Bosquet des Papes: Updating the Old School
Nicolas Boiron refines his approach without losing his identity
Posted: Jun 25, 2014 11:50am ET
Nicolas Boiron is the fifth generation of his family to tend vines. After his predecessors started the estate and cobbled together various parcels, his grandfather began planting vines, and his father eventually bottled the domaine’s first commercial production in 1966. Nicolas, 43, took over in 2004, and today he oversees the winemaking from the family’s 79 acres of vines (covering 42 parcels), the majority in the northern end of Châteauneuf-du-Pape in top lieux-dits such as Pignan, Gardioles, Gardine and Mont-Redon. The majority of the domaine’s vines are on clay, with some galets and sand and a very small amount on limestone. Total annual production stands at about 7,000 cases.
As I entered the cellar, I was greeted by the always jovial Philippe Cambie, who more often than not will be sitting in on a tasting when I make a visit in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, as the influential consultant has dozens of clients in town.
« I love the 2012s, » Cambie warmly grinned. « The fruit is so pure, so fresh. »
Boiron, who you would definitely want on your rugby team, as he stands rather tall and broad, said the biggest changes over the past 10 vintages working with Cambie have been a pursuit of freshness and elegance in the fruit, while looking to get away from « the big tannins » that marked these wines in the past, giving them a decidedly rugged, old-school feel.
« I want phenolic ripeness, but elegance. I want to protect the fruit, » said Boiron. « We still do pigéage by hand as well as remontage anddélestage, but a little less of it. Fermentation temperatures are cooler and more controlled. The idea is extraction is longer but easier. »
The old-school feel can still be found in the reds: They have notes of tobacco, chestnut, bay and tar that lurk, albeit more in the background now. The trio of 2012 reds here displays succulent, intense black cherry and sappy kirsch fruit though, more prominently than in earlier vintages. I like the updated feel of the wines, without sacrificing their mouthfilling tarry, smoldering personas.
All the reds are partially destemmed, fermented in concrete vats and then moved to foudres and demi-muidsfor aging—as simple and traditional as it gets. The Châteauneuf-du-Pape Tradition 2012 blends Grenache with Mourvèdre, Syrah, Vaccarese, Counoise and Cinsault to deliver the signature tobacco, licorice snap and plum fruit profile of these wines. It’s juicy, and almost chewy, but stays fresh in the end.
The Chateauneuf-du-Pape A La Gloire de Mon Grand-Père 2012 is predominantly Grenache with some coplanted Clairette and Cinsault. The 60- to 70-year-old vines deliver intense black cherry confiture, tar and tobacco notes with a long, grippy, but integrated finish.
The Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée Chante Le Merle Vieilles Vignes 2012 is an 80/10/10 Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre blend from the estate’s oldest vines (80 to 90 years old). It’s dense and smoky, with lots of pastis, steeped plum and charcoal notes, but remarkably supple, fine-grained tannins through the finish.
Don’t overlook the white here, either, as Bosquet’s bottling is yet another of the best white wines you’re not drinking. Made from a majority of Clairette (white and rosé) along with Grenache Blanc (and Gris) and Bourboulenc, the Châteauneuf-du-Pape White Tradition 2012 delivers bracing green almond and green fig fruit, with verbena, pear peel and talc notes as well, all backed by a long, mouthwatering minerality.