Note: Jacqueline André is presenting a rare vertical tasting of her wines Thursday evening 23 March at Cave SA in Gland.
Grape harvests are always a joy: for the grower who can finally begin to relax after seeing the babies grow into mature adults, for grape pickers if the vineyard is one that takes real pride in its wines, for anyone else who happens to take part and who can enjoy some of the sense of camaraderie and purpose and promise in the air.
Domaine Charvin September 2016
I photographed two vineyards during the 2016 grape harvest in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, both of them organic, both of them belonging to stellar wineries, and as I enjoy a bottle of 2014 wine from one of them nearly six months later, when wineries’ thoughts turn to bottling some of last fall’s or the previous year’s reds, the pleasure of that time in the vines washes over me.
I asked Nicolas Harbin at Cave SA in Gland which Châteauneuf organic wine producers he could recommend, these two were at the top of his list – Jacqueline André of Pierre André (the winery bears her father’s name) and Laurent Charvin. When I mentioned to Côtes-du-Rhône growers while I was in the area that I was visiting the harvests at Pierre André and Domaine Charvin wineries, there was consensus that these are among the best in Châteauneuf, certainly the best organic producers.
Both have very old vines. Photographing a 150 year old vine that is still producing healthy, lovely grapes gives you pause. Respect!
Côte du Rhône basics
Châteauneuf-du-Pape remains a privileged name among France’s vineyards, the southern part of the great Rhone valley wines. Here we find red wines that are blends of Grenache and Syrah, with a handful of other grapes. The wines reflect the Mediterranean land here, with the mistral winds and dry soils playing an important role. Wines are lighter and fruitier than their northern kin, and notes of garrigue (the perfume of Provençal scrubland hills with scatterings of wild herbs) sometimes appear alongside the red fruit. The wines are, of course, the perfect fit for the gastronomic riches of the region.
Domaine Pierre André September 2016
Nearby are the excellent Côtes du Rhône Villages wines, the top lineup in this appellation area. They tend to be a shade more austere and les fruity than Châteauneuf’s, but the larger Côtes du Rhône region has so many wines that it’s hard to generalise. At the top end, geographically, are the northern wines in the area around Hermitage, where Syrah plays the dominant role.
Both of these Châteauneuf cellars produce , wines with both labels: of Pierre André’s 18 hectares, 16 produce Châteauneuf wines and the other 2 hectares a less expensive wine called Clin d’Oeil (only in years when there are enough grapes) that is, for me, of the quality of a Côtes du Rhône Villages, but the grapes are not in one of the 18 official villages. I compared – and bought to bring home and try later – the 2012, 2013 and 2014. The first is magnificent, the second less fruity and promising but one I will hold for a few years, and the fresh and delightful 2014. These are wines that make you fall in love with Châteauneuf.
Laurent Charvin has 8 hectares in Châteauneuf and 13 in the Côtes du Rhône appellation area. Charvin’s wines are more elegant than many in the region, well-balanced and simply beautiful.
The official Rhone valley wines site has excellent English pages, and to take your ability to read labels to the next level, Wine Folly has good information and maps.