damp fur on the nose and slightly pinched fruit on the palate. Morello cherries and some definite sweetness and then drawn up into a fine tannic finish. Needs time. 15% Drink 2024-2035 16.5
Le Clos du Caillou, La Réserve 2015 Châteauneuf-du-Pape La Guigasse, Pignan (south). 60% Grenache, 40% Mourvèdre. Destemmed and vinified in tronconic vats. Aged in demi-muids. pH 3.76, TA 3.35 g/l.
Tasted blind. Dark cherry red. Nose needs a little persuasion out of the glass. Cool, fresh, almost salty finish. Refreshing wine. Not like most people’s idea of Châteauneuf! 15% Drink 2024-2034 17
Dom de la Charbonnière, Vieilles Vignes 2015 Châteauneuf-du-Pape La Crau, Le Grand Pierre. 95% Grenache, 5% Mourvèdre. Partial whole-bunch fermentation at 29 °C followed by ageing in tronconic vats (95%) and demi-muids (5%). pH 3.79, TA 2.95 g/l.
Tasted blind. Dark cherry red and a bit of gas. Difficult to see the refinement of the raspberry-jam fruit. 15.5% Drink 2024-2032 16
Dom de la Charbonnière, Les Hautes Brusquières 2015 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Les Brusquières. 60% Grenache, 40% Syrah. Partial whole-bunch fermentation at 29 °C in tronconic vats (80%), stainless steel (15%) and demi-muids (5%). Matured in tronconic vats (95%) and demi-muids (5%). pH 3.9, TA 2.96 g/l.
Tasted blind. Greyish mid crimson. Another wine, like the Charbonnière Vieilles Vignes tasted just before, that has quite a bit of gas in it. Very austere, drying finish after some very sweet fruit. 15.5% Drink 2023-2030 16-
Dom de la Charbonnière, Cuvée Mourre des Perdrix 2015 Châteauneuf-du-Pape 69% Grenache, 15% Mourvèdre, 15% Syrah, 1% Cinsault. Destemmed. Vinified at 28 °C in tronconic vats (90%) and stainless steel (10%). Aged in tronconic vats (75%), demi-muids (20%) and old barriques (5%). pH 3.7, TA 2.98 g/l.
Tasted blind. Healthy crimson. Some light savoury notes on the nose. Then masses of sweet, ripe, juicy fruit and relatively light tannins. Can’t quite see why this is a Cuvée Spéciale. Astringent finish. 15.5% Drink 2023-2030 16.5
Dom de la Charbonnière, Singularis 2015 Châteauneuf-du-Pape 100% Grenache. Partial whole-bunch fermentation at 29 °C in tronconic vats followed by ageing in tronconic vats (95%) and demi-muids (5%). pH 3.9, TA 2.96 g/l.
Tasted blind. Bright cherry red. Pale rim. Very light nose and pungent on the palate – almost like licking a cinder. A bit lacking juice. Falls away suddenly. 15.5% Drink 2022-2029 15.5
Jean Royer, Les Sables de la Crau 2015 Châteauneuf-du-Pape La Crau. 100% Grenache. Partial whole-bunch fermentation in stainless steel. Aged for 12 months in demi-muids. pH 3.5, TA 3.5 g/l.
Tasted blind. Transparent cherry red. Hint of coconut on the nose. Then lots of cherryade. Nothing too forced here and quite a streak of acidity. But why is it cuvée spéciale, I wonder? Rather rasping tannins on the end. 16% Drink 2023-2030 16.5
Jean Royer, Prestige 2015 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Le Bois de la Ville, Les Grandes Serres. 80% Grenache, 20% Mourvèdre. Partial whole-bunch fermentation in stainless steel and concrete tanks. Aged in demi-muids and in stainless-steel vats. pH 3.5, TA 3.5 g/l.
Tasted blind. Mid garnet. Neat, well-integrated and balanced nose. Very sweet start and very nicely balanced. Sweet but not sickly Grenache that is fully ripe and well counterbalanced by fine tannins and just enough acidity. 16% Drink 2024-2033 17.5
Dom du Grand Tinel, Alexis Establet 2015 Châteauneuf-du-Pape La Gardiole. 100% Grenache. Destemmed and vinified at 27 °C, one-third each in stainless steel, tronconic vats and concrete tanks. 35% is aged in demi-muids, 35% in new barriques and 30% in foudres. pH 3.54, TA 3.65 g/l.
Tasted blind. Mid dark ruby. Light, sinewy attack of the palate. Confident stuff. Not that thick – more transparent. Lightly dry tannins on the end but excellent energy. 15.5% Drink 2024-2034 17
Dom du Grand Tinel, Heres 2015 Châteauneuf-du-Pape 100% Grenache. Destemmed. Fermented at 27 °C and aged for 18 months, all in stainless steel. pH 3.5, TA 3.66 g/l.
Tasted blind. Mid crimson. Heady, very ripe, sweet and spicy on the nose but not at all heavy on the palate. Polished tannins and some transparency of fruit. Very well done. 15.5% Drink 2024-2035 17.5
Ch de la Font du Loup, Le Puy Rolland 2015 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Font du Loup. 100% Grenache. Destemmed. Vinification at 28 °C in concrete tanks (70%) and stainless steel (30%). Aged half in foudres and half in concrete tanks. pH 3.82, TA 3.36 g/l.
Tasted blind. Pale to mid cherry red. Light nose and some green strawberry flavours on a rather diffuse palate. A tad astringent on the finish. Why is this a cuvée spéciale? 14.5% Drink 2022-2029 16
Ch de la Font du Loup, Legend 2015 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Font du Loup. 65% Mourvèdre, 25% Grenache, 10% Syrah. Destemmed. Vinification at 28 °C in concrete tanks (60%) and stainless steel (40%). Aged for 18 months, 65% in demi-muids, 25% in foudres and 10% in new barriques. pH 3.79, TA 3.37 g/l.
Tasted blind. Firm crimson. Meaty nose with some interest and verve. Sweet start – very round and emphatic with some burnished, round tannins on the end. Quite ambitious! 14.5% Drink 2024-2034 17
Dom Clef de St-Thomas, La Clef de St-Thomas 2015 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cansaud, Les Serres. 50% Grenache, 25% Mourvèdre, 25% Syrah. Destemmed. Vinification at 25 °C followed by ageing in demi-muids (40%), old barriques (40%) and new barriques (20%). pH 3.65, TA 3.11 g/l.
Tasted blind. Dark purple. Very pale rim. Savoury notes on a very ripe nose. There is some energy here as well as the richness of fully ripe elderberries. Fine tannins. 14% Drink 2023-2033 17
St-Paul, L’Insolite 2015 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Le Boucoup, Pied Redon. 100% Syrah. Destemmed and vinified at 27 °C in stainless steel. Matured in demi-muids (70%) and old barriques (30%). pH 3.59, TA 3.54 g/l.
Tasted blind. Dark crimson. Ripe and round with emphatic freshness and ripeness. Black fruits dominate until very slightly rasping tannins on the end. 14% Drink 2024-2034 16.5+
Mayard, La Crau de Ma Mère 2015 Châteauneuf-du-Pape 70% Grenache, 20% Mourvèdre, 10% Syrah. Whole-bunch fermentation in concrete tanks followed by ageing in foudres. pH 3.95, TA 2.8 g/l.
Tasted blind. Blackish ruby. Very sweet start and an edge of leafiness. Lots to enjoy even if it’s still a little astringent, and hot, on the end for the moment. 15% Drink 2023-2033 17-
Olivier Hillaire, Les Terrasses 2015 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Les Escondudes. 100% Grenache. Destemmed. Vinified at 28 °C in concrete tanks. Aged for 15 months in new barriques. pH 2, TA 2 g/l.
Tasted blind. Light to mid ruby. Nothing very distinctive on the nose but massive kirsch sweetness on the palate. Very Châteauneuf. This gives the impression of knowing what it’s doing, even if the finish is initially pretty hot. It then cools down on the finish. Really rather admirable with real vivacity and intensity but it needs time. 15.5% Drink 2026-2040 18
Olivier Hillaire, Les Petits Pieds d’Armand 2015 Châteauneuf-du-Pape La Crau (west). 100% Grenache. Destemmed. Vinified at 28 °C in concrete tanks. Aged for 16 months in new barriques. pH 2, TA 2 g/l.
Tasted blind. Mid cherry red. Sweet and almost syrupy with leathery tannins and not quite enough freshness. Massive heat on the end! Excellent for those who seek mere power. Which explains my score. 16.5% Drink 2023-2032 17-
Patrice Magni, Cuvée Le Pressoir 2015 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Relagnes. 60% Mourvèdre, 40% Grenache. Partial whole-bunch fermentation at 28 °C in concrete tanks. Aged for 20 months, 60% in old barriques and 40% in concrete tanks. pH 3.5, TA 3.7 g/l.
Tasted blind. Dark crimson. Heady, wild and rich nose – reminds me of the biscuits we call(ed?) Gypsy Creams in Britain. Lots to get your teeth into even if the tannins are still a little leathery. Cool finish. 15% Drink 2023-2032 17
Dom Clef de St-Thomas, Pierre Troupel 2015 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Tasted blind. Transparent ruby. Vital, refreshing, rather rosy fruit. Perhaps not one of the most distinctive wines – in fact it reminds me powerfully of several of the Tradition bottlings – but it should please many drinkers tired of overripe wines. Tannins still a tad astringent on the end but this should mature reasonably early. Drink 2022-2029 16.5
Bosquet des Papes, À la Gloire de Mon Grand-Père 2015 Châteauneuf-du-Pape La Gardiole. 98% Grenache, 1% Cinsault, 1% Clairette. Vines aged between 60 and 70 years. Vinification in concrete tanks, with half the grapes destemmed and the rest fermented as whole bunches. Aged for 12 months, 80% in demi-muids and 20% in foudres.
Tasted blind. Blackish crimson. Cool start and very round in terms of very sweet candied fruit. Could do with very slightly more freshness. But it’s a good effort taken to the limits of ripeness. A medicinal hint. Well done. 15% Drink 2023-2035 17
Bosquet des Papes, La Folie 2015 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Montredon. 80% Grenache, 20% Mourvèdre. From a parcel of 100-year-old vines known as ‘La Folie’ on the plateau of Mont Redon. Grapes are destemmed. Vinification at 26 °C in concrete tanks. Aged for 18 months, 90% in demi-muids and 10% in new barriques.
Tasted blind. Healthy crimson. Very sweet start and some perceptible oak. Just slightly too heavy for comfort. A bit soupy. 15% Drink 2023-2030 16
Bosquet des Papes, Chante le Merle Vieilles Vignes 2015 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Barbe d’Asne, Les Brusquières, Montredon, Pignan (north). 86% Grenache, 7% Syrah, 7% Mourvèdre. From a selection of old vines of 80 to 90 years old from different terroirs across the appellation. Whole-bunch fermentation at 26 °C in concrete tanks. Matured for 15 months, 60% in foudres, 30% in demi-muids and 10% in concrete tank.
Tasted blind. Dark ruby. Slightly chemical overlay on some bright, briary fruit with masses of grainy tannins. A long-term wine. 15% Drink 2026-2039 16.5
Brotte, Dom de Barville Secret de Léonce 2015 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Janasse, Bois Dauphin. 80% Grenache, 15% Syrah, 5% Mourvèdre. Destemmed and fermented in concrete tanks, followed by 12 months ageing in oak barrels. pH 3.65, RS < 2 g/l.
Tasted blind. Dark, purplish healthy crimson. Heady, fully ripe nose with sufficient freshness but no greenness. Zesty wine with more life than many would expect of this appellation. Lightly drying tannins on the very end at the moment. 14.5% Drink 2024-2036 16.5
Gabriel Meffre, Laurus 2015 Châteauneuf-du-Pape La Crau. 60% Grenache (some from 80-year-old vines), 40% Syrah. Grapes are destemmed. All the Syrah and half the Grenache is matured in old pièces for around 18 months. RS < 3 g/l.
Tasted blind. Dark, dense crimson. Big, sweet, very ripe black-cherry aromas and lively, leathery tannins and sufficient acid and no green. A solid, if not absolutely thrilling, effort. Drink 2024-2034 16.5
Giraud, Les Grenaches de Pierre 2015 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Tasted blind. Mid crimson. Pale rim. A bit of liquorice on amazingly sweet fruit. Not that much acidity but quite a bit of fine tannin. Ambitious and it could only be Châteauneuf! Needs lots of time for these tannins to dissipate but, I hope, the fruit should wait. Drink 2026-2038 17
Giraud, Les Gallimardes 2015 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Tasted blind. Healthy ruby. Meaty and appetising with candied rose-petal flavours underneath. Rather glamorous and interesting. Long and alcoholic but it wraps you up in its velvety appeal. Masses of charm and richness. Drink 2024-2040 17.5+