While Domaine du Vieux Donjon is heavily exported and renowned abroad, in France it’s something of a hidden secret. Their website remains bare and social network accounts relatively silent, yet they produce one of the finest reds in Châteauneuf.
This domain was created by Marcel Michel, father of Lucien Michel who is gradually passing the reins to his daughter Claire (who arrived in 2007). For many years, the vineyard sold its wines to the region’s powerful négociants but in 1966 the Michels started to bottle their own wine. Lucien Michel and his wife Marie-José took over the property in 1979.
The Vieux Donjon vineyard covers 15 hectares, with 14 cultivated for red wine and just one for white. Two thirds of the red vines are planted on a classic terroir of galets roulés, with the remainder planted across a mix of terroirs. The average age of the vines is more than 50 although many of the Grenache vines are closer to 100! The Syrah and Mourvèdre vines are around 30 years old. Current cultivation techniques closely resemble organic practices and vinification is highly traditional but refrains from imposing a specific style. The grapes are de-stemmed meticulously, but only partially depending on the year, the juice is fermented with indigenous yeasts, vinification takes place in concrete vats and the wine is aged for 12 months in foudres.
Nothing but classic will do for this very traditional Châteauneuf that is much in demand the world over (but only distributed in small quantities in France). In fact, 95% of its production is sold abroad. Vieux Donjon wines are a must in this appellation and still sell at a reasonable price.
16++/20 Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2012
Vineyard soil: galets, sand, clay-limestone. Lieu-dit: Le Pieds Long, Boursan, Pied de Baud, Carbrieres, Mourre de Gaud. Grape varieties: 75% Grenache, 10% Syrah, 10% Mourvèdre, 5% Cinsault.
Warm notes with a bit of cumin. Lots of strawberry fruit and very insistent tannins and dryness dominate the fruit. Hot finish.
A relatively unknown wine in France, where it is rarely distributed, this Châteauneuf-du-Pape is all the rage abroad, with critics having already homed in on this exclusive Rhône area. Composed mainly of Grenache grapes from old vines, this wine is extremely elegant and reveals notes of fresh red berries and refined, delicate tannins. The finish is extended with notes of fresh fruit and spices. To produce this wine, 50% of the harvest is destemmed and vinified traditionally. All grapes, with the exception of Mourvèdre, are fermented with native yeasts. Vinification is performed in concrete vats, with maceration lasting about 25 days and élevage in wooden tuns for a year and a half. An ultra-rare wine in France: miss this at your peril.