Châteauneuf-du-Pape is the historic and beautiful wine region of France’s Southern Rhone Valley. It is rich in history and the wines that it produces can be among the very best in France and the world. Typically, it is a region known to produce wines that are bold and full-bodied, but they also make wines of great finesse. Last year, we were lucky enough to tour and taste at Chateau de la Font du Loup, one of the top producers of the more elegant style CDP wines.
We met with winemaker Laurent Bachas on a cool, rainy day in November. With harvest complete, he was gracious enough to show us around their beautiful estate situated on one of the highest points in Châteauneuf-du-Pape which also features both a castle and a fountain. “Font du Loup” translates to “fountain of the wolf”, and Laurent explains that the name was derived from a local legend, “it is said that the wolves of Mont Ventoux, would come down into the plain and drink here from the springs.”
Laurent’s wife Anne-Charlotte Melia runs the commercial aspects of the winery which has been in her family since 1942. The Melia family were long-time growers until 1979 when they started producing their own wine. Today, Laurent and Ann-Charlotte have enlisted the help of consulting winemaker Philippe Cambie, one of the world’s greatest living oenologists, and the results are both impressive and gaining worldwide acclaim.
Font du Loup has 20 hectares of land under vine located in the Courthézon area of the appellation on the north side of La Crau. La Crau is truly hallowed ground in Châteauneuf-du-Pape and is considered the tenderloin district of the region. On the north side, the soil composition is made of up sands and because of the finer soil the result is a much more elegant wine, “From a technical point of view, the sand is not normally conducive to the development of the vine because it retains the water poorly. But at Font du Loup, in addition to the famous source that brought down the wolves to drink, there is a large table just 50 metres underground.” The estate grows Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault and Mouvedre of the red grape varieties and Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, Clairette and Bourboulenc of the white varieties.
Of the 20 hectares of vines, 19 hectares are used to produce their 4 red wines and 1 hectare is used to produce their lone white wine. Their vines average 60 years old with a small portion of vines over 100 years old. Everything is hand harvested and 100% organically farmed. According to Laurent, “In our winery and in our vineyards, we favour natural responses to natural problems.” For example, during fermentation all yeast is indigenous and naturally present on the skin of their grapes or in their cellars, and they never add commercial yeasts.
While the red wines that make up some 94% of the region’s production are largely full-bodied and a more fruit forward expression of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Chateau de la Font du Loup is successfully showing the other side of the spectrum of what the region can offer—a lively, exuberant yet elegant wine that is not what many would think is typical of the region. While there’s definitely a place for both styles in our cellar, when we do crave a wine of elegance from Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Font du Loup will be top of the list.
2014 Chateauneuf du Pape Blanc
This blend contains 35% Grenache Blanc, 35% Roussanne, 20% Clairette and 10% Bourboulenc. This is an incredible wine! The flavours are incredibly intense. Citrus fruits of lemon and lime combine with plenty of honeydew melon and hints of orange zest. The body is medium but the texture is rich and mouth filling. Medium acid on the finish keeps everything well delineated and keeps the balance precise. Demonstrates just how strong white Chateauneuf can be and one of the best examples we have had.
2015 Les Demoiselles du Font du Loup
A blend of equal parts of Grenache and Syrah from young vines, aged 5 to 15 years. This wine with its light red colour indicates the young vines and shows the freshness of youth. This is the style wine that rewards early consumption and would be a great match with casual BBQ fare. Black cherry flavours are backed with grippy tannins.
Very Good +
2014 Chateauneuf du Pape
The blend for this cuvee is 65% Grenache, 20% Syrah, 15% Mouvedre and 5% Cinsault. The vines for this wine average 60 years of age. Sweet red fruits (think strawberry and bing cherry) make this a pleasure-driven and very food friendly wine. We usually enjoy our red Chateauneuf du Papes more in the winter, due to their size. But the balance and finesse of this wine make it great for drinking year round. A bit of swirling brings about notes of Kirsch on the finish. An elegant and stylish CDP.
2013 Le Puy Rolland
100% Grenache from 100 year old vines. 2013 was generally regarded as difficult in the region, then surely this must be one of the best wines of the vintage. Kirsch and macerated bing cherry combines with with cracked pepper and hints of herbs to deliver complexity and a mineral-laced finish. The medium body is soft and round and the style is fruit-driven and fresh. On point now but has the balance to age well, too.