Domaine Roger Sabon’s history dates from the 16th century, when the Sabon family first owned vineyards in Chateauneuf-du-Pape, in France’s Rhone Valley. By the 18th century the Sabons were not only making wine but helping promote and improve all Rhone Valley wines by helping establish appellation standards. Today the 109-acre estate is run by Jean-Jacques, Denis and Gilbert Sabon, all descendants of the founder. Of the estate’s total acreage, 37 acres are in Chateauneuf-du-Pape. La Cuvee Prestige is the domain’s flagship wine, though it also makes a very limited production Le Secret des Sabon. Those wines are 60% – 80% Grenache from vines that are 80 to 100 years old. The estate also makes Chateauneuf-du-Pape Blanc, as well as a Lirac and Cotes du Rhone, which are sourced from the domain’s vineyards in Roquemaure. Robert M. Parker Jr. calls Domain Roger Sabon a traditionalist producer that “has been making exceptionally high-quality wines for years…”
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.