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Mighty Féraud

At Domaine du Pégaü, Laurence Féraud's 2016 Châteauneuf-du-Papes are treasures in the making
Pégaü's vineyard plots in Châteauneuf-du-Pape include this parcel in La Crau.
Pégaü's vineyard plots in Châteauneuf-du-Pape include this parcel in La Crau.

Posted: Jul 6, 2018 10:00am ET

It would be hard to top yesterday's trio of 2016 Châteauneuf lineups at Domaine St.-Préfert, Domaine de la Vieille Julienne and Château de Beaucastel. But looking at the lineup on my schedule for today, it should give them a run for their money.

I started with Laurence Féraud at Domaine du Pégaü. Ebullient and talkative from the start, Féraud hasn't changed much over the years. Well, some things have changed. During my first visits here in France's Southern Rhône Valley, the winery was a bit ramshackle. As I drove up today, I found myself behind a busload of people entering the winery for a big group tasting in the new tasting room and offices. Laurence smiled at me as they walked in …

The vigneron added a 99-acre block of vines in 2012, just outside Sourgues. These 70-year-old vines had been farmed conventionally and harvested by machine; Féraud changed all that. They've become the backbone for her Château Pégaü line that includes a dark, winey and slightly sauvage 2016 Côtes du Rhône Maclura and a more refined and pure Côtes du Rhône-Villages Setier (the vineyard straddles the two appellations). Féraud makes the wines as she does her Châteauneuf cuvées, with whole-cluster fermentations, giving them extra pepper, bay and garrigue notes.

"Since 2015 I see the changes in the wines," says Féraud of converting to organic farming and hand-harvesting. "They are better-defined and fresher."

As for the Châteauneufs, Féraud recently added another 6 acres of land in the AOC, though it is yet to be planted. When it is, it will bring her total to 58 acres.

And as usual, Féraud marches to the beat of her own drum, preferring the 2015 vintage to the widely lauded 2016s. "[The 2015 vintage] is a cooler style, like '10, for me," she says. "'16 reminds me of '98. '15 for me is perfect, and I would age the wine longer in the bottle than '16. The '16 for me is a bit too much alcohol."

The 2016 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée Réservée is racy and intense, with saturated cassis, plum and anise notes and a lush yet racy finish. I don't see the alcohol sticking out—it's in line with the vintage profile for me, and a terrific wine. The 2016 Cuvée da Capo bottling is a large-scaled wine in the making, loaded with sappy kirsch, plum and red licorice notes. It's got a tightly focused structure and a superlong finish driven by tobacco, roasted cedar and brick dust accents that mark the house style here.

As we taste, Féraud's phone rings, and I can hear her father's voice booming over the line. A quick and animated conversation ensues, and when it's over, Féraud laughs. "My dad is in the vineyard. We had to put him to work! The weeds are this high after all the spring rain," she says, gesturing to her shoulder.

There may be busloads of tourists arriving now, but the more things change at Pégaü, the more they stay the same.

Up next: Domaine Giraud

Follow James Molesworth on Instagram, at instagram.com/jmolesworth1, and Twitter, at twitter.com/jmolesworth1.

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