...Oodles of fresh fruit with a sense of earthy minerality – fragrant sweet blueberry pie. A note of leather and then followed by layers of very fine refined tannins that drench the whole palate but always with grace, a lovely note of chocolate and violets with a mish mash of dark and red fruits – ripe, generous, succulent but also very focused. Absolutely delicious.
Le Vieux Donjon is relatively new by Rhone Valley standards. It was founded by Marcel Michel in 1966 and since 1979 has been run by Marcel’s son Lucien and his wife Marie Jose. The 35-acre domaine is in Chateauneuf-du- Pape, in the Southern Rhone Valley, and it includes 5 acres of white varietals. The Chateauneuf du Pape is 75% Grenache, 10% Syrah, 10% Mourvedre and 5% Cinsault. The white wine is equal parts Roussane, Grenache Blanc and Clairette. The Michels daughter Claire is now the winemaker at the estate. Robert M. Parker Jr. has called Le Vieux Donjon “one of the great unheralded estates of Chateauneuf- du- Pape.”
Châteauneuf-du-Pape, the appellation, is a large area of nearly 8,000 vineyard acres centered around the picturesque town of Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Located in southeastern France just north of the Avignon hills, the name of the appellation means “new castle of the pope” and it is a reference to the 14th century, when the Popes of Avignon built summer homes in the Southern Rhone Valley. Today the appellation is one of the most renowned in France and its terroir is known for layers of small pebbles, called “galets.” The stones in the soil are thought to help store heat and keep the soil warm, which helps ripen the grapes. The stones also help keep the soil from drying out in hot summer months. In 1923 Châteauneuf-du-Pape was a leader in establishing the idea that AOC wines in France should be made only with specified grapes, and the appellation allowed 13 grape varieties to be used. Since then the rules have been slightly modified to include several more allowable grapes. Red and white wines are produced, though in practice about 97% of all Châteauneuf –du-Papes are reds made with a blend of Grenache Noir, Cinsault, Counoise, Mourvedre, Muscardine, Syrah and Vaccarese. The red wines of this appellation are prized for being big, rich, spicy and full-bodied. White wines of the appellation are made with Grenache Blanc, Clairette, Bourboulenc, Roussanne, Picpoul and Picardin. Whites are floral, fruity and relatively full-bodied.