Drink 2020 - 2023
Richard Hemming MW, jancisrobinson.com (Aug 2021)
Drink 2020 - 2025
Joe Czerwinski, Wine Advocate (Oct 2020)
Drink 2020 - 2023
Matt Walls, Decanter.com (Oct 2020)
About this WINE
Domaine des Senechaux
Sénéchaux is an excellent example of how a large “alien” concern – in this case the Cazes familly of Château Lynch-Bages in Bordeaux – should manage its purchase, namely by investing as and where necessary. They have done this without forsaking the historical essence of the domaine, personified here by the longstanding régisseur Bernard Tranchecoste. Domaine des Sénéchaux dates back to the 14th century, making it one of the oldest wineries of the region. It spans 26 hectares across Châteauneuf-du-Pape, 23 hectares of which are planted with red varieties, the remainder white. Their main holdings are on the south-westerly slopes of the Bois Sénéchaux, just to the east of the town of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Here, some of their Grenache vines are as old as 80-90 years old. Production here remains very traditional, and they retain a simple two-wine offering. Largely, grapes are de-stalked and new oak is avoided in favour of concrete, foudres and second-use Bordeaux (Lynch-Bages) barrels.
The team at Sénéchaux are extremely happy with the balance they achieved in the 2020 vintage, with power and volume balanced with freshness. They started their harvest in early September and completed it before the month was out. This was a week earlier than for the ’19 vintage and helped to achieve the freshness and purity we’ve seen consistently through our tastings of the ’20 vintage.
The most celebrated village of the Southern Rhône, Châteauneuf-du-Pape is the birthplace of the now indispensable French Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée system – imperfect though it may be. Compared to the Northern Rhône, the vineyards here are relatively flat and often feature the iconic galet pebbles – the precise benefits of which are a source of much debate. Minimum alcohol levels required by the AOC are the highest in France, but at 12.5% it is well below the natural generosity of Grenache, which only achieves its full aromatic potential when it is fully ripe and laden with the resultant high sugars. Syrah and Mourvèdre contribute the other defining elements in the blend, adding pepper, savoury spice and structure to the decadent Grenache. There are a further 10 permitted red grape varieties which can be used to adjust the “seasoning”. Of the five white varieties permitted, it is Grenache Noir’s sibling – predictably perhaps – Grenache Blanc, which dominates, though Roussanne shows a great deal of promise when handled well, notably at Château de Beaucastel.
Roussanne is one of the most important white grape varieties in the Rhône Valley. It is a particularly pernickety grape to cultivate being a notoriously low yielder as well as being highly susceptible to rot. It is difficult to ripen, and seemingly prone to oxidation at every opportunity. Roussanne's name comes from its russet-coloured skin and it produces richly aromatic wines, often with fruit characteristics of lime and blossom.
In the northern Rhône it is typically blended with Marsanne to produce the white wines of Hermitage, Crozes-Hermitage, St-Joseph, and St-Péray. Generally Marsanne is the dominant partner and it lends colour, body and weight to the blend, as well as richly scented fruit, while Roussanne contributes bouquet, delicacy and finesse.
It is grown less extensively in the southern Rhône although it is one of the permitted varieties in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. There are plantings of Roussanne in the Languedoc and Rousillon and in the last decade the grape have been cultivated with particular success in California, where it is produced both as a single varietal and as a component of Rhône-style blends.