Château Mont-Redon is one of the oldest and largest estates in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Owners Jean Abeille and Didier Fabre (cousins) currently oversee the production from this 459-acre property (234 acres are under vine), enviably located in the northwest corner of the appellation, on the Mont-Redon plateau. The estate has shipped its wines to the U.S market since 1945, making it one of the earliest producers in the appellation to reach these shores.
The Mont-Redon plateau sits at the same altitude as the famed La Crau sector. It features a similar terroir of large rolled stones on the surface, though the deep, red clay beneath distinguishes it from the sandier, pebbly soils of La Crau. The resulting wine is typically more forward in style, with a rounded, fruit-driven profile as opposed to the garrigue-driven grip of wines from La Crau.
With an average annual production of 30,000 cases and just one cuvée of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Château Mont-Redon is one of the more prominent estates in the U.S. marketplace. It’s also one of the more modestly priced, with new releases typically in the $40 range.
I was recently afforded the opportunity to taste through a vertical of some of Château Mont-Redon’s top vintages. Overall, the 11-vintage vertical displayed a remarkably consistent house style, more red fruits than black, more perfume than outright fruit, and long, stylish, sandalwood-tinged finishes.
With its belief in the one estate, one cuvée theory, Château Mont-Redon is, on the surface, a squarely traditional estate. But there have been some subtle changes here in recent years that push them into the "slightly modern" camp. The grapes are still destemmed entirely and fermented in cement vats. But since 1990, the élevage has been half in cement vat and half in small barrels (as opposed to large foudres) – the barrels being the shift. The barrels are split evenly among a range of new to four-year-old vessels, resulting in a slight, albeit noticeable new oak influence.
In addition, the composition of the wine has changed as well. Prior to 1990, the wine was at least 80 percent Grenache, with the remaining made up of Syrah and Mourvèdre. Since 1990, as new vines were added to the estate’s production, the amount of Grenache dropped to two-thirds of the blend, with Syrah and Mourvèdre increasing, along with Cinsault, Vaccarèse and others.
With the addition of some new oak and the shift in varietal composition, more recent vintages show a slightly darker fruit profile with a noticeable graphite streak. Yet overall the wine maintains its fresh red fruits and elegant spice and floral notes as Vaccarèse provides pronounced acidity, while the Syrah adds a floral hint.
Though I wouldn’t place Château Mont-Redon among the elite producers of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, the vertical did demonstrate that the domaine provides remarkably consistent very good to outstanding quality. And in the rush for the more powerfully rendered, micro-cuvées that now proliferate throughout the appellation, Mont-Redon’s consistency and style may be easily overlooked.
As the tasting notes below demonstrate, the wines also age well—the sweet spot of vintages at the 10- to 20-year window were the strongest of the flight. The bottles were supplied by the domaine and were tasted (non-blind) in my New York office without anyone from the winery present.
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Château Mont-Redon Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2005 (89 points, non-blind) Very focused, with a tight, graphite-framed palate of red currant, crushed plum and spice cake. Incense note weaves in and out, with fine-grained grip framing the finish. This has fleshed out a touch since release. Drink now through 2014.
Château Mont-Redon Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2001 (89 points, non-blind) Shows secondary notes already, with hints of bittersweet truffle, cedar and shaved vanilla, backed by dried currant and cherry fruit. The velvety finish lets the truffle and earth notes linger. Tasty, though not as vivacious as the top wines in this vintage. Drink now through 2013.
Château Mont-Redon Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2000 (89 points, non-blind) Mature and open, with inviting coffee and cocoa powder notes backed by warm fig paste and incense hints. The long, supple finish lets mesquite and iron notes check in. Shows the rich, rounded quality of the vintage. At its peak, but should hold for a few years. Drink now through 2012.
Château Mont-Redon Châteauneuf-du-Pape 1998 (91 points, non-blind) Mature but still plenty ripe, with the core of red currant and damson plum fruit still nicely wound, while mesquite, sandalwood, saucisson sec and dried blood orange notes weave in and out. Lengthy and refined, with nice buried acidity. Drink now through 2014.
Château Mont-Redon Châteauneuf-du-Pape 1995 (90 points, non-blind) Shows the chewy edge of the vintage, with burly tannins guiding the dark currant, braised fig, bittersweet cocoa and black tea notes. Dried orange and clove notes help extend the slightly tarry-edged finish. This has textbook vintage character. Drink now through 2013.
Château Mont-Redon Châteauneuf-du-Pape 1990 (92 points, non-blind) This has a gorgeous nose, with blood orange, clove and dried fruitcake notes leading the way for the mature, supple palate of macerated red currant and hoisin sauce notes. The long, smoldering finish has impressive cut. At its peak and showing very well. Drink now through 2012.
Château Mont-Redon Châteauneuf-du-Pape 1989 (91 points, non-blind) Shows the heat and ripeness of the vintage, with a note of torrefaction up front, backed by mature roasted plum, braised fig and currant confiture notes. This still has a juicy underpinning, with clove and date notes moving in. Drink now.
Château Mont-Redon Châteauneuf-du-Pape 1978 (90 points, non-blind) This has a lovely brick-garnet color, with very mature notes of almond tuile, sandalwood, dried blood orange and dried cherry fruit, laced with lightly dusty tannins and followed by a long, mineral- and date-tinged finish. There's more length than depth in the end, with a faint drying note at the very end. Drink now.
Château Mont-Redon Châteauneuf-du-Pape 1970 (89 points, non-blind) Rusty orange in color, with nice cut to the dried orange peel, date and incense notes. A backdrop of sandalwood, charred mesquite and iron lets the very mature dried fruit notes weave in and out. A touch firm, but hanging on very nicely. Drink now.
Château Mont-Redon Châteauneuf-du-Pape 1967 (88 points, non-blind) Very mature, with date and brown sugar notes leading the way for a very elegant palette of dried persimmon, mesquite, clove and licorice root, followed by a sous bois finish. Fades a bit with air. Drink now.
Château Mont-Redon Châteauneuf-du-Pape 1966 (88 points, non-blind) Dried orange peel, date, green tea, mulled cider and firm sandalwood notes are held together by a streak of roasted earth in this fully mature wine, with a twinge of slightly drying grip holding on as well. Drink now.
Morgan Dawson — Rochester, NY — October 9, 2009 12:53pm ET
Colin Haggerty — La Jolla, California — October 12, 2009 10:04pm ET
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