... High-pitched aromas of spicy red berries, fresh flowers and peppery spices, with a hint of smokiness in the background. In the mouth, sweet, seamless raspberry and boysenberry flavors are lifted and sharpened by a peppery element and a hint of dusty minerals. Graceful and focused for an entry-level bottling, finishing with very good clarity and gently tannic persistence.
Domaine Olivier Hillaire in Châteauneuf du Pape was part of Domaine des Relagnes until 2006, when Olivier Hillaire bought 20 acres of Relagnes and started making wine under his own name. Hillaire had spent nearly 20 years as winemaker at Domaine des Relagnes, and as the former son-in-law of Relagnes’ owner, Hillaire was able to buy some of the best vineyards when Relagnes’ owner Henri Boirin decided to retire. Hillaire makes small amounts of red and white Châteauneuf du Pape as well as 100% Grenache and Côtes du Rhone Vieilles Vignes of Grenache and Syrah. Robert M. Parker Jr. has rated Hillaire’s wines in the high 90s.
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.