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Domaine des Sénéchaux is one of the oldest domaines in Châteauneuf-du-Pape with a history dating back to the 14th century . The identity of the eponymous old men is something of a mystery; they look a little like Rodin's Burghers of Calais but are, in all likelihood, unrelated. The estate covers 25 hectares in two excellent areas: 12 hectares near Château la Nerthe and 15 hectares in the Montalivet-Bois des Sénéchaux district, near Château Rayas. The good works to rejeuvenate the estate were initiated by entrepreneur Pascal Roux, but the serious qualitative impulse has, since 2006, been provided by Jean Michel Cazes and his son Jean Charles. The Cazes are, of course, even more famous for their ownership of the superlative Pauillac property Lynch Bages The vineyards have been restored to their former glory and the winemaking facilities have been fully modernised. The imperative, advocated by the father and adhered to by the son, has been , very importantly, to make a classic Châteauneuf-Du-Pape and not to try and make a great Bordeaux wine in the heart of the Rhône Valley. The red is a blend of 90% Grenache, 5% Syrah, 3% Mourvèdre and 2% other varietals. Fermentation is in temperature-controlled stainless steel vats and the wines are then matured in French oak barrels for 12- 15 months, some of which are new. The wines are bottled unfiltered. The white wine only makes up 5% of production; the grapes being Grenache Blanc, Clairette, Bourboulenc and Roussanne, the last of which is fermented in barrique with stirring of the yeast. The white is beautifully perfumed and full of Southern charm. Delicacy and finesse are the bywords here with the wines being accessible in youth although they tend to show at their best with 7-10 years of bottle ageing. Each year they get better.
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A significant contribution from Mourvèdre (its 20% matches the Syrah) adds savoury depth to the wine. Ripeness one always expects here, but over time it has progressed from a simple almost jammy style to something far more profound and more interesting. More Mourvèdre every year please! Simon Field MW, Rhône Wine Buyer Domaine de Sénéchaux is made up of nearly 30 hectares, half of which are located on sandy soil soils near to Château Rayas, the other half in three lieux-dits a little further to the south, their soil made up of galets roulés and loam. The Lynch-Bages ownership has been discrete but telling, with a very district upwards trajectory over recent years in terms of quality. Winemaker Bernard Tranchecoste assesses the vintage as ‘less rich but rounder’ than 2011, whatever that may mean.
Case price (12)
Case saving £39.60
Bottle 6 x 75cl
The blend in the 2010 is Grenache (55%), Syrah ( 24%) Mourvedre ( 20%) and whatever percentage is left is made up of Cinsault and Vaccarese. Ripe exuberant strawberry fruit is evidenced as always, but now there is more depth, with notes of sousbois and bitter chocolate form the Mourvèdre lending a pleasing weight to the back palate. Simon Field MW, BBR Buyer, February 2012
The eponymous old men continue to adorn the label, redolent of the Burgers of Calais, patient and civilized. Our patience with Sénéchaux has paid enormous dividends over recent years under the stewardship of the Cazes of Lynch Bages. Winemaker Bernard Tranchecoste bemoans the short harvest, but this can partly be attributed to the vendanges vertes in the vineyard, an additional qualitative statement after coulure severely reduced the Grenache crop earlier in the season.
Three distinctive soils, each with differing clay and sand content, make up the 22 hectares of vines. This 2011 is made up of 62% Grenache, 20% Syrah, 17% Mourvèdre and 1% shared between Vaccarèse and Cinsault. It was aged for a year, undergoing a complex regime which may be summarised as just under half barrel, just over half cask. A nose of leather, provence herbs and plum signals complexity of intent; underlined by the quality of the palate which is ripe and plush, toasty and rich. The wine is a great success. Simon Field MW, BBR Buyer Domaine des Sénéchaux continues to climb the village’s unwritten hierarchical ladder. The Cazes family (Ch. Lynch-Bages), who own the property, are generous both in their financial investment and in their lack of interference. Winemaker Bernard Tranchecoste has done them proud. 2011 was marked for him by the contrast between its early flowering and the slowing down of the hitherto precocious cycle with some tricky weather towards the end of July. Oidium was conquered finally and the harvest was brought in, in good volume, but over an extended period. The harvest was finished by the end of the first week of October.
Grenache Blanc, Clairette and Roussanne share the honours here with a little less Bourboulenc in support. The citric attack is countered by a broad texture, redolent of honey, oatmeal and crystallised fruit. The ensemble is linear and precise, without forgoing a satisfying mid-palate breadth. The only reasonable way to challenge and resolve such an apparent paradox is, of course, to taste the wine. A great success, further enhancing the reputation of the house, in this instance, for its whites. Simon Field MW Wine Buyer
Bottle 12 x 75cl
The forward red-fruit personality of 2014 has chimed well with the Sénéchaux style, which to me has always eschewed complexity in the name of exuberant accessibility. This is not to damn with faint praise; on the contrary it underlines the success of the 2014, a vintage of which Bernard Tranchecoste is justifiably proud. Gentle extraction, allied to care about the élevage in terms of the age of the wood employed ( only 25% in barrique, of which most were over a year old) have allowed an unabashed ripe fruit expression, with soft sweet tannins poised in support. Simon Field MW Wine Buyer