Often the phrase “winemaking consultant” generates a little eye rolling from us, because so often consultant winemakers, when they get successful enough to be famous, do little more than look at a few sheets of lab results and stamp their winemaking signatures, cookie-cutter style, onto dozens of different wines.
But this has never been Xavier Vignon’s style, and when he had a chance to make his own wines, he really started to show his individuality and unique approach to this famous terroir steeped in tradition.
As the brains behind big name estates like Chateau la Nerte, Grand Veneur, and Chateau la Gardine, Xavier Vignon has serious chops, but also likes to have fun, and his higher end blends show that irreverence – some are non-vintage, multi-vineyard blends, and they’ve gotten huge scores from major critics like Robert Parker.
But he also uses his access to world-class fruit (he takes some of his fee in the form of grapes) for his less expensive cuvees like his 2012 Cotes du Rhone, which was made from fruit selected from over 100 plots, including 65% Grenache from more than 80 year old vines, 25% Mourvedre from more than 60 year old vines, and 15% Syrah from more than 45 year old vines, mostly from the Vaucluse area. The Grenache plots come mostly from the northern part of Vaucluse near the Dentelles de Montmirail, the mountain range at the foot of Mont Ventoux, the highest peak in Provence, while the Syrah and Mourvedre come from more south-facing parcels.
Each grape variety is fermented and matured a little differently to bring out its unique character in various sizes of concrete tanks. This slightly more involved version of a traditional fermentation method gives this Cotes du Rhone a much finer, more sophisticated tannin structure than you often find from this region. It’s part of what distinguishes this Cotes du Rhone from the oceans of “just OK” wine this region pumps out, and what will make you regret all the times you settled for mediocre Cotes du Rhone.
You’d expect nothing less from such an experienced winemaker putting his own spin on a classic style.