Login | Subscribe
twitter

2014 SOUTHERN RHÔNE CLOSE-UP

THIÉRRY SABON WITH HIS FAMILY’S 1966 CLOS DU MONT-OLIVET CHÂTEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE RED

INDEX

1. VACQUEYRAS RED

2. CHÂTEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE WHITE

3. CHÂTEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE RED

4. CÔTES DU RHÔNE WHITE

5. CÔTES DU RHÔNE ROSÉ

6. CÔTES DU RHÔNE RED

7. TAVEL

1. 2014 VACQUEYRAS REDS

A tricky year for VACQUEYRAS was 2014. Vineyard challenges via the warm, damp weather and the proliferation of fruit flies meant that the crop wasn’t in good shape for many growers.

Rain at harvest time added to the tests. The level of attention to detail across VACQUEYRAS can be higher, so this was a vintage with laggards in it, especially when – often large scale producers – people failed to adapt their methods to the relative fragility of the situation.

The best wines possess enjoyable, bright fruit, have plump features and shapely tannins. It is a year of harmony in the ensemble, and tannins should not be aggressive.

JEAN-MICHEL VACHE of CLOS DES CAZAUX gave this accurate rundown: “we were hit by the Suzuki fruit fly, which attacked the ROUSSANNE, then the SYRAH, then the GRENACHE. The first signs were in early July, just a few, but it really took off in September. It has turned out to be a gorgeous year for the reds; we harvested late since ripening was slow. The crop was around 20% too abundant, and we lost 33% from the Suzuki fruit fly, so we were a bit down overall. The wines hold less alcohol than usual. It is a fruit-filled year.”

DAMIEN VACHE of DOMAINE LA MONARDIÈRE described their harvest time work: “we ended on 22 September – we accelerated because rain was forecast, and we don’t regret doing that since we had 65 mm (2.6 in) on Monday, a violent, early morning storm between 8 and 10. We have had small storms passing through since then. The vats are fermenting very well, but the crop is very small, though very pretty – we are very happy with quality. We have been working on containing our alcohol levels and should be about 14° - 2009 was a very hot and heavy year, and we didn’t want to repeat that, near 15°.”

The size of the harvest had to be closely controlled in 2014, to avoid dilution in the wines.

FRÉDÉRI FÉRIGOULE of LE SANG DES CAILLOUX told me: “there was a profusion of grapes in 2014 – we spent four months selecting the bunches. The vines wanted to recompense for the struggles of 2013 [a monster amount of coulure on the GRENACHE] – there were flowers everywhere. Our yield ended at 33 hl/ha, against just 17 hl/ha in 2013.”

His dad SERGE FÉRIGOULE added: “the large crop needed managing. The wines became ready very quickly, as they did in 2011 and 2008. They have less character than the 2013s, and are agreeable, balanced, based on pleasure, are rounded.”

2014 is therefore a medium weight vintage, if a little simple. It is perhaps a shade superior to 2008 [which can be tasting extremely well after ten years]. Finishes can be cool and restrained, and the wines aren’t profound, but drink easily, the tannins very mild.

BRIGHT FRUIT IN THE BEST WINES

The best wines really do possess bright, sleek fruit, an example being the ***(*) DOMAINE LES ONDINES, whose 2014 is a w.o.w. wine. The **** FONTAINE DU CLOS CASTILLON is also w.o.w. The ***(*) DOMAINE LA MONARDIÈRE LES 2 MONARDES also runs with racy fruit, while the large GABRIEL MEFFRE enterprise showed improved form that has continued into the late 2010s via their trio of **** wines, some merchant business wine, others from their own vineyards – notably SAINT BARTHELÉMY, LAURUS and their special estate at both VACQUEYRAS and GIGONDAS, the DOMAINE DE LONGUE TOQUE.

WAY TOO MUCH OAK HERE AND THERE

On the debit side, there was crazy overuse of oak here and there; 2014 is not a vintage for applying the usual formula - you had to back off, otherwise the finish can be extremely dry and curly. Examples from samples presented include DOMAINE LA GARRIGUE CANTERELLE, the MAISON BOUACHON PIERRELONGUE, while the CAVES SAINT-PIERRE tasted over extracted. Indeed, it was a disaster if winemakers went for scale in the cellar. 2014 is the ultimate light touch, time to be sensible and read the runes vintage.

These are not wines to cellar for very long, but I am confident that bottles taken out now and over the next three to four years will reward their pairing with lamb, stews, and feathered game dishes. One or two of the leading wines - such as the ****(*) CLOS DES CAZAUX CUVÉE DES TEMPLIERS and the ****(*) LA FONT DE PAPIER from the organic CLOS DU JONCUAS – will show well past their tenth anniversary. It was a heck of an achievement to come up with ****(*) wines this year, hats off to them.

LEADING 2014 VACQUEYRAS REDS

****(*) Clos des Cazaux Cuvée Templiers 2026-29 12/15 style, balance, expressive fruit
****(*) Clos du Joncuas La Font de Papier 2025-26 12/15 high quality, vigour, stimulus
**** Chât des Roques Cuvée du Château 2028-29 02/18 winning purity, vigour, drive
**** Dom Le Couroulu Vieilles Vignes 2026-29 12/15 quiet strength, fresh, long 
**** Domaine Fontaine du Clos Castillon 2020-21 12/15 stylish, good heart, w.o.w. 
**** Domaine de Fontavin Tradition   2025-26 12/15 balance, expressive, juicy fun 
**** Domaine La Garrigue Hostellerie   2025-26 12/15 good wildness, robust, STGT 
**** Dom La Garrigue Osez le Détour  2023-25 12/15 crisp fruit, modern, good life 
**** Lavau  2023-25 12/15 neat, terroir, modern, tasty 
**** Domaine de Longue Toque  2022-24 12/15 fleshy content, pleasing 
**** Gabriel Meffre Laurus  2022-24 12/15 pure fruit, balance, pedigree 
**** Gabriel Meffre Saint Barthélémy  2021-22 12/15 enjoyable, well filled, fresh 
**** Dom La Monardière Vieilles Vignes  2027-29 07/16 suave old vine fruit 
**** Le Sang des Cailloux Lopy  2029-31 07/16 immediate juice, fresh 
**** Dom de la Tourade Cuvée de l’Euse  2024-26 12/15 spiced, salted, stimulating 
**** Domaine de la Verde Alpha-Oméga  2025-26 07/16 cool, restrained juice, wholesome 
***(*) M. Chapoutier  2023-24 12/15 prominent fruit, pepper, energy 
***(*) Chât de Montimirail Cuvée de l’Ermite  2024-26 12/15 broad, sturdy, unrestrained, STGT 
***(*) Chât des Roques Vertige des Gouttes  2028-30 02/18 inner energy, close knit 
***(*) Domaine des Amouriers Les Genestes  2021-22 12/15 clear fruit, fresh, expressive 
***(*) Domaine La Bouïssière   2022-24 12/15 tasty, clear, detail, fresh 
***(*) Domaine Cabassole Tradition   2024-25 02/18 sturdy, natural, local 
***(*) Domaine Chamfort   2020-21 12/15 easy juice, fine tannin 
***(*) Domaine Le Colombier Cuvée G  2023-24 12/15 sweet, tasty appeal, life 
***(*) Dom Le Clos de Caveau Fruit Sauvage  2022-23 12/15 peppery, muscled, character 
***(*) La Ferme des Arnaud souviens-toi  2024-25 12/15 fluid fruit, clear tannin 
***(*) Domaine Font Sarade Premier Vin  2022-23 12/15 savoury; sound heart 
***(*) Dom La Ligière Mourre de la Caille  2023-25 12/15 fresh, true, cool, savoury 
***(*) Domaine La Monardière 2 Monardes  2023-24 07/16 racy fruit, upbeat, crisp 
***(*) Domaine Les Ondines  2020 12/15 expressive fruit, balance, w.o.w. 
***(*) Domaine d’Ourea   2022-23 12/15 savoury, plump, gourmand 
***(*) Prat Sura  2022-23 12/15 smooth, gourmand, modern, upbeat 
***(*) Domaine Saint-Pierre  2023-24 12/15 neat, supple, oak, intensity 
***(*) Le Sang des Cailloux Doucinello   2025-26 07/16 supple heart, pleasing 
***(*) Domaine de la Verde Òra   2023-24 12/15 savoury, spiced, genuine 
***(*) Domaine de la Verde Prélude  2021-22 07/16 squeezy content, serene 
***(*) Mas des Restanques  2022-23 12/15 inherent quality; spice 
***(*) Rhonéa Vieilles Vignes  2022-23 12/15 fruit intensity, sound structure 
***(*) Vignoble Famille Quiot Jérôme Quiot  2021-22 12/15 sweet fruit, trim, orderly 
*** Arnoux Seigneur de Lauris  2021-22 12/15 jam fruit, bit exerted 
*** Arnoux 1717   2022-23 12/15 liberal fruit, flashy appeal 
*** Arnoux Vieux Clocher  2022-24 12/15 supple gras, Grenache fat 
*** Château du Trignon   2020-21 12/15 easy, attractive fruit 
*** Cie Rhodanienne Dom Saint Roch  2019-20 12/15 neat, harmony, bonny tune 
*** Dom Bois St Jean Balade des Anglès  2021-22 12/15 shapely fruit, safe, honest 
*** Dom Le Colombier Vieilles Vignes  2019-20 12/15 free drinking, orderly 
*** Domaine Le Couroulu Classique 2022-23 07/17 supple gras, innocuous, bit edgy
*** Domaine de la Ganse  2023-24 12/15 grainy, fresh, time to fuse   
*** Domaine La Garrigue Traditionelle 2021-22 12/15 butty, trad, spiced up 
*** Alain Jaume & Fils Château Mazane  2022-23 11/15 gourmand flavour 
*** Dom Les Semelles de Vent V Vignes  2021-22 12/15 blue fruit, firm oak 
*** Domaine de Verquière   2020-21 12/15 med weight, correct, quiet 
*** Montirius Le Clos  2020-21 12/15 sweet Gren, floral, traditional
*** Ogier Boiseraie    2022-23 `12/15 easy fruit, genuine, cool 
*** Rhonéa Domaine du Grand Prieur  2021-22 12/15 Gren heart, rough n’ready 
*** Rhonéa Domaine de La Pertiane  2022-23 12/15 crisp fruit, tannic edge 
*** Rhonéa Seigneur de Fontimple  2019-20 12/15 jelly fruit, instant, light 
**(*) Arnoux Château Lestours Clocher  2020-21 12/15 upfront fruit, but unconvincing 
**(*) Arnoux Chât Lestours Clocher Pénitents  2021-22 12/15 fluid gras, dry close 
**(*) Boisset Bonpas Silbertus   2021-22 12/15 modern, oak chocolate 
**(*) La Cave de Gigondas Beaumirail  2020 12/15 some Grenache gras, trad 
**(*) Caves Saint-Pierre  2020-21 12/15 exerted, ends dry 
**(*) Delas Domaine des Genêts  2020 12/15 fluid Gren gras, but seared 
**(*) Domaine de la Charbonnière   2020-21 12/15 soaked flavours, trad, dull 
**(*) Dom Fontaine Clos Reflets de l'âme  2023-24 02/18 sinewed, nearly wiry 
**(*) Domaine Santa Duc Les Aubes   2022-23 12/15 streamlined, streaky 
**(*) Montirius  2018-19 12/15 stewed content, mild fruit
**(*) Olivier Ravoire  2019 12/15 low-key, honest, oxidative 
**(*) Rhonéa Domaine Carobelle  2020 12/15 clinical fruit, narrow, uneven 
**(*) Vignoble Alain Ignace Sumbiosis  2020-21 12/15 spiced, but disjointed 
** Domaine La Garrigue La Canterelle  2020 12/15 mechanical, oaked, dry 
** Domaine Palon  2018 12/15 acidity on outside, modest 
** Maison Bouachon Pierrelongue    12/15 Grenache vs oak clash 
** Montirius Garrigues  2020-21 12/15 trad, stewed; green tannin 
** Rhonéa Château Thézane  2020 12/15 chunky, pushed, stretched 
** Rhonéa Domaine de la Curnière  2020-21 12/15 baked, low-key 
** Vidal-Fleury   2020-21 12/15 pinched, narrow 
NR Domaine La Ligière Point “G”    12/15 burnt, tough 
NR Domaine du Terme     12/15 not in shape 


2. 2014 CHÂTEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE WHITES

2014 offers an extremely good vintage for the whites at Châteauneuf, confirming the usual rule of a less profound red vintage bringing increased quality in the whites, primarily due to their natural freshness. They are well balanced, enjoyably fleshy and fluid, and linger well as they finish.

The growers recognize the high standard of the vintage. NICOLAS BOIRON of BOSQUET DES PAPES reported: “the whites are very beau this year, superior to the 2013s. They aren’t opulent, but are lovely and fresh.”

MARC PERRIN of CHÂTEAU DE BEAUCASTEL agreed: “the whites have very good balance and a belle acidity.”

VÉRONIQUE MARET of DOMAINE DE LA CHARBONNIÈRE, whose whites have been a great success these recent years – 2014 and 2015 both ****(*) - stated: “the 2014 will live well, though the 2013 was even more fresh than 2014.”

SÉBASTIEN JAUME of DOMAINE GRAND VENEUR emphasized the clarity in the wines when saying: “the whites are very fresh, which I find surprising. They are very agreeable.”

EMMANUEL REYNAUD, CHÂTEAU RAYAS, commented on the length when noting: “my CLAIRETTE was 15° this year, and the GRENACHE BLANC 14°, the final wine 14.5°. It is very persistent.”

VINCENT AVRIL of CLOS DES PAPES talked about the shape of his white in such a fresh vinbtage: “the alcohol is lower than usual at 13.7°, and the acidity is higher. The loss of GRENACHE BLANC meant that the BOURBOULENC/PICPOUL combination [conveyors of freshness] rose from 30% to 40% this year.”

Finally, BRUNO LEROY of CHÂTEAU FORTIA commented: “the ROUSSANNE was extremely fragile this year, but we got it to 13.5°. The GRENACHE BLANC did well, while the CLAIRETTE was very belle.”

2014 opens up the possibility of entertaining reds and whites, with finesse back on the agenda, at Châteauneuf-du-Pape. 2015 and 2016 are both going to be big and bold vintages for the reds, while the 2015 whites are a little more close-knit and packed in than the 2015s, with good length helping them lean towards drinking à table. Hence looking out for the white 2014s for pleasure, and good style, is a move I would recommend.

LEADING 2014 CHÂTEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE WHITES

***** Château de Beaucastel V Vignes 2032-35 09/16 refined, detailed, not obvious
***** Château Rayas 2035-38 10/15 stylish, fresh, long
***** Domaine du Pegaü Cuvée Réservée 2027-30 10/15 lovely richness, elegant, STGT
****(*) Château La Nerthe 2024-26 10/15 genuine, stylish, deep
****(*) Clos du Caillou Les Safres 2023-25 10/15 well concentrated, free, fresh
****(*) Clos des Papes  2037-40 10/15 future complexity, gras, fresh
****(*) Clos Saint-Michel  2027-29 10/15 trad, complete, accomplished
****(*) Domaine de la Charbonnière 2022-24 10/15 poise, freshness, local depth
****(*) Dom Grand Veneur La Fontaine 2024-27 10/15 elegant gras, good oak
****(*) Domaine La Millière Vieilles Vignes 2027-29 10/15 solid, bold, inspiring
****(*) Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe La Crau 2033-37 10/15 trad, gras, great table vin
****(*) Vidal-Fleury 2025-26 10/15 bright, stylish, long, STGT
**** La Bastide Saint Dominique 2023-25 10/15 freshness, stylish gras, V
**** Brotte Les Hauts de Barville 2021-22 10/15 stylish, fresh, w.o.w.
**** Château de Beaucastel   2028-30 09/16 fat, lissom, from 2019 
**** Chât de la Gardine M Leoncie V Vignes 2024-26 10/15 rich, broad, solid, oak
**** Château Husson Les Saintes Vierges 2024-25 10/15 rich, with bright freshness
**** Château Jas de Bressy   2024-26 10/15 smoky fruit, true, long  
**** Château des Fines Roches 2024-26 10/15 bright, tangy, natural, long  
**** Château Simian Le Traversier  2021-22 10/15 balanced, free, rounded  
**** Château Sixtine   2026-28 10/15 broad, solid, spiced  
**** Clos de l'Oratoire des Papes 2022-24 10/15 graceful richness; freshness
**** Cuvée des Sommeliers, Chr Mestre 2021-22 09/16 soft, fine, charming
**** Domaine Chante Cigale 2021-22 10/17 stylish, refined, elegant
**** Domaine Chante-Perdrix    2022-24 10/15 weighty, spiced, table vin  
**** Domaine Comte de Lauze    2022-24 10/15 elegant, spicy, character 
**** Dom Albin Jacumin La Bégude Papes 2023-25 10/15 comfortable gras, fresh  
**** Domaine Mathieu    2021-23 10/15 expressive, style, drive  
**** Domaine de Nalys   2024-25 10/15 steady richness, good style  
**** Domaine de Nalys Eicelenci 2027-28 09/16 super elegant, fine, oaked
**** Domaine du Pegaü Cuvée A Tempo 2022-23 10/15 buttery; harmony, poise
**** Dom Pères de l’Eglise Calice St Pierre 2023-25 10/15 thorough, salty, tangy  
**** Domaine de la Présidente   2023-25 10/15 elegant richness, free  
**** Domaine de la Roncière    2023-25 10/15 tight, clear, smoky, character  
**** Domaine des Sénéchaux    2021-23 10/15 fresh, supple, genuine, STGT  
**** Domaine des 3 Cellier Alchimie   2022-23 10/15 balance, harmony, style,  
**** Mas Saint-Louis 2028-30 10/16 firm gras, authentic, la table
**** Vignobles Mayard Crau de ma Mère 2022-24 10/15 stylish, tasty, long   
***(*) La Bastide Saint Dominique Chapelle   2021-22 10/15 stylish, fresh, ensemble  
***(*) Le Cellier des Princes   2023-25 10/15 copious, busty, with oak   
***(*) M. Chapoutier La Bernardine   2021-22 10/15 compact, quiet body  
***(*) Château Cabrières Tradition 2023-25 10/15 close-knit, sturdy depth  
***(*) Château de la Font du Loup   2021-22 10/15 salty, precise, go-go  
***(*) Château de la Gardine   2022-23 10/15 smooth, elegant, precise  
***(*) Château Gigognan Clos du Roi 2023-25 11/15 appealing gras, vintage cool
***(*) Château Mongin   2024-25 10/15 rich, controlled, long  
***(*) Château La Nerthe Clos de Beauvenir 2022-23 10/15 soft fruit, clear texture
***(*) Château Simian La Font d’Hippolyte 2024-27 10/15 southern depth, rounded
***(*) Château de Vaudieu   2022-23 10/15 waxen; northern clarity  
***(*) Clos du Mont-Olivet   2022-23 10/15 fresh, detail, elegance  
***(*) Clos La Roquète   2026-28 10/15 stylish gras, suave  
***(*) Domaine l’Abbé Dîne     2027-28 10/15 agreeable gras, southern glow
***(*) Domaine Paul Autard  2023-24 10/15 rich, textured, oaked  
***(*) Domaine Juliette Avril    2023-25 10/15 body, table vin, steady  
***(*) Domaine de Beaurenard   2022-23 10/15 good depth, local colour  
***(*) Domaine de Beaurenard Boisrenard 2022-23 10/15 tidy gras; sturdy, oak
***(*) Dom Clef Saint Thomas Pierre Troupel   2024-25 10/15 stewed fruits, spice  
***(*) Domaine La Consonnière     2023-25 10/15 fleshy fruit; neat, trad  
***(*) Domaine de la Côte de l’Ange   2024-26 10/15 crisp fruit, genuine  
***(*) Domaine du Grand Tinel   2023-25 10/15 citrus, pep, good length  
***(*) Dom Grand Veneur Le Miocène   2019-20 10/15 fresh, open, quiet body  
***(*) Domaine de la Janasse   2025-26 10/15 alert, live; gainer of depth   
***(*) Domaine de Marcoux   2023-24 10/15 fine, restrained; glycerol  
***(*) Domaine La Mereuille   2024-26 10/15 southern depth; freshness  
***(*) Domaine L’Or de Line    2024-26 10/15 genuine; agreeable fat  
***(*) Domaine Roger Perrin   2023-25 10/15 enclosed, southern, rounded  
***(*) Domaine de Pignan   2021-22 10/15 serene, consecutive, round 
***(*) Domaine de la Solitude   2023-25 10/15 stylish, fresh, with depth  
***(*) Domaine des 3 Cellier L’insolente   2023-25 10/15 fleshy gras, genuine  
*** Domaine Bosquet des Papes   2020-21 10/15 light, aperitif wine 
*** Chât Beauchêne Vignoble Serrière  2023-24 10/15 coated, fat, bit ponderous  
*** Château Mont-Redon   2022-23 11/15 beau fruit, but light 
*** Chât de Vaudieu Clos du Belvedère 2022-23 10/15 assertive, grip, tang
*** Domaine Berthet-Rayne   2021-22 10/15 comfortable depth  
*** Domaine La Celestière Tradition   2024-25 10/15 dodgy, high nose; fat
*** Domaine de Cristia   2023-24 10/15 tight, trad, pretty full  
*** Domaine Font de Michelle   2019-20 10/15 bright, simple fruit; easy  
*** Domaine Giuliani Flora   2019-20 10/15 serene; dainty fruit
*** Famille Perrin Les Sinards 2022-23 11/15 traditional, with oak
*** Domaine Saint Préfert    2020-21 10/15 compote fruits, spice  
*** Domaine de Saint-Siffrein    2020-21 10/15 gourmand, rounded  
**(*) Château Maucoil   2022-23 10/15 suave, quiet, dips at end
**(*) Domaine Clef de Saint Thomas 2021-22 10/15 technical, pale
**(*) Domaine du Père Caboche    2018-19 10/15 lively, bit brief  
**(*) Domaine de Saint-Paul   2021-22 10/15 tight, arm’s length  
** Domaine Le Pointu Feuilles d’Or   2021-22 10/15 disorder, lacks definition  


3. 2014 CHÂTEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE REDS

FINESSE HITS TOWN, AFTER AN ABSENCE OF DECADES

My earliest memories of CHÂTEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE date from bottles of the wine from the decade of the 1960s. While the King’s Road was the fashion centre of Europe in London, with Carnaby Street also plying kipper ties and a lot of velvet (I know - I had one that combined both), the lads at CHÂTEAUNEUF were quietly turning out gems from a pretty decent decade: check out 1961 (fabulous), 1962 (stylish), 1964 (not bad, good fruit), 1966 (full-bodied very good), 1967 (robust, plenty of heft), 1969 (a little fragile, but attractive fruit).

The theme that linked these vintages when encountered by me around 10+ years later was their finesse. Their bouquets were redolent of garrigue, herbs, rosemary, sunshine as opposed to heat waves. The palates caressed you, offering neat red fruits, and soft and quietly sustained drinking.

LINKS TO THE SWINGING 1960s

As a reminder I drank a 1966 CLOS DU MONT OLIVET RED in October 2015, and a 1967 DOMAINE DE MONT REDON RED in December 2015, both in the Southern Rhône. In my book, such bottles, had they been stored in a natural underground cellar in the cooler climate of Britain, would have been even fresher.

My tasting note on the 1966 CLOS DU MONT OLIVET **** the top robe is tiled, but the robe is still thick. The nose is also still well weighted, gives ginger, spice, orange marmalade, cocoa airs, and hands out lots of changes every minute. The fig flavour on the palate reminds me of Barolo, and there is sweet richness, sweet spicing. The finish embraces pot pourri dried, scented flowers and coffee. Both freshness and relative delicacy feature on the close. This is still stable, and has aged extremely well. In July, 1966 I attended the World Cup Final at Wembley: England 4, Germany 2, 2-2 at full time, then Geoff Hurst hit his second and third goals, and the Conga singing when the reds go marching in (England wore red shirts since both Germany and they wore white shirts by first preference) continued long into the night.

1967 DOMAINE DE MONT REDON on the label ****** has a good ruby robe. The nose is lively, expansive, serves a sensaround cocktail of sweet spice, rose hip. It is a pure child of the garrigue, classic and nuanced with spiced Grenache plum fruit, menthol: pure joy. The palate has a very joli start, is plump and cosy, the length very good, comes with a lovely freshness, menthol coolness. After 90 minutes’ air, it breathes expansion into its bouquet, while on the palate a wonderful complexity and plum fruit take over the front seat from the spices. This is remarkable: it keeps going forward, shows only more bounty as it airs, is a wonderful wine. I remember this as being extremely good at the time. 2026-28 Dec 2015

I have had a close relationship with this wine, having bought a Jereboam of it with TIM JOHNSTON, patron of JUVENILES WINE BAR in Paris, at a charity auction event called Les Rayons du Soleil in the PALAIS DES PAPES, AVIGNON on 26 October, 1974. Along with three bottles of 1957 DOMAINE DE MONT-REDON, we had secured this beauty for a total of 510 Francs.

The 1967 Jereboam was housed both in France and in England until Tim and I drank it with good friends including ROBIN and JUDITH YAPP of the British importers YAPP BROTHERS (CLAPE, CHAVE, G VERNAY, VIEUX DONJON etc) and DREW HARRÉ and JUAN SANCHEZ of RESTAURANT FISH in Paris on 3 November 2001 in London. It was in magnificent form on that occasion, and it was fitting that I drank the bottle with BERNARD BURLE of DOMAINE FONT SARADE of GIGONDAS and VACQUEYRAS; his father EDMOND BURLE had been the one grower to talk to us for those times outlandish foreigners at the dinner and auction in Avignon all those years ago, promptly issuing a lunch invitation for the following Monday to come and drink his Black Wine - accepted with alacrity.

Now, after something of a diversion, here is my tasting note on the 2014 CLOS DU MONT-OLIVET **** (large barrel/vat/casks, bottling March 2016) quite a full red robe. The nose is stimulating thanks to garrigue herbs, rosemary and thyme, with a neat note of raspberry, cooked red fruits. This is stylish, and has some Châteauneuf glow from within. It offers a Burgundian expansion on the agenda as it ages. It is STGT wine, one that speaks of the garrigue, cooked plums, nice fat Grenache at its heart. The finish is lucid. This will indeed be a real gradual gainer over time. It is is beau, like the Châteauneufs of my youth, seductive wine. From 2018-19. 2028-30  Oct 2015

So there is an affinity in 2014 with the naturally wholesome wines of my youth, the days when there were no scoring points, no special cuvées, no PR machines. Truth in the old bottles, as the saying goes.

CONSTANT LABOUR IN THE VINEYARD

Obviously 2014 was a mighty challenging year, and it is evident that those growers who spent lots of time in the vineyards in the early part of the growing season, and who kept returning to check, to chivvy, to take steps as they were needed came out as the winners. It helped to have resources to do this, but it was even more important to have a state of mind that prompted constant vigilance and attention to detail.

The triumphs of 2014 are therefore due to an immense amount of hard work prior to the harvest, and it is a vintage that speaks well of commitment, but also of the classy terroir of Châteauneuf, in allowing wines with a singsong in their heart to emerge, as if this were a New Dawn after the excesses of the years when terms such as “hedonism”, “sucrosity” and “power” prevailed in the collective Group Think.

Referring to her vineyard away to eastern end of the appellation in COURTHÉZON, the charming and peerless JACQUELINE ANDRÉ of DOMAINE PIERRE ANDRÉ was content with progress into early June. She has remained loyal to her father’s organic ideals that have been set in place since the mid-1960s, after PIERRE tried herbicides on two hectares and found that the effect in sandy soils was that the vine nourished itself above the soils and not deep down.

“Our soils are in very good shape,” she related; “the spring was nice and regular – no swings, the wind not violent, and there has been a joli flowering, a lot of bunches. The GRENACHE and SYRAH are largely completed, the MOURVÈDRE just starting out on its flowers. The leaf colour is good, and when I am in the vines I feel a good energy and pulse.” However, as an organic domaine, many challenges lay ahead this year, and I was sorry to learn in 2018 that she had sold the 2014 wine in bulk, since "it was dilute, and lacked aroma."

BETTER FLOWERING THAN IN 2013

The early summer was marked by a lack of really continuous fine weather. It wasn’t that wet, with some rain of consequence around mid-May, and flowering generally went off more successfully than in the previous two vintages; MICHEL ARNAUD from DOMAINE LA MILLIÈRE in the north-west of the appellation, looks after a lot of old GRENACHE, and he told me: “flowering went well; there was very little sense of coulure (flowers failing to convert into fruit) on the GRENACHE, which was encouraging for yields vis-à-vis the past two or three years. With not much rain about in the run-up to flowering, our vines, which are mostly old, were helped by their deep roots, so they could draw on reserves built up during the wet winter and early spring.”

ABUNDANT GRENACHE THIS YEAR

After much reduced crops in 2012 – the February frosts – and 2013 – tired vines still in shock after the 2012 freeze and a lot of coulure on the GRENACHE – growers were ready to embrace higher yields in 2014. The GRENACHE abundance duly came forward, but had to be controlled as well. There was no sense of laissez-faire if the domaine was to make good wine.

A real motivated enthusiast whose work I rate across his various wines (including CÔTES DU RHÔNE, CÔTES DU RHÔNE VILLAGES, CAIRANNE) is ERIC BONNET from LA BASTIDE SAINT DOMINIQUE in the north-east of the appellation near COURTHÉZON. He spoke with gusto about the vintage, telling me: “I adore 2014 – it is a real vintage where the vigneron could express himself: the work in May and June, for example, the vineyard work.

VERY WET JULY 2014

July 2014 was the rainiest July for decades; it had been dry enough up to the end of June for growers to demand the right to irrigate, upon which it promptly rained! If your vineyard was in good state before the July rain, then OK. But later on the rain expanded the grapes and rendered them fragile – it was the opposite of 2015 and its thick skins.”

July marked the turning point in what had been a distinctly promising year. THIÉRRY SABON of CLOS DU MONT-OLIVET referred to the labour intensive vineyard requirements, when stating: “2014 is above all a vineyard year. I did a lot of de-leafing, a lot of soil work to take out weeds and grasses after the rains. I had to keep going back into the vineyard.”

In the north-west towards Orange, LAURENT CHARVIN of the classy, unfettered DOMAINE CHARVIN – one wine, only concrete vat used for the raising – reported in early August as follows: “things are OK. The year was very dry from the end of the winter until early July, but in the past month it’s been quite humid. As for the rain, we have had around 100 mm (4 inches) over the past five weeks since early July. We have work to do to aereate the vines because of the amount of vegetation. There has been hail, a very little mildew on the new small leaves and, as for oïdium we have worked on that.

So the health of the crop is good overall. The GRENACHE looks very good, while the MOURVÈDRE is in good form. Yields can vary on the SYRAH, which happens every two to three years. Days have risen to 30°-31°C, with nights down to 12°-13°C.”

A LOT OF VEGETATION, AND FRAGILE GRAPES

With so much unseasonal rain, and lush vegetation, growers could not afford to relax. PIERRE PASTRE, the brother-in-law of BRUNO LEROY, runs CHÂTEAU FORTIA, and he recounted: “the big problem was the extreme fragility of the grapes and the consequent risk of rot in the case of bad or intemperate weather, be it rain, fog or a lot of dew. We needed a MISTRAL wind to stave off such threats. Our rainfall at FORTIA between 1 January and 8 August 2014 was 600 mm (24 in) – the equivalent of one whole year’s rainfall on average.

As a result, we did a lot of green harvesting, and emerged with between 35 and 40 hl/ha yields. GRENACHE and SYRAH both ripened in their usual time ratio.”

LACK OF MISTRAL WIND TO CLEAN THE VINEYARDS IN 2014

BRUNO GASPARD of CLOS DU CAILLOU also found the relative lack of Mistral wind this year a hindrance. He reported: “we had a vast amount of crop on the GRENACHE, even on the 50- year or 60 year old plants. We had big storms, the weather wasn’t very hot, and we had a cycle of fine weather for four or five days, then a storm, then another four or five days OK, then a storm.

The other lack this year was the MISTRAL – we had very little north wind. There was a slippage between the ripening of the vegetation and the ripening of the bunches, the vegetation keeping going. This year we had to treat past mid August – our copper treatments usually stop around 20 to 25 July. A lot of discarding was needed – at first we had grey rot, which wasn’t a problem, but then it was acid rot – here you have to sniff the bunch and throw it away if it’s bad. We left the equivalent of 350 to 400 hl of grapes on the ground, so our production across all wines fell from 1,900 hl to 1,400 hl.”

Uneven ripening across the GRENACHE presented another headache for the growers, and even greater close-up attention to individual bunches. It helped if you had the resources, be it hands on deck or technical equipment such as optical sorting.

UNEVEN RIPENING

MARC PERRIN from CHÂTEAU DE BEAUCASTEL related the following: “2014 was complicated for the GRENACHE, but as in 2013, both the SYRAH and MOURVÈDRE did well. A lot of vineyard work was required. Green harvesting was necessary, and we were doing a lot of discarding and sorting on the GRENACHE, after its destemming, something we have been doing since 2011. The GRENACHE ripened unevenly, while, thanks to the Indian summer, the 2014 MOURVÈDRE was magnificent, and came in at 13.5°. The wines are beau and balanced. Our crop was at 75% of a good size this year – in 2013 we lost half, so that was an improvement!”

Also at COURTHÉZON, ISABELLE SABON of the excellent DOMAINE DE LA JANASSE related: “there were complications this year, the ripening uneven. Because yields were potentially big, we could seriously discard crop. There will be very attractive wines with good balance. 2013 is more austere than 2014.”

VINCENT AVRIL of CLOS DES PAPES continued his run of very low yield vintages in 2014, and also refered to the uneven ripening. His summary was : “the 2014 colour on the red is light since we lost SYRAH from oïdium, so the final Syrah percentage was 2% instead of 10%. Our yield was 15 hl/ha, against 13 hl/ha in 2013 and 21 hl/ha in 2015. The year was marked by coulure on the GRENACHE again, while its ripening was very uneven – some plants had very evolved bunches, others had pink coloured grapes which had to be left on the ground. The 2014s have kept gaining through the course of their oak raising. The acidity is a bit less than 2013, while we had 100 mm (4 in) more rain than at GIGONDAS and VACQUEYRAS.”

DANIEL BRUNIER of DOMAINE DU VIEUX TÉLÉGRAPHE found that the family domaine at GIGONDAS, LES PALLIÈRES, fared better than the TÉLÉGRAPHE: “it has been a tricky year, with a lot of hard labour,” he told me. “The spring and summer were both difficult. The result is not bad at all: there are some very belle SYRAHs with attractive ripeness, nearly perfectly healthy. The GRENACHE was slow to ripen, and not helped by the rains from the west, and the lack of Mistral to clean things up. Even during the harvest at the end of September we were being stopped by rainfalls of 5 mm (0.2 in) that served to leave the grapes and leaves wet.”

SOME ZONES MORE ROBUST THAN OTHERS

By now, the picture of struggles all across the 3,250 hectare appellation has come through, though there were some places that handled conditions better than others. NICOLAS BOIRON of the good, traditional BOSQUET DES PAPES stated: “we only produced two wines this year – the TRADITION and the CHANTEMERLE VIEILLES VIGNES. Yields were hit by spoilt grapes, with skins very fragile. The location was important this year; take MONT-REDON on the big galet stones [North-West of the appellation] – I harvested that last since that zone can withstand most weathers. The grapes were a little cracked on the skin, but it gave above average concentration.

Another good spot this year was PIGNAN [North-East, quite near the village] on sand and clay – that withstood the climate pretty well, too. The grapes there were more intact than other lieux-dits. A lot of serious sorting was required for the wine sold in bottle. If you had too much crop this year, you ran into problems. There is very joli fruit, a good freshness, and less density than 2013. It’s a vintage to allow four years so it can soften and come together. The wines are deeper than the 2004’s, with a possible comparison to 2006,” he concluded.

LATE RIPENING ZONES: THREAT TO THE HEALTH OF THE BUNCHES

Generally speaking, it was not a good year for late ripening zones in 2014. Any wait for the phenolic ripening – tannins, pips – was accompanied by growing pressure on the fragile skins and consequent rot. BRUNO LEROY of CHÂTEAU FORTIA – their south facing slope of FORTIASSE is an early ripener – told me: “there were problems for those with old vines in cooler, later ripening areas – they were two weeks behind, and with the fog and rain, they struggled for true ripeness.”

Happily at least, vinifications went well, and growers soon found they had supple wines on their hands, backed by mild tannins. Nevertheless, a feeling existed, confirmed to me personally by a few growers, that this was a lightweight vintage, one short on the depth that presumably was required to make Grand Vin. As an unintended consequence, some Prestige cuvées were suppressed, meaning that in places the wheel has turned back to those 1960s vintages, with just one, solidly good wine per domaine.

SOME PRESTIGE WINES NOT ISSUED THIS YEAR

The excellent DOMAINE DE MARCOUX has now issued both 2013 and 2014 in one just one wine, no VIELLES VIGNES in either vintage. Elsewhere, DOMAINE DE LA CHARBONNIÈRE decided to produce no VIEILLES VIGNES nor HAUTES BRUSQUIÈRES, instead making a one-off wine called LE COMPROMIS. Likewise, the DOMAINE DE LA SOLITUDEhave done without some of their Prestige red cuvées in 2014 – no CORNELIA CONSTANZA, no RÉSERVE SECRÈTE, and just possibly a CUVÉE BARBERINI.

PLUMP AND BEGUILING: ALLEZ FINESSE!

2014 is therefore a year when the plump and beguiling virtues of the GRENACHE from the often sandy soils of CHÂTEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE deliver wines of finesse and appealing abundance. With the mighty 2015 looming close-up and personal on the horizon, 2014 will be quickly dismissed and rapidly forgotten. And yet, it is a lovely vintage for the restaurant trade, and will also be a delight to drink when it is around six to nine years old.

A vintage whose early fruit, right out of the vat, also pleased and impressed me was 2006; it also suffered the fate of being rapidly overshadowed by the full-on 2007 vintage and the slow burn but obviously high potential 2005. And yet today, 2006s are wines with a lovely, fluid drinkability, a real singsong in their heart.

SIMILAR FRUIT TO 2006?

FRANÇOIS PERRIN of CHÂTEAU DE BEAUCASTEL agrees with me on the 2006 comparison. He noted: “2014 has 2006 qualities – it is a Nordic year, with lots of  fruit.” PATRICK VERNIER of CHÂTEAU DE CABRIÈRES on the North-west, galet stone plateau concurs: “2014 is a bit like 2006,” he commented; it is good, but both those vintages have been hidden by 2012, 2010 and in respect of 2006 – it was hidden by 2005. Fruit is the main thing about 2014.”

VÉRONIQUE MARET of the high quality DOMAINE DE LA CHARBONNIÈRE, which she now runs with her sister CAROLINE, also suggested a liaison with 2006, when commenting: “like the whites, the 2014 red Châteauneuf has a lot of fruit, with tannin. It is similar to 2006.”

LAURENT CHARVIN of DOMAINE CHARVIN selects 2011 as the perhaps the nearest style: “2014 is a low degree year,” he informed me, “but, apart from that I find it similar to 2011 in that the wines are accessible.” That is certainly true, but I consider the 2014 fruit as being cooler.

SÉBASTIEN JAUME of DOMAINE GRAND VENEUR, not far away from DOMAINE CHARVIN is also generally hopeful for 2014: “there’s not a bad amount of fruit,” he states, “with elegant tannins. I like the vintage, and reckon it will keep as well.”

In his quietly enthusiastic way, EMMANUEL REYNAUD of CHÂTEAU RAYAS had this to say about the vintage: “2014 is beau – the red wines are very profound.”

An estate with 17 plots spread across all points of the compass is DOMAINE PIERRE USSEGLIO & FILS, whose THIÉRRY USSEGLIO reviewed the year as follows: “we produced two wines this year – the TRADITION and the CUVÉE DE MON AIËUL [so no RÉSERVE DES DEUX FRÈRES  from its site next to La Crau].

We found that you had to do a sorting in the vineyard, before the harvest. It is a joli year, with not long keeping wines that have some flesh, deliver pleasure and belle finesse, and drink well now, perhaps a life of five to seven years for our TRADITION, although the MON AIËUL will live longer thanks to the fact that the old vines did well this year.

The TRADITION is back to a normal blend this year – 80% GRENACHE, 10% SYRAH, 5% MOURVÈDRE and 5% CINSAULT, whereas 2013, with all the GRENACHE coulure, was 60% GRENACHE, 25% SYRAH, 10% MOURVÈDRE, 5% CINSAULT.”

CASK RAISING BENEFIT THIS YEAR

Raising has aided the wines, it appears. In October 2015, JULIEN BARROT of DOMAINE LA BARROCHE told me: “the skins, pips, sugars and tannins all ripened together, which is rare, in 2014. My SIGNATURE has expanded since the spring of 2015, has a lot of salinity. We did a lot of green harvesting, which led to early picking; we cleared leaves around 10 August – there had been some rain each week since late June, so you had to aereate the vines. There is great quality of tannin this year.”

When tasting around 150 wines from this vintage, I was struck by the best bearing attractive fat and gourmand fruit, but the less good being dilute – the most likely cause of which was overcropping. So one has to be realistic that this isn’t a great year, but one with plenty of admirable charm. In such vintages, it can often be a good move to buy some of the very best reds, but also go for the whites, a view endorsed by FRÉDÉRIC BRUNIER of DOMAINE DU VIEUX TÉLÉGRAPHE: “it wasn’t an easy year,” he told me, “but I like the red wines well. It is more a white wine than a red wine vintage – it isn’t a Grande Année for Châteauneuf reds.”

BURGUNDY LOVERS MAY ENJOY THIS VINTAGE OF CHÂTEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE

Certainly the best wines at the least will please regular drinkers of Burgundy. Their cool textures and fluid fruit are light years from the sucrosity vintages, the lost wilderness years.

These are properly enjoyable, delightful wines. There is enough depth to be close to genuine Châteauneuf, and they drink really well. They should summon back those drinkers who have rightly despaired at Châteauneuf’s media-inspired obsession with all things sweet and overripe, and its consequent descent away from elegance and the ability to sing in the glass.

I feel that Châteauneuf needs a vintage like this, which is a contrarian stand to take, as it will largely be judged by younger wine writers as being a vintage lacking depth: 2014 can remind wine lovers of the finesse of these noble vineyards.

In terms of fruit style, there are more red fruit wines this year than has been the case in the recent past, which fits with a lighter, below average sun level vintage, though the black fruited wines can be deeper, and more likely to live longer. Both wines from the TAVEL DOMAINE DE LA MORDORÉE, struck down by the tragic premature death of CHRISTOPHE DELORME in early June, were good examples of the stylish, balanced attributes of the vintage. The ****(*) BELLE VOYAGEUSE and the **** REINE DES BOIS are both long, have a little mystery, and can develop well.

The welcome clarity of the vintage has also opened up the access to true terroir wines, with ten STGT (Soil to Glass Transfer) wines. The consistency of STGT wines over recent vintages has been interesting. I exclude the 2013s, for whose tasting I was absent due to illness. One of the really bonny STGT 2014s is the **** CHÂTEAU DES FINES ROCHES, with its free style Grenache expression and a moderate degree of 13.5°. It is also a VALUE wine.

CHÂTEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE RED STGT WINES

2014 12 cool vintage, so clarity for STGT
2012 13 steady ripening, good for STGT
2011 13 sunny bursts, high degree
2010 11 grandiose, climate still on top
2009 17 solar year, hence a surprise
     

THE 2014 PRESTIGE STYLE

This year the more expensive Prestige wines are just that smoother and more refined than the classic cuvées, and extend the drinking date out to the early 2030s. These Prestige wines need leaving until 2018-19, but I expect them to then swing into good action, since there is an open book tendency in this vintage. They will evolve without undue hesitations or close-downs.

On a more cautionary note, there are wines that I find clipped in nature. Examples are the *** LA CONSONNIÈRE and the *** CELLIER DES PRINCES DOMAINE LE MOURRE. Perhaps they indicate the struggle for full ripeness across all the crop. These wines are leaner than most, but can pick up extra flesh over time, even though the tannins are a mite tough.

2014 is not a vintage that cries out for ample oaking; used oak is fine, but new or very young oak will clash with the GRENACHE in such a tender year. One happily rare example of this clash was the *** 2014 CHÂTEAU JAS DE BRESSY, where young oak did not accord with 80% Grenache; 2014 should be a real hands-off vinification and raising year.

LEADING 2014 CHÂTEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE REDS

***** Chât de Beaucastel Hommage J Perrin  2032-35 09/16 mystery, complexity, scope
***** Domaine de la Biscarelle  2031-33  10/15  bulky, intense, naked  
***** Tardieu-Laurent Cuvée Spéciale 2032-34 07/16 harmony, class, grand elegance
****(*)  La Bastide Saint Dominique   2031-33  10/15  full, tasty, vibrant   
****(*)  La Bastide St Dominique Hesperides  2032-33  10/15  uptempo; quality gras  
****(*)  Brotte Château de Bord   2029-31  10/15  relaxed depth, STGT  
****(*)  Château Rayas   2041-43  10/15  serene calm, inner strength 
****(*)  Château Rayas Pignan   2036-39  10/15  strength, concentration, spice
****(*)  Clos du Caillou Les Quartz    2030-32  10/15  expressive, juiced, STGT 
****(*)  Clos des Papes    2036-38  10/15  tasty, cool, sustained  
****(*)  Domaine Paul Autard La Côte Ronde   2027-29  10/15  streamlined, sturdy, scope 
****(*)  Domaine La Barroche Pure   2031-33  10/15  shapely, quiet intensity  
****(*)  Dom de la Janasse Vieilles Vignes   2029-30  10/15  detail, clear, character, STGT 
****(*)  Domaine Lafond Roc-Epine   2030-32  10/15  abundant, long, true  
****(*)  Gabriel Meffre Saint Théodoric   2029-31  10/15  classy, balanced, v tasty 
****(*)  Domaine La Millière Vieilles Vignes  2031-33  10/15  Big, bold, concentrated  
****(*)  Dom de la Mordorée Belle Voyageuse  2030-32  10/15  vigour, juice, freedom  
****(*)  Domaine Saint-Préfert Classique    2030-31  10/15  free content, good progress  
****(*)  Dom Saint-Préfert Auguste Favier   2031-33  10/15  sustained, v long  
****(*) Domaine Santa Duc La Crau Ouest 2032-34 03/18 detail, purity, broad, sustained
****(*)  Dom du Vieux Télégraphe La Crau  2033-36  10/15  intrigue, variety, complexity 
****(*)  F & D Brunier Piedlong et Pignan 2032-34  10/15  suave, scented, comely  
****(*)  Mas de Boislauzon Tradition   2031-33  10/15  genuine punch, rich, long  
****(*) Tardieu-Laurent 2028-29 07/16 spherical, authentic, STGT
****(*)  J Vidal Fleury   2032-34  10/15  expressive, fresh, v enjoyable  
****(*) Dom la Vieille Julienne Trois Sources 2033-36 09/16 finesse, balance, Pinote
****(*)  Vignobles Alain Jaume Le Miocène   2026-28  10/15  tasty, balanced, fresh  
****  Bastide St Dominique Secrets Pignan  2029-31  10/15 bright fruit, gusto, juicy  
**** Chapelle St Théodoric Les Sablons 2029-31 10/16 lissom, spiced, interesting
****  M Chapoutier Barbe Rac   2029-30  10/15  stylish, true, fresh  
****  Château de Beaucastel   2029-31 09/16 spherical, savoury, delicious 
****  Château des Fines Roches   2031-32  10/15  free, clear, STGT, V  
****  Ch de la Gardine Gaston Philippe   2030-32  10/15  crunchy, lucid, oaked  
****  Château Husson Les Saumades   2030-31  10/15  rolling fruit, fleshy gras  
****  Château Maucoil   2027-28  10/15  perfumed,, supple, subtle  
****  Château Maucoil Privilège   2030-31  10/15  sustained elegance, also wild 
****  Château Mongin   2023-25  10/15  polished, true, w.o.w.  
****  Ch Simian Gds Grenachières Hippolyte 2027-28  10/15  gentle depth, unforced  
****  Château de Vaudieu   2029-30  10/15  tight knit, manly, fresh    
****  Château de Vaudieu L’Avenue. . .  2029-31  10/15  cool, bonny, well presented 
****  Clos du Caillou La Réserve   2028-30  10/15  fresh, gutsy, local  
****  Clos du Mont-Olivet   2028-30  10/15  stylish, gradual gain, STGT  
****  Clos de l’Oratoire des Papes   2029-31  10/15  genuine Grenache, STGT  
**** Clos Saint Jean 2036-38  05/19  jolie gourmandise, silken, beau  
****  Clos Saint-Michel Tradition  2026-27  10/15  tasty meatball, gd tannins  
****  Cie Rhodanienne Granges des Papes  2032-34  10/15  firm density, potential  
****  Cuvée des Sommeliers   2029-31  10/15  crunchy, fresh, rocking  
****  Domaine Paul Autard   2027-29  10/15  crunchy fruit, substance  
****  Domaine Juliette Avril   2029-31  10/15  tasty, round, v elegant  
**** Domaine du Banneret 2031-33 10/16 harmony, serenity, STGT
****  Domaine La Barroche Signature   2026-28  10/15  pacy, brio, w.o.w. 
****  Domaine de Beaurenard   2030-32  10/15  abundance, potential, long  
****  Domaine La Boutinière Tradition   2030-32  10/15  streamlined, , southern fire, V 
****  Domaine La Celestière Tradition   2031-33  10/15  character, wild, STGT   
****  Domaine Croze-Granier Le Château   2031-33  10/15  strength, spiced, tasty 
****  Domaine Durieu Lucile Avril    2030-33  10/15  gourmand, grounded  
****  Dom Isabelle Ferrando Colombis    2029-31  10/15  ensemble, style, length  
****  Domaine Grand Veneur Les Origines   2027-29  10/15  fruit-based, serene, broad 
****  Dom Grand Veneur Vieilles Vignes   2027-29  10/15  broad, long, plenty  
****  Domaine de la Janasse   2026-27  10/15  tuneful, precise, defined 
****  Dom de la Mordorée Reine des Bois  2030-31  10/15  creamy fruit, wavy tannin  
****  Ogier La Reine Jeanne   2031-33  10/15  natural, spiced, local 
****  Domaine du Pegaü Cuvée Reservée  2031-33  10/15  Big Production, vigour, charge 
****  Domaine du Père Caboche Tradition   2030-32  10/15  stylish fruit, de la terre vin  
****  Dom Père Caboche Elisabeth Chamb  2027-29  10/15  fresh, balanced, precise, V 
****  Domaine de Pignan    2030-32  10/15  genuine, stylish, STGT  
**** Le Puy Rolland Vieilles Vignes 2028-30 03/18 smooth, juicy, neat, calm, STGT
****  Domaine Pierre Usseglio Mon Aïeul    2029-31  10/15  fresh, savoury, oaked  
****  Ravoire & Fils Olivier Ravoire   2031-33  10/15  juiced, solid, wide  
****  Dom Saint-Préfert Charles Giraud   2029-30  10/15  attractive, open, fleshy  
****  Domaine de Saint-Siffrein   2026-28  10/15  broad, smooth, juiced, true 
**** Dom Santa Duc Habemus Papam 2031-33 03/18 neat gras, fresh, detailed
****  Domaine Serguier Révélation   2030-32  10/15  rocky, direct, scope  
****  La Sousto   2029-31  10/15  sprightly, rocky, good depth 
**** Mas St-Louis Arpents Contrebandiers 2029-30 10/16 notable harmony, spherical
***(*)  Arnoux Vx Clocher Symphonie Galets 2028-30  10/15  smoky, linear, harmony 
***(*) Le Bois Pointu 2027-28 11/15 sweet, garrigue, charm
***(*)  Bosquet des Papes Chante Merle VV   2030-31  10/15  direct, upright, time  
***(*)  Bosquet des Papes Tradition   2027-28  10/15  juicy; smoky tannins  
***(*)  Brotte Domaine Barville   2024-25  10/15  expressive, instant, w.o.w.  
***(*)  Cellier des Princes Les Escondudes  2025-27  10/15  subtle, tasty, harmony  
***(*)  Cellier des Princes Sainte Vierge  2028-29  10/15  assertive drive, honest   
***(*) Chapelle St Théodoric Le Grand Pin 2026-27 10/16 aromatic, shapely, Burgundian
***(*)  M Chapoutier La Bernardine   2029-30  10/15  fluid fruit, vigour, freedom  
***(*) Château de la Font du Loup 2025-26 03/18 detail, softness, floral, natural
***(*)  Château de Manissy    2026-28  10/15  restrained, local, good flow 
***(*) Château de Montfaucon 2026-28 02/16 style, truth, unforced
***(*)  Château Mont-Redon   2027-28  10/15  crisp, clear, needs time  
***(*)  Château La Nerthe   2028-30  10/15  bustling, lively, clear  
***(*)  Château Simian Le Traversier   2024-26  10/15  broad, understated, fluid  
***(*)  Château de Vaudieu Val de Dieu  2030-31  10/15  crunchy, swish, clear  
***(*)  Clos des Brusquières   2029-30  10/15  naked, crisp, time  
***(*)  Clos du Caillou Tradition   2027-29  10/15  spiced, tasty, clear 
***(*)  Delas Haute Pierre   2028-30  10/15  very smoky; free fruit  
***(*)  Domaine Paul Autard Juline   2027-29  10/15  fluid fruit, fresh, oaked  
***(*)  Dom de la Biscarelle Les Anglaises  2031-33  10/15  scaled content, oaked  
***(*)  Domaine du Bois de Saint Jean   2031-32  10/15  full-on, bold, vigour 
***(*)  Domaine de la Charbonnière   2029-30  10/15  trad, unpretentious, STGT  
***(*)  Dom la Charbonnière Le Compromis  2029-31  10/15  free, coherent, v correct  
***(*)  Dom la Charbonnière Mourre Perdrix 2027-29  10/15  free wheeling, fresh 
***(*)  Domaine de la Côte de l’Ange   2029-31  10/15  charged, firm, untamed  
***(*)  Dom Croze-Granier Anciens Pontifes  2026-27  10/15  fluid juice, fresh length  
***(*)  Domaine Durieu Tradition  2028-30  10/15  sweet fruit, chunky tannin  
***(*)  Domaine Font de Michelle Tradition   2030-32  10/15  gutsy, inner strength  
***(*) Dom Galet des Papes Vieilles Vignes 2029-31 10/18 fine, suave, spiced, fragrant 
***(*)  Domaine Giraud   2027-28  10/15  expressive, calm, gainer  
***(*)  Dom Giraud Les Grenaches de Pierre   2030-31  10/15  tight, time to gain flesh  
***(*)  Domaine Giuliani   2023-24  10/15  neat, agreeable, supple   
***(*)  Domaine du Grand Tinel   2030-31  10/15  local, expressive, gd depth  
***(*)  Albin Jacumin Bégude des Papes   2027-28  10/15  dark, smoky, plenty  
***(*)  Domaine de la Janasse Chaupin   2031-33  10/15  direct, local punch, time  
***(*)  Lavau  2029-31  10/15  supple sweetness, clear detail  
***(*)  Domaine de Marcoux   2027-29  10/15  elegant, lucid, gainer  
***(*)  Ogier Bois de Pied Redal   2028-30  10/15  plum fruit, genuine  
***(*)  Domaine L’Or de Line    2024-25  10/15  inky fruit, free drinking  
***(*)  Dom L’Or d Line Cuvée Paule Courtil 2028-29  10/15  obvious, crowd pleaser  
***(*)  Domaine Roger Perrin   2025-27  10/15  compact, quiet local depth 
***(*)  Dom de la Présidente Gds Classiques  2026-28  04/15  pure, clear, Pinot-esque 
***(*)  Domaine Roche-Audran   2029-31  10/15  ripe, sweet, genuine  
***(*)  Domaine Serguier    2029-30  10/15  crisp, decisive, crunchy  
***(*)  Dom Tour Saint Michel Deux Soeurs  2027-29  10/15  flattery, pastille fruit 
***(*)  Domaine Pierre Usseglio   2026-28  10/15  brisk, direct, wire for now   
***(*)  Dom du Vx Télégraphe Télégramme  2028-29  10/15  agile, scented, easy  
***(*) Le Vieux Donjon 2032-35 05/19 aromatic, accessible, floral, supple
***(*) Mas St-Louis La Grande Réserve 2031-33 10/16 broad, well fuelled; toffee-oak
***(*)  Vignobles Mayard Dom Père Pape   2026-27  10/15  orderly, true, fresh  
***  Le Cellier des Princes   2024-25 10/15  soft, plump, early  
***  Cellier des Princes Dom Le Mourre   2024-25  10/15  mild fruit, quiet  
*** Les Cailloux 2029-31 05/19 clear red fruit, savoury, simple
*** Les Clefs d'Or, Jean Deydier & Fils 2023-24 09/16 gliding, smooth, easy
***  Château de La Grande Gardiole   2028-29  10/15  coated, ample, pumped up  
***  Château Jas de Bressy   2029-31  10/15  Grenache versus oak  
***  Château Saint Jean   2025-26  10/15  compact, rather plain  
***  Domaine Berthet-Rayne   2028-29  10/15  direct, fresh, time  
***  Domaine Bois de Boursan   2027-29  10/15  heady, brisk tannin  
*** Domaine Chante Cigale 2023-24 10/17 juicy fruit, fleshy, munchy
***  Domaine La Consonnière    2028-29  10/15  firm, clipped, extra flesh?  
*** Domaine de Cristia Tradition 2025-26 10/16 ripe, savoury, plump, open
***  Domaine de Ferrand   2024-25  10/15  clear fruit, bit tame  
*** Domaine Georges Lombrière Marie 2022 10/17 soft, pure, very drinkable
***  Domaine Jérôme Gradassi    2027-28  10/15  scented fruit, worked on  
***  Domaine Lou Fréjau   2026-28 10/15  loose clarity, oak  
*** Dom de la Mereuille Les Baptaurels 2025-26 03/18 smooth, wavy, local, trad
***  Dom Pères Eglise Calice Héritage  2027-29  10/15  crisp, direct, time  
*** Famille Perrin Les Sinards 2027-29 09/16 supple but workmanlike
***  Dom Roger Perrin Galets Berthaude  2024-26  10/15  grilled, limited scope  
***  Domaine Porte Rouge   2024-25  10/15  sweet style, Steady Operator  
***  Domaine des Sénéchaux   2022-23  10/15  baked fruits, easy going  
***  Domaine de la Solitude   2026-27  10/15  dark fruit, needs fusion  
*** Domaine Tourbillon Vieilles Vignes 2023-24 10/16 gentle, suave, a sweet orb
***  Domaine des 3 Cellier Alchimie   2029-30  10/15  clear fruit, some garrigue  
*** Mas Saint-Louis 2025-26 10/16 gentle, clear; true Grenache
***  Pierre Vidal Cuvée Prestige    2026-27  10/15  rocky cut, mild gras  
***  Vignobles Mayard Clos du Calvaire   2022-23  10/15  easy fruit, simple  
**(*)  Château Cabrières   2022-23  10/15  fluid but simple  
**(*)  Domaine l’Abbé Dine   2024-25  10/15  plain, workmanlike  
**(*)  Domaine Charvin   2025-26  10/15  crunched, Spartan  
         

 

 

THE NORTH AND EAST PART OF THE VAUCLUSE AND THE SOUTHERN DRÔME PERFORMED BETTER THAN THE GARD AND THE WEST OF THE VAUCLUSE IN 2014: THEY HAD MUCH LESS RAIN

4. 2014 CÔTES DU RHÔNE WHITES

2014 white Côtes du Rhônes drink well, and the best have enjoyable gras richness. There is a plump side to the best, and the restraint in degree is another attraction this year.

LEADING 2014 CÔTES DU RHÔNE WHITES

**** Pierre Amadieu Domaine Grande Romane 2027-29 12/15 major joli gras, nuance
**** Chât de Montfaucon Comtesse Madeleine 2018 06/15 aromatic, charming, fine
**** Chât de Montfaucon Madame la Comtesse 2026-27 02/16 stylish gras, salty, long
**** Clos du Caillou Bouquet des Garrigues 2019-20 06/15 serene flow, local
**** Domaine Cros de la Mûre 2019-20 05/16 deft gras, precision, poise
**** Gabriel Meffre Saint-Vincent 2019-20 10/15 genuine, stylish, serene
***(*) Pierre Amadieu Roulepierre 2022-23 12/15 supple, wired gras, salty
***(*) Brotte Esprit Barville 2018 10/15 detail, harmony, precision
***(*) Château Beauchêne Gde Réserve 2017 06/15 pleasing flow
***(*) Château de Saint Cosme Le Poste 2025-26 04/15 joli gras, flows well
***(*) Château Saint-Esteve Tradition 2018 06/15 sturdy, for food
***(*) Château Mont-Redon 2018-19 06/15 fresh, with depth
***(*) Le Clos du Caillou La Réserve  2018 10/15 elegant, supple, detailed
***(*) Domaine Alary Chèvre d’Or 2017 04/15 harmony, graceful
***(*) Domaine des Boumianes 2017 06/15 fresh, beau, unusual
***(*) Domaine Brusset Les Clavelles 2017 04/15 spiced gras, good style
***(*) M Chapoutier Belleruche 2019-20 10/15 good gras, weight
***(*) Domaine La Collière 2020 06/16 stylish gras, character
***(*) Domaine de Dionysos Charline 2018 04/15 pure fruit, fresh
***(*) Domaine des Escaravailles La Ponce 2017 04/15 character, clarity
***(*) Ferraton Père & Fils Samorëns 2019 10/15 neat gras; fine; w.o.w.
***(*) Domaine Fond Croze Confidence 2018 04/15 weight and clarity
***(*) E Guigal 2020 10/15 rounded, good body
***(*) Paul Jaboulet Aîné Parallèle 45 2018 06/15 gd depth, length 
***(*) Domaine La Mereuille 2021-22 10/15 sturdy, good body
***(*) Domaine du Moulin 2019-20 06/15 traditional, compact
***(*) Dom de Piaugier La Grange Piaugier 2019-20 06/15 firm, true, trad
***(*) Dom Le Pointu Cuvée le Vieux Chêne 2021-22 10/15 genuine, character, thorough
***(*) Domaine Roche-Audran 2018 10/15 character, freedom
***(*) Domaine Roche-Audran César 2019-20 10/15 fluid gras, wee oak
*** Arnoux Le Vieux Clocher 2017 06/15 tasty, en finesse 
*** La Bastide Saint Dominique 2018 06/15 aromatic, soft texture  
*** La Cabotte Colline 2017 04/15 stylish fruit, cool
*** Cellier Chartreux Chevalier Anthelme 2017-18 06/15 solid quality, gras
*** Château de Beaucastel Coudoulet 2024-25 09/16 fat, obvious, round
*** Château des Coccinelles 2017-18 06/15 quietly filled
*** Château de Manissy 2017 10/15 spice, free fruit, bit tech
*** Château Terre Forte 2020-21 06/15 firm gras, also fresh
*** Cie Rhodanienne Jean Berteau Prestige 2020-21 10/15 sturdy, low-key, can evolve
*** Domaine de l’Abbé Dine 2018 10/15 soft, supple, aperitif
*** Domaine Clavel Régulus 2017 06/15 lift, life, apero
*** Jean-Luc Colombo La Redonne 2019 10/15 graceful, easy, plump
*** Domaine Corne-Loup 2017 06/15 character, agreeable
*** Dom de la Croix Blanche Prestige 2017 06/15 charm, freshness
*** Domaine Jean David Blanc d Blancs 2018 04/15 direct fruit; dishes
*** Domaine Durieu 2017 06/15 gentle, suave, agreeable
*** Domaine de l’Espigouette 2017 04/15 smooth, has gras
*** Dom des Favards bons moments 2018 06/15 sturdy, well filled
*** Lavau 2017 04/15 soft, easy drinking
*** Domaine de Magalanne 2017-18 06/15 suave, quite rich
*** Domaine des Nymphes Garrigue 2017 04/15 fat, squeezy content
*** Dom du Parc St-Charles L’Impertinent 2017 06/15 supple,sustained
*** Domaine du Pegaü Cuvée Lône 2017 10/15 light, aperitif style
*** Domaine Roger Perrin Prestige 2018 10/15 comfortable gras
*** Le Plan Vermeersch Classic 2017 06/15 neat body, fresh
*** Domaine de la Présidente 2019-20 10/15 compact, sturdy
*** Ogier Artesis 2017 06/15 honey, peach, OK length 
*** Domaine Saint Michel Viognier 2017 06/15

zing, clean, fresh

*** Domaine du Val des Rois Côté Lancé 2018 06/16

clear, aniseed, tight

*** Vignrns Laudun Chusclan 3 Oratoires 2017 06/15 trim, drinkable, apero
*** Vignerons de Tavel Sol’Acantalys 2017 06/15 compact, nice weight
**(*) Dom du Bois de Saint Jean Madame d’Ust 2018 10/15 streamlined fruit, mechanical
**(*) Dom Bressy Masson Rencontre 2018 04/15 grounded, bit stern
**(*) Camille Cayran Pas de la Beaume 2017 04/15 escapist, aperitif
**(*) Domaine Fond Croze Analys 2017 04/15 compact, with power
**(*) Famille Lançon La Solitude 2017 10/15 light fruit, escapist
**(*) Domaine Maby Variations 2017 06/15 confected, high fruit
**(*) Dom des Nymphes oaked cuvée 2018 04/15 gras, oak, abrupt end
**(*) Ortas Les Viguiers 2017 04/15 cooked fruits, low acidity
**(*) Dom du Parc St-Charles Les 3 Coups 06/16 06/15 quiet charm
**(*) Famille Perrin Réserve 2018 10/15 fresh, escapist
**(*) Rocca Maura Tradition 2017 06/15 brief fruit, correct

 

5. 2014 CÔTES DU RHÔNE ROSÉS

A good vintage for Côtes du Rhône rosés: freshness is the key word this year, and when it is backed by sound levels of content, they are wines that will drink well through a meal. The 2014 GUIGAL rosé is a real winner this year, so keep an eye out for that, since it is usually well distributed around the world.

***(*) E Guigal 2018 10/15 shapely, fresh, elegant 
***(*) Domaine Jubain Le Rosé 2017 04/15 STGT, secure depth
*** Domaine des Auzières 06/16 04/15 easy drink, saline
*** Dom des Escaravailles Antimagnes 2017 04/15 joli fruit, fresh
*** Domaine Eyverine 2017 04/15 authentic, gd aperitif
*** Domaine Maby Variations 06/16 06/15 red cherry, smooth
*** Dom de la Mordorée Dame Rousse 06/16 06/15 garrigue influence
*** Dom Philippe Plantevin Le Pérussier 04/16 04/15 soft, neat, joli
*** Dom Rabasse Charavin Rose Prune 2016 04/15 pure fruit, nice juice
*** Domaine Saint Anthelme 06/16 06/15 mild compote fruit
*** Maison Camille Cayran Jardin Secret 2016 04/15 clear, decisive rosé
*** Rocca Maura Tradition 06/16 06/15

sweet, floral

         

6. 2014 CÔTES DU RHÔNE REDS

The quality of 2014 in the ground floor category of CÔTES DU RHÔNE is variable, and reflects the difficulties of the growing season experienced by growers across the southern Rhône. Those areas worst hit by the rain – the west bank GARD département, for instance, and some of the neighbouring areas to CHÂTEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE – suffered dilution.

Meanwhile areas such as CAIRANNE, SÉGURET and the lower DRÔME had at times around 5-10 mm (0.2-0.4 inch) when those more westerly areas were hit by 100 mm (4 inches) – this was especially the case late in the summer.

The north of the GARD and the south of the ARDÈCHE lost 30-35% of the crop due to hail around 20 July – ST MARCEL D’ARDÈCHE, PONT SAINT-ESPRIT were badly hit, for example. One of my favourite CÔTES DU RHÔNE estates, the MAS DE LIBIAN, experienced losses of 80-90% in some of their terraced vineyards.

The crop had been heavy before then, so growers had been obliged to sort and discard ahead of the harvest. However, with the tiny crop of 2013 in their minds and weighing on the red side of their bank balances, it wasn’t as if growers were tempted to roar into the vines and do a lot of severe sorting in the first place.

WEST BANK WOES

The wise and talented RÉMY KLEIN of DOMAINE LA RÉMÉJEANNE commented to me: “we had a lot of rain in July, so what is shaping up this year is for us to make basic wines, but not the top level range of cuvées, and that is what a lot of people will do.” Near RÉMY, losses ran to 35% to 60%.

A lucky outsider – just – from the ravages of the JULY hail was CHRISTELLE COULANGE, who makes attractively fruited CÔTES DU RHONE wines at DOMAINE COULANGE. She told me: “we were on the fringes of the storm – we avoided catastrophe across the valley, just one slope away. The crop had been big before the hail, which lasted 20 minutes on the Sunday afternoon, came in from the south-west and at its worst delivered hailstones the size of ping pong balls at SAINT MARCEL.

Also in the GARD, BENOÎT COMBE of the interesting DOMAINE DU PARC SAINT-CHARLES gave me this resumé of 2014: “April was very hot, but the spring was also very rainy – 10 days of rain instead of two or three, while a cold May meant patchy and uneven flowering. The eventual yield was correct. There was a lot of hard graft to get to the final result, which wasn’t that great – we had to green harvest and discard at harvest time, ripening was very slow, and we were never having it easy.”

THE VAUCLUSE

Across the river in the VAUCLUSE at SAINTE-CÉCILE-LES-VIGNES, which is soon to ascend to VILLAGES status, FRÉDÉRIC PENNE of the traditional DOMAINE MOUN PANTAÏ told me about his year in the vines: “we had a lot of rain through the year, a lot of grasses in the vines with the clay soils, so it was a difficult year. The vines kept producing including during flowering, which wasn’t ideal. The rain in the early season meant that treatments were much needed, things were complicated.

We had hail in June then on 7 August, while there were storms until 10 July. The hail was mainly towards ROCHEGUDE, LA GARDE PARÉOL, SUZE-LA-ROUSSE and TULETTE. We had a 31 mm (1.2 in) storm on 4 October, then Mistral wind which we had been waiting for; there was some rot. The MOURVÈDRE was very good, the COUNOISE had some rot. On the PLAN DE DIEU, we are usually 14°-15°, against 12.6° to 13° this year; strangely the MOURVÈDRE ripened ahead of the GRENACHE, and came in at 13.5°.

ROT PRESSURES

The pressure of rot was never far away, mildew and oïdium rearing their heads. As CHARLES HELFENBEIN at BRÉZÈME, CÔTES DU RHÔNE put it when referring to the tannic ripening: “the polyphenols were very slow to ripen in 2014; once they were ripe, we had only two to three days before a big amount of rot. 2013 was similar.”

As a result, it is a year where one buys only after tasting or following the advice given here. I have actually listed only the 3 star and upwards wines; I did not consider it worth while putting in 2 and 2.5 star wines, of which there are a few dozen.

THE BEST QUALITIES

Top of the tree are wines that have a graceful bearing,  smooth but present tannins, and enough content to go long into an extended finish. Alcohol levels this year are very moderate. The fruit is attractive this year – it is more a question of whether there is enough matter in support. If not, the wines fade or fall away. At times, there is a sense of fragility. Therefore there are wines that should be drunk before 2017 or 2018, and a favoured few with a longer horizon ahead.

PREMATURE FOR LAUDUN TO BE TRYING TO ASCEND TO FULL CRU

I tasted considerable amounts of 2014 CÔTES DU RHÔNE IN April, then June, then October – the last month when visiting CHÂTEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE, and therefore trying the wines from good domaines and often soils next to the great appellation. The struggle for complete ripeness was quite often found, one example being with the two reds from the LAUDUN CHUSCLAN CO-OPERATIVE. I cite this because LAUDUN, under the push and influence of PHILIPPE PELLATON, who is a bigwig in INTER-RHÔNE, is applying for promotion to full CRU status, in the same way as RASTEAU has most recently from the 2009 vintage onwards.

These 2014s are light, peppery and sometimes vegetal: not of a standard one would expect from a full Cru appellation. There is good white at LAUDUN – LUC PELAQUIÉ has long been a star, but there is absolutely no depth or breadth in the appellation - how many domaines can you, dear reader, name just like that? Yes, I thought so.

In the troubled wines, finishes are grainy, and the content fails to carry, progress along the palate being bumpy. Not enough wines in 2014 achieved good balance and a coherent run from trap to line along the palate. Many are stewed, brewed. Pure fruit is at a premium: the struggle for ripeness, in a nutshell.

On a few wines, there was a lot of reduction. So you have to decant. It is laudable to not want a wine to be excessively exposed to air before bottling, but surely CÔTES DU RHÔNE – a wine that you want to knock back without undue effort - should not involve complication when being drunk.

WISE ESTATES ADAPTING THEIR BLENDS TO LESS GRENACHE

As a longer-term theme, I note dropping levels of GRENACHE, as growers contend with the issue of high degree wines. At the CHÂTEAU DU BOIS DE LA GARDE, run by AMÉLIE BARROT of the MOUSSET-BARROT families of CHÂTEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE, the GRENACHE has fallen from 70% to 60%, via an increase in CARIGNAN, SYRAH and even COUNOISE.

At another CHÂTEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE estate, the good, traditional DOMAINE LA MILLIÈRE, the VIEILLES VIGNES, admittedly with an old GRENACHE vineyard from 1939 reduced, is now 50% GRENACHE (from 90%), with SYRAH up from 10% to 50%. And at yet another high ranking CHÂTEAUNEUF property, the DOMAINE DE LA JANASSE, the classic CÔTES DU RHÔNE in 2014 is 40% GRENACHE (has been as high as 70%), 20% SYRAH, 20% MOURVÈDRE (up from 10%), 10% CARIGNAN and 10% CINSAULT (up from 5%). These outward-looking estates are all taking early measures to ensure balanced wines in the future.

As for drinking dates, there are a few that will run for up to around eight years, but the majority are destined for drinking before around 2020 or so.

LEADING 2014 CÔTES DU RHÔNE REDS

**** Clos du Caillou Nature 2019-20 10/15 STGT; long, delicious
**** Dom Berthet-Rayne Vieilles Vignes 2021-22 10/15 jolly fruit, robust
**** Domaine du Grand Tinel 2021-22 10/15 v tasty, stylish, STGT
**** Dom Les Grands Bois Les Trois Soeurs 2018-19 06/15 free, pure, w.o.w.
**** Domaine Guy Mousset  2019 10/15 flavour, fun, w.o.w.
**** Domaine Roche-Audran 2020-22 10/15 genuine, style, character
***(*) Domaine Alary La Gerbaude bio 2020 04/15 fresh, w.o.w.
***(*) La Bastide Saint Dominique 2020-21 10/15 dark fruit, open, honest
***(*) La Bastide St Dominique Jules Rochebonne 2022-24 10/15 full-up, full-on
***(*) La Bastide Saint Vincent  2018-19 06/15 clean fruit, sound depth
***(*) Domaine de Beaurenard 2021-22 10/15 bounty, ample juice
***(*) Domaine Nicolas Boiron 2021-22 10/15 mulled intensity, local
***(*) Cellier des Princes Dom Saint Jacques 2018-19 10/15 scale, filled
***(*) Cellier des Princes Domaine Vaucroze 2019-20 10/15 juiced, rocky
***(*) M Chapoutier Belleruche 2021-22 10/15 style, punch
***(*) Château de Manissy 2020-21 10/15 authentic,  smoky
***(*) Château de Montfaucon 2019-20 02/16 succulence, scent, character
***(*) Clos des Mourres Novice 2020-21 05/16 fine gras, interest, clarity
***(*) Clos du Caillou Le Caillou 2019-20 10/15 supple fruit, Gren purity
***(*) Clos du Caillou Les Quartz 2020-21 10/15 energy, peppery
***(*) Clos du Mont-Olivet A Séraphin 2023-24 10/15 sturdy, fresh, complete
***(*) Clos du Mont-Olivet Vieilles Vignes 2021-22 10/15 lively, bright, good body
***(*) Domaine Charvin 2020-21 10/15 peppery, suave tannin
***(*) Jean-Luc Colombo Les Forots 2020 10/15 tender, fresh, w.o.w.
***(*) Domaine La Collière 2020-21 06/16 squeezy fruit, clear
***(*) Domaine Comte de Lauze 2021-22 10/15 fired up, punchy
***(*) Domaine Durieu 2020-21 10/15 crunchy fruit, vigour
***(*) Domaine Gramenon La Sagesse 2020-21 11/15 tight, grainy, stealthy
***(*) Domaine Grand Nicolet 2018-19 06/15 STGT; character, plenty V*
***(*) Domaine des Gravennes Lou Pitchoun 2018 06/15 expressive, local,  w.o.w.
***(*) Domaine de la Janasse  2019-20 10/15 fresh, with power
***(*) Domaine Jaume 2018 06/15 fluid fruit, spice, length
***(*) Domaine Julien de l’Embisque Plaisir 2017-18 06/15 STGT; spiced gras
***(*) Domaine Lafond Roc-Epine 2019-20 10/15 genuine, well filled
***(*) Famille Lançon La Solitude 2019 10/15 enjoyable, free, up tempo
***(*) Domaine Peysson Bio & Élégant 2019-20 02/16 has a good wild side
***(*) Philippe Plantevin Le Pérussier 2018 04/15 local imprint, clear fruit
***(*) Dom Le Pointu Cuvée le Vieux Chêne 2019-20 10/15 genuine depth, long
***(*) Domaine des 3 Cellier “3” 2019-20 10/15 juiced, interest, local
***(*) Pierre Vidal 2018-19 06/15 lush, bountiful
***(*) Dom de la Vieille Julienne lieu-dit Clavin 2023-24 09/16 spicy, cool, w.o.w. + STGT
*** Château de Bastet Cuvée Nelly 1930 2020 06/16 v high quality Gren, but oak
*** Château de Bastet Ignis Biologique 2018-19 06/16 free run fruit, herbs
*** Château Terre Forte Rouge! 2018 06/15 easy, live, character
*** Domaine l’Abbé Dîne  2018 06/15 spiced, vibrant
*** Domaine Alary La Gerbaude 2020-21 04/15 chewy density, structure
*** Domaine Albin Jacumin Les Bédines 2020 10/15 free, some rockiness
*** Arnoux Seigneur de Lauris V Vignes 2017 06/15 supple fruit, orderly
*** Arnoux & Fils Le Vieux Clocher 2017-18 06/15 compact, OK length
*** Matthieu Barret Petit Ours 2019-20 10/15 supple gras, natural
*** Brotte Esprit Barville 2018 06/15 sound depth, trad
*** Camille Cayran Jardin Secret 2019-20 04/15 solid, rugbyman’s dream
*** Cellier des Dauphins Signature Chêne 2017-18 06/15 very sound, local
*** Cellier des Princes 2019-20 10/15 cool fruit, shapely
*** Cellier des Princes Réserve 2018 06/15 live fruit, OK length
*** Château Les Amoureuses Les Charmes 2018 06/15 red fruit, dark tannin
*** Château d’Aquéria 2017-18 06/15 spiced, honest, local
*** Château Beauchêne Grande Réserve 2017-18 06/15 prune fruit, crisp, interest
*** Château du Bois de la Garde 2018-19 10/15 open, supple
*** Château des Coccinelles 2017 06/15 spiced, unfettered
*** Château Mongin 2017 06/15 skipping fruit, local
*** Château de Ruth Grande Sélection 2019 04/15 full, broad, la table
*** Clos du Caillou Bouquet des Garrigues 2020-21 10/15 intense fruit; power
*** Dom Beau Mistral Cuvée Gastronomique 2019 06/15 chunky, dark
*** Domaine des Bernardins Les Balmes 2017 06/15 character, compact 
***  Domaine Clavel Régulus 2018 06/15 gentle, perfumed
***  Domaine Corne-Loup 2017 06/15 stewed fruit, spice
***  Domaine de la Côte de l’Ange 2019-20 10/15 fresh fruit, peppery
*** Ferraton Père & Fils Samorëns 2019 10/15 easy drink; fresh finish
***  La Font du Vent Les Promesses 2019 10/15 tasty, supple
***  Domaine Giraud Vielles Vignes 2019-20 10/15 small gras, mild
*** Domaine du Joncier L'O du Joncier 2018 06/16 plump, effortless, w.o.w.
*** Maxime-François Laurent il fait soif 2018 11/15 elegant, deft,  true
*** Domaine Maby Variations 2019 06/16 direct fruit, fluid, loose
***  Domaine Martin 2018 06/15 compact, rustic, has gras
***  Domaine Mathieu Château Mar 2018-19 10/15 taut fruit, bit spirity
***  Gabriel Meffre Saint Vincent  2017 06/15 spicy, breezy
***  Domaine La Millière Vieilles Vignes 2019-20 10/15 direct, steely, clear
*** Mourchon 2019-20 03/16 grainy fruit, with glow
***  Ogier Artesis 2017 06/15 supple, local feel
***  Ogier Héritages Elevé Foudres Chêne 2018 10/15 lively, some local
***  Dom Oratoire St Martin Les P’tits gars 2019-20 04/15 juicy, engaging
***  Père Anselme La fiole 2017-18 06/15 traditional, brewed, scale
*** Famille Perrin Réserve 2018 10/15 tasty fruit, tannin
***  Domaine de Pignan 2019-20 10/15 dense juice, high note
***  Domaine Pique-Basse le chasse Coeur 2017 06/15 tasty, immediate
***  Maison Plantevin 2017-18 06/15 lively; dashing fruit
***  Olivier Ravoire 2018 10/15 peppery, easy drinking
***  Domaine des Romarins 2018 06/15 tasty, spiced, grunty
***  Domaine des Romarins C 2018-19 06/15 charged matter, plenty
***  Dom Roger Sabon Rhône by R Sabon 2017 06/15 plum fruit, local
***  Domaine Saint-Andéol 2019-20 04/15 garrigue, table wine
***  Domaine Saint-Préfert Beatus Ille 2019 10/15 quiet Gren, spice, dust
*** Domaine La Soumade 2020 06/16 soft, gentle, agreeable
*** La Suzienne Cuvée Médicis 2019 07/16 old vine gras, oak
***  Domaine Pierre Usseglio & Fils 2018 10/15 cosy, spiced, genuine 
***  Cave La Romaine Terre Antique 2017 06/15 upbeat fruit, fresh 
***  Maison Denuzière Les Septentrionales 2017 06/15 juicy, sound content
***  Vignerons Estezargues Grandes Vignes 2017 06/15 agreeable scented fruit
*** Villedieu-Buisson Dom des Fouquettes 121 2018 07/16 smooth, supple, genuine

  

CHATEAU D'AQUÉRIA'S HANDSOME GATES AT TAVEL: IT WAS ONE OF THE LEADING TAVELS SOLD IN THE USA AFTER THE SECOND WORLD WAR, A LONG TRADITION OF EXPORT, HAVING BEEN DISCOVERED BY THE LIBERATING AMERICAN FORCES

7. 2014 TAVEL

2014 is a good, enjoyable vintage at TAVEL, despite pretty constant travails for the vignerons and vigneronnes during the summer months. Rain kept falling on and off, so there was never one, prolonged, stable stretch of fine weather. However, the result has been wines with good zip and fine, almost tender qualities. They drink well, with things turning out better than expected for the majority of domaines. There are fine examples of STGT wines, as well - so it is a vintage that captures the roots of Tavel well.  

CONSTANT VINEYARD CHALLENGES

Constant work was required in the vineyards, so those with the resources and the commitment came through well. GUILLAUME DUGAS of the always stylish PRIEURÉ DE MONTÉZARGUES told me: “to achieve a result this year you had to work extremely hard in the vineyards. It was a long, exhausting growing season. The summer kept being punctuated by rain, the nights were cool, and there was less sun than usual.

We didn’t start harvesting until very late. We always have low yields, but we did achieve 31 hl/ha this year, with more GRENACHE than usual. The grapes were more delicate than in 2013 due to the successive rainfalls. I had to pick quickly, and made no red wine cuvée this year. The wines are quite generous, have a belle finesse and are also fresh.”

COMPLICATED YEAR FOR GRENACHE NOIR

RICHARD MABY, patron of DOMAINE MABY, where quality is always high, pointed to the GRENACHE challenges this year: “it was a very complicated year, because we had a big sortie of bunches above all on the GRENACHE. GRENACHE becomes fragile if the bunches touch each other, unlike other varieties like SYRAH.

Rain fell on and off through the summer – so you had to green harvest, and also take out leaves as well as bunches. That meant constant work in the vineyards. People who did this were OK, but another setback was poor weather at harvest time which started 6-7 September for us. The grapes degraded fast then, and crop was also ripening at the same time, so you had work fast.

We did all our harvesting [includes LIRAC and CÔTES DU RHÔNE] in 3.5 weeks, instead of five weeks. We had three different discards of crop (triages). It wasn’t at all a year to be machine harvesting, since that produced random, damaged crop in the vats.

This year all the work certainly paid off. There is a bit more acidity than usual, including 2013. During the vinifications, the wines took on less colour than usual. I did a two day maceration on my TAVEL LA FORCADIÈRE instead of one day as a result, and still came out at the low end of the colour scale.

I rate 2014 as my most beau vintage in the ten years that I have been working here.”

LOW COLOUR THIS YEAR, BUT OF LITTLE IMPORT

The relative lack of colour in the wines was also picked up on by PASCAL LAFOND of the DOMAINE LAFOND ROC-EPINE, who gave these comments: “of course the climate was damp, which meant that rot started in September after the rains. Hence a lot of sorting was necessary, although given the rosé vinification, the rot – on skins and pips and so on – mattered less in vinifying the rosé than the red wines.

So it’s an interesting year with less colour than recent vintages. It is perhaps like 2011 in style, and with a bit less concentration and richness than 2012. Alcohol degrees are less than usual, perhaps 0.5° lower, perhaps because we picked that bit earlier with the grey rot developing – we are at 13.5°, or a touch more. We started on 9 September, like many domaines.”

FRESHNESS IS HIGHLIGHTED

In 2009, SÉVERINE LEMOINE of DOMAINE LA ROCALIÈRE took an important decision: she stopped machine harvesting. Her two 2014s are delicious, and carry greater elegance than they have in the past, at least as I cam recall. She gave me her view on 2014: “it is an interesting vintage – the wines have joli fruit, richness of that fruit, and the gras came along faster than in 2013. They attack well, and show good freshness on the finish. Our yield was back to normal, at 43 hl/ha, against 33 hl/ha in 2013. I would love to eat grilled squid and monkfish with my wines. I think spice will come through in the wines with time.”

President of the Growers Union, GAËL PETIT of MOULIN-LA-VIGUERIE makes one of the most authentic, genuine Tavels; his 2011 is now in excellent shape, for instance, and his wines always require pairing with Provençal dishes right across a palette of garlic, herbs, aioli and so on: “I was worn out by the end of operations; I took no holidays and always had to take decisions right though the year. 2014 is a keeping vintage, like 2013, thanks to the acidity-alcohol mix, and the freshness the wines bear.

LES VESTIDES DID WELL

2013 held a bit more alcohol than 2014 – 14.8° in 2013, 14.3° in 2014. The GRENACHE was too abundant, even if you debudded and dropped bunches. It wasn’t a great year for the GRENACHE it suffered from a lot of leaf rot - but the MOURVÈDRE was magnificent, and both the BOURBOULENC and CLAIRETTE were very sympa. The best zone this year was LES VESTIDES, always the last to ripen – it always does well in a wet year due to its filtering soils. [LES VESTIDES is a source for minerality in a Tavel, especially instructive on the finishes.]

There wasn’t a lot of colour in the vinifications, and I didn’t want to extract because their matter wasn’t deeply seated. It promises to be a keeping year; the wines closed in February/March 2015, but have opened since then.”

GUILLAUM DEMOULIN of the refined CHÂTEAU DE TRINQUEVEDEL joined the chorus about the hard work required this year, when commenting: “it is a vintage of the wine grower – a complicated one where constant decisions needed taking, rather than one big decision. Maybe you had to drop grapes early on, discard crop in the cellar in order to achieve good balance.

There was a lack of polyphenolic ripening this year; acidities were high and not falling, with sugars high at 14°. We had two weeks of Mistral wind at the end of August and early September, which cleaned everything up. so then we thought we were in the clear. Colours aren’t very deep, and the wines are fresh, based on elegance, finesse, with a mineral, aniseed aspect.”

I concur with the growers’ view of the vintage; its freedom of expression is appealing, and the best are good and long. The fruit is expressive, and in mid-2015 bouquets were still on the reserve rather than obviously open. Many can do well towards 2018.

The lesser wines have a few holes in the palate, lacking a true compact ensemble. Perhaps these were harvested by machine, and crop sorting wasn’t primo on them. It is a good vintage for traditional Tavel, with enough body linking to freshness that will allow the wines to evolve well, and to perform their most comfortable role – that of being drunk though a meal, holding the finesse to accompany starters, and the body to accompany main courses.

LEADING 2014 TAVEL ROSÉ

****(*) Dom La Rocalière Perle de Culture 2018-19 06/15 STGT; top quality fruit, brio
**** Château de Manissy 2018 06/15 sturdy, complex, fresh
**** Domaine Maby Prima Donna 2018-19 06/15 STGT; muscular, long
**** Dom de la Mordorée Dame Rousse 2018-19 06/15 strength, reach, STGT
**** Domaine de la Mordorée Les Vestides 2018 06/15 superior, ensemble
**** Domaine La Rocalière Le Classique 2017 06/15 seasoned, spiced, STGT
**** Domaine de Tourtouil 2018 06/15 fresh, crisp, spiced
***(*) Château d’Aquéria   2017-18  06/15  neat, harmonious, glow  
***(*)  Château de Ségriès   2018  06/15  expressive, flair, w.o.w. 
***(*)  Compagnie Rhodanienne Les Combelles  2018  06/15  crisp, length, balance   
***(*)  Domaine Amido Les Amandines   2018-19 06/15  solid, good, trad 
***(*)  Dom Amido Les Gourmandines   2017  06/15  compact, crisp, true  
***(*)  Domaine des Carabiniers   2018-19  06/15  concentrated, different 
***(*)  M.Chapoutier Beaurevoir   2018  06/15  inner heart, spiced 
***(*)  Domaine Corne-Loup   2017  06/15  tasty, complete 
***(*)  Domaine La Genestière Raphaël  2018  06/15  broad, vinous, local 
***(*)  E.Guigal   2017  06/15  clear, saline, fruit runs 
***(*)  Dom Lafond Roc-Epine l’esprit R Epine  2019  06/15  grounded, punchy, oak 
***(*)  Domaine Moulin-la-Viguerie  2018-19  06/15  overtly full, sunny  
***(*)  Ogier Héritages   2017-18  06/15  tasty, immediate, genuine 
***(*)  Vignerons de Tavel Les Lauzeraies   2018  06/15  grounded, ample  
***(*)  Vignerons de Tavel Hommage Peinture  2019  06/15  assertive, vinous  
***(*)  Vignerons de Tavel Cuvée Royale  2017  06/15  jam style fruit, honest  
***(*)  Vignerons de Tavel Cuvée Tableau   2018  06/15  fresh, with depth  
***  Cellier Chartreux Les Hautes Roches  2017  06/15  honest, rustic, lush 
***  Château de Trinquevedel  2020  06/15  firm, sinewed, time 
***  Château de Trinquevedel AutremenTavel  2017  06/15  soft fruit, neat  
***  Domaine Maby La Forcadière   2017  06/15  immediate, fresh, go go 
***  Domaine Florence Méjan   2017  06/15  gras, Big Wine 
***  Lavau  2018  06/15  traditional, compact 
***  Dom de la Mordorée La Reine des Bois  2018  06/15  trim, compact, spiced  
***  Domaine Saint Férréol  2017  06/15  up front, flashy  
***  Domaine Le Vieux Moulin  2018  06/15  tight, clear, fresh  
***  Vignerons de Roquemaure Dom Laurent  2018  06/15  good light red wine 
**(*)  Domaine Brice Beaumont  2017  06/15  loose, lacks flow 
**(*)  Domaine Lafond Roc-Epine  mid 16  06/15  tight-knit, abrupt  
**(*)  Domaine des Muretins   2017  06/15  soft; bit short  
**(*)  Le Mas Duclaux   mid 16  06/15  angular, limited  
**(*)  Prieuré de Montézargues   2017-18  06/15  fresh, angular, brittle