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2012 Vacqueyras, Le Clos, Domaine Montirius
Scores and Reviews
Domaine Montirius is one of the stars of the appellation, and deservedly so, judged by the care afforded to its wines by Christine and Eric Saurel. They represent the fifth generation to work this 57 hectare domaine in the heart of Vacqueyras and their property, now farmed entirely by biodynamic principles.
Labour-intensive and rigorous, low yielding old vines on optimal soil provide the perfect raw materials, and a careful three week maceration allows the full expression of the terroir. Their patient methodology is rewarded with superb expressions of terroir, described by Christine as `vins lumineux'. Here you can find their village Vacqueyras, as well as the stunningly opulent Clos Montirius.
The Saurels are a charming and gentle couple; their wine, however, is powerful and regal. One of the rare examples where the wine’s personality does not reflect that of those who make it!
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.
Vacqueyras was the second Côtes du Rhônes Villages to be upgraded to AOC status, after Gigondas, in 1990 and rightly so. These excellent-value wines are like turbo-charged Côtes du Rhônes: dark and rich with the classic herbs and warm peppery spice of the Southern Rhône.
Compared to neighbouring Gigondas, they are slightly more restrained and rustic – in the best sense of the word – and slightly cheaper. They are made from a little less Grenache (50 percent minimum) with the balance made up with Syrah, Mourvèdre and Cinsault.
You should give Vacqueyras two to three years to come round, but they can then last up to a decade. The 770 hectares of vineyards are spread across the communes of Vacqueyras and Sarrians in the foothills of the Dentelles de Montmirail and produce almost exclusively red wines. The small amount of fresh, fruity rosé is normally well worth the search, while the tiny amount of white wine is mostly not.
Recommended producers: La Bastide de St. Vincent, Montirius