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Vinification, Tales of Maternity, and Identity in Châteauneuf

Julien Barrot has six "baby" vats of Châteauneuf, each with its own distinct personality.

Posted: Oct 21, 2008 2:19pm ET

By Julien Barrot

Posted by Julien Barrot

Six vats of my Domaine la Barroche 2008 Châteauneuf-du-Pape are fermenting in the cellar, in other words, six babies are in incubators … some are precocious, some take their time, and others don’t miss a beat.

Our vat of Mourvèdre is still at 7 grams of sugar; alcoholic fermentation hasn’t finished yet. … We’re continuing with light pump-overs every day, every other day with air, which you can see us doing in the photo. Light aeration of this variety helps to avoid reduction (in our crude winegrower jargon we often say "stink," but that’s far less poetic!)

Our Mourvèdre is in our gorgeous truncated cement vat. We punch the cap daily (the old way—with hard, physical effort). The color is very intense, which strangely enough came on much later. It’s full and round in the mouth with lots of freshness and fruit—a little cherry flesh—finishing with a burst of spices. I’m really satisfied with this baby, even though I’m sure she hasn’t revealed all her potential … I wouldn’t be surprised if we ran off the wine in November.

Another beautiful baby is our vat of Syrah that goes into the Fiancée cuvée. This is the first time in the history of the domaine that the color has been so intense. (It’s also due to the fact that we usually vinify the Grenache at the same time.) More precocious than the others, it’s the only wine we’ve run off so far. On the palate there’s a medley of beautiful ripe black fruit, accompanied by a pronounced floral character. It’s fresh with crisp acidity on the finish.

Our young vines of Cabrières and Pialon that go into our Terroir cuvee are in another vat. There are notes of cherry, blueberry and a gorgeous bouquet of garrigue. Only a few days ago it was still "warm" in the mouth (a nice way of saying that the alcohol was quite present), but today this wine has settled down and given way to harmonious balance. We’ll probably be running this one off Thursday morning.

One vat is a blend of three equal parts—Grenache, Syrah and Cinsault. This is the kind of wine we’d like to have more often. She’s beautiful. All we’ve had to do is stir from time to time. In other words, this is the baby that always smiles and never cries. The tannic structure is balanced, round and suave with aromas of black currant, cherry and spices. After almost 30 days of maceration, it’s now ready to be run off.

Another vat, which goes into the blends of Signature and Fiancée, contains exclusively 100-year-old Grenache. She’s far from being ready (and yes, a lady takes her time before going on stage). We’re continuing to pump over just to keep the cap wet at a temperature of 79° F. In the mouth, this wine is characterized by acidulous notes of red fruit, red currant and raspberry.

Finally, one of the vats is filled with Grenache from Grand Pierre for our Pure cuvée. You can feel its presence, with loads of cherry notes, a nice hint of pepper and plenty of fat. The only thing missing is a "patina" quality that we try to get each year.

And that’s the story of our "babies" in 2008. It’s one that presents very different, very interesting personalities.

Au revoir for now, and let’s all meet up again in a few months for a tasting of the 2008 futures, and we’ll see how these more or less turbulent children have evolved!

Pauline Decloedt
canada —  October 22, 2008 12:32pm ET
Julien - thank you for a peak into your cellar - my cellar has bottles of 2005 Reserve, Fiancee and Pure thanks to Marquis Wine Cellars in Vancouver, B.C., Canada. When do you suggest to drink these wines? I look forward to many more years of your wines being available here.Au revoir, Pauline DeCloedt, Vancouver, B.C.
Rob Dobson
Regina, Sask. —  October 28, 2008 11:37am ET
Thanks for sharing these insights Julien. I believe that your wines are vastly underated. The more I learn about them, the more I will understand and enjoy them.

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