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2011 Châteauneuf-du-Pape, La Mourre des Perdrix, Domaine de la Charbonnière
Scores and Reviews
Domaine de la Charbonnière was purchased by Eugene Maret in 1912. 90 years it is still a family-owned affair. The taciturn Michel Maret is a man of the soil, his reticence more than compensated by the eloquence of his wines, on the one hand, and the loquacious nature of his wife on the other. The two charming daughters, Véronique and Caroline, have found respective niches in the vineyard and the commercial function. All in all a complete and happy team, a facet once again echoed in the wines.Domaine de la Charbonniere owns 17.5 hectares of vineyards in the Châteauneuf du Pape appellation, as well as 4 hectares in Vacqueyras. Michel produces wonderfully well balanced wines that combine intensity and depth of fruit with finesse and elegance.
Michel Maret produces a number of different cuvees all from low yields and all bottled without filtration. His village cuvee is one of the best value wines in the appellation while the Cuvée Traditionnelle is a model of balance and purity of fruit.
The Cuvée Vieilles Vignes is produced from La Crau and is silkily rich with marvellous ageing potential while the Hautes Brusquières is a perennial favourite, atypical as it is with its high Syrah component. This is now one of Châteauneuf's leading domains and one can expect the quality to improve even more in the future if past results are any kind of guide.
The vast majority of wines from the Southern Rhône are blends. There are 5 main black varieties, although others are used and the most famous wine of the region, Châteauneuf du Pape, can be made from as many as 13 different varieties. Grenache is the most important grape in the southern Rhône - it contributes alcohol, warmth and gentle juicy fruit and is an ideal base wine in the blend. Plantings of Syrah in the southern Rhône have risen dramatically in the last decade and it is an increasingly important component in blends. It rarely attains the heights that it does in the North but adds colour, backbone, tannins and soft ripe fruit to the blend.
The much-maligned Carignan has been on the retreat recently but is still included in many blends - the best old vines can add colour, body and spicy fruits. Cinsault is also backtracking but, if yields are restricted, can produce moderately well-coloured wines adding pleasant-light fruit to red and rosé blends. Finally, Mourvèdre, a grape from Bandol on the Mediterranean coast, has recently become an increasingly significant component of Southern Rhône blends - it often struggles to ripen fully but can add acidity, ripe spicy berry fruits and hints of tobacco to blends.
Châteauneuf-du-Pape is the largest and most important wine appellation in the southern Rhône. It is home to more than 3,200 hectares of vineyards and over 80 growers; more wine is produced in Châteauneuf than the whole of the northern Rhône put together. The vineyards are bounded to the west by the Rhône river and to the east by the A7 autoroute.
Châteauneuf-du-Pape was the first ever Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée established in France, in 1932. Small, rounded rocks from the ancient river bed known as galets roulés are a key aspect of what makes Châteauneuf -du-Pape wines so distinctive, with the rocks reflecting heat back into the vines at night, thus increasing ripeness and reducing acidity.
The gloriously rich red wines, redolent of the heat and herbs of the south, are enhanced by the complexity which comes from blending several grape varieties. Fourteen are permitted for reds: Grenache, Mouvedre, Syrah, Cinsault, Vaccarese, Counoise, Teret Noir, Muscadin, Picpoul Noir, Clairette, Grenache Blanc, Rousanne, Picpoul Gris and Picardin. With red Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Grenache typically dominates with Syrah and Mourvèdre in support.
White Châteauneuf-du-Pape is becoming increasingly sought-after, even though it represents less than 10 percent of the total production. Here, five grapes are permitted: Grenache Blanc, Clairette, Roussanne, Bourboulenc and Picardin.
Recommended Producers: Château de Beaucastel, Clos de Papes, Vieux Télégraphe, Château Rayas,, Domaine de la Charbonnière, Sabon, Château La Nerthe, Domaine Perrin