Domaine de la Janasse is located in Courthezon, in France’s Southern Rhone Valley, and it is one of the region’s new stars. Although the Sabon family has been growing grapes in the valley for several generations, it wasn’t until 1973 that Aime Sabon built his own cave and began making wine under the name Domaine de la Janasse. The domaine’s wines became truly noteworthy in the 1990s, after Aime’s son Christophe graduated from oenology college in Beaune and returned to the domaine bringing new ideas about wine production and viticulture. Sine then the Domaine de la Janasse label has become synonymous with excellence and the domain’s outstanding Chateauneuf-du-Papes are particularly hard to acquire because of relatively limited production and great demand. The domaine owns 136 acres of vineyards divided into 15 parcels, and also makes Cotes du Rhone and white wines, all of which are praised by reviewers.
The Southern Rhône Valley wine region extends from Orange in the north through the communes Lirac and Tavel in the southwest. The French call the region Côtes du Rhône Méridionales and it includes some of the best known appellations in France, such as Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Gigondas. The climate and landscape of the Southern Rhone differ significantly from the Northern Rhone. There are hot, often windy Mediterranean appellations near Nimes and the south, and higher altitude, relatively cool appellations such as Côtes du Ventoux to the east. Understanding the region can be confusing given that there are thirteen appellations and sixteen red and white grapes allowed for wines with appellation status. Syrah is grown here, but it is much less important than in the north. Grenache is the prominent red grape, though most red wines are blends of at least four varietals. Other commonly used red grapes are Mourvèdre, Cinsault and Muscardin. Counoise, Terret Noir, Vaccarèse and Syrah are also permitted. The primary white grapes are Grenache Blanc, Clairette and Bourboulenc, though Viognier, Marsanne and Roussanne are permitted, as are Picpoul and Picardin. Of note is the Côtes du Rhone Villages AOC, which is only in the Southern Rhone. Though Côtes du Rhône AOC wine is made in both the north and south, the Villages appellation has stricter requirements for winemaking and is generally considered higher quality than simple Côtes du Rhône. Robert M. Parker Jr. has written that “There is a vast amount of enjoyment to be discovered in the southern Rhône…for these are some of the most sumptuous and pleasure-giving wines produced in the world.”