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Châteauneuf-du-Pape: Six producers to watch

Matt Walls picks some of the top Châteauneuf-du-Pape producers you should know...

Six Châteauneuf-du-Pape producers to watch

Château Rayas

There are few old-timers in the town who don’t have a story to tell about Rayas, Châteauneuf’s most storied estate – particularly its idiosyncratic former owner Jacques Reynaud.

The estate is cool woodland interspersed with old Grenache vines grown on sand. The winery building is little more than functional; the barrels within ancient and grey. The liquid inside is a shining, transparent ruby. It’s a wine of great purity and finesse that at once defines and transcends the appellation.

Château Rayas. Credit: chateaurayas.fr/

Domaine la Barroche

Propelled by young siblings Laetitia and Julien Barrot, Domaine la Barroche is one of the most dynamic estates in Châteauneuf. Their family has a long history in the region, and they make the most of some very old vines and excellent sites. They embody a contemporary style; a precise, detailed and transparent expression of Châteauneuf terroir. Their impressive new winery near the centre of the village should give them a steady foothold to reach even higher.

Domaine la Barroche. Credit: www.domainelabarroche.com

Domaine du Banneret

Jean-Claude Vidal was an architect in Toulouse when he took on the tiny 1.5ha family estate; he made his first two vintages under the guidance of Châteauneuf legend Henri Bonneau. The estate has since grown to 4ha and is managed by his daughter Audrey. They favour a traditional approach: a single red cuvée, all 13 varieties co-planted, no destemming and a long maturation in old barrels. Their ageworthy and complex red has recently been joined by a precise and highly drinkable white called Le Secret.

Le Vieux Donjon

‘Not modern, not fashionable; just always unchanging.’ Claire Michel’s modest description of her family’s house style is essentially accurate, but it doesn’t do justice to the quality here. From the 16ha estate they make a single red cuvée, as they find the finished blend has more richness and complexity than any individual parcel. It’s a classic, unflashy, satisfyingly textural style that flirts with rusticity yet ages gracefully. Their white cuvée is also very well made.

Château La Nerthe

One of Châteauneuf’s oldest, largest and most picturesque estates has a new manager. Ralph Garcin, previously of négociant house Jaboulet, is the latest in a line of modernising figures since the estate was acquired by the wealthy Richard family in 1985. He has tinkered with some varietal blends, dialled down the oak influence and is working with a greater proportion of whole bunches. Barrel samples of the 2016s show a more vivid, precise, contemporary style; one to watch.

Château la Nerthe. Credit: www.chateaulanerthe.fr

Domaine de la Vieille Julienne

Since taking over the family estate at the northern limit of the appellation in 1990, tall, twinkly-eyed Jean-Paul Daumen has gradually converted it to biodynamics. The co-planted vineyards are spread over seven north-facing terraces. The top ones are predominantly limestone and produce Les Hauts Lieux, a powerful, long-lived cuvée. The lower banks have a higher proportion of sand, producing a finer, immediately drinkable wine called Les Trois Sources. His Réserve is produced only in the best years. These are characterful, wild expressions of Châteauneuf.

Domaine de la Vieille Julienne. Credit: www.vieillejulienne.com

Three great buys:

Matt Walls is DWWA regional chair for the Rhone. Look out for his tasting report on Rhône 2016 wines towards the end of this year, available exclusively to Decanter Premium members. 

This first appeared in a feature in Decanter magazine. Subscribe to Decanter here.

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