2015 Côtes du Rhône Villages, Terre d'Argile, Domaine de la Janasse
Joe Czerwinski - 31/10/2017
About this WINE
Domaine de la Janasse
Brother-and-sister team Christophe and Isabelle Sabon continue to work wonders at Janasse – a domaine founded by their father, Aimé Sabon, in 1973. They now farm around 90 hectares, 18 of which are in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. These are dotted across numerous plots in the northeast of the appellation, in the commune of Courthézon, where the soils are more sandy and therefore much cooler. They also have a few parcels on the famous, clay soil plateau of La Crau. The grapes are largely de-stemmed; concrete tanks are used for the Grenache and old oak for the Syrah and Mourvèdre. In other words, everything is fairly traditional. While they have been farming largely in accordance with organic principles for years, they are now undergoing full conversion to organic and expect to gain certification in 2024.
The domaine sadly suffered terribly from frost in 2021, reducing their output by 45% (and up to 80% for their Vin de Pays wines) – it is the siblings’ smallest vintage yet. They are however pleased with the quality, and they highlight its concentration and freshness.
Côtes du Rhône
The Côtes du Rhône is a large wine appellation in France’s Rhône Valley. Producers here are permitted to make red, white and rosé wine, though red wines account for the majority of the production overall.
While technically the Côtes du Rhône covers both the Northern and Southern Rhône winegrowing areas, most of the production comes from the south. For red wines, Grenache is the most popular grape variety. It is often blended with Syrah and Mourvèdre – the three combined form the so-called GSM blend.
Southern Rhône Blend
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.
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Far superior to the quality inferred from its appellation, this well-named cuvée is a firm staff favourite, indeed, a firm favourite of your correspondent; such is its superb quality/price ratio. The blend is between Grenache, Syrah, Carignan and Mourvèdre, with the latter two adding a controlled rusticity to an otherwise very polished ensemble, thereby enhancing its capacity to fascinate and thrill the taster with a real sense of authenticity. Drink 2018-2022.
Simon Field MW - Wine Buyer
The brother and sister team of Christophe and Isabelle Sabon continue to work wonders at Janasse. They farm 80 hectares of vineyards spread over a number of wine appellations: Châteauneuf-du-Pape, which is all located in the north-east of the appellation in the commune of Courthézon, Côtes du Rhône, Côtes du Rhône Villages, but also Vin de Pays de la Principauté d'Orange and Vin de Table. Concrete tanks are used for the Grenache and oak for the Syrah and Mourvèdre; in other words, everything is fairly traditional. Isabelle Sabon compares the 2015 to 2005 and 2010. Its tannic profile sits somewhere in the middle, as, possibly, does its quality. For all that, they are three outstanding vintages.
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