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Magnum of Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc, Domaine Font de Michelle 2016

White Wine from France - Rhone
A wonderfully elegant white Châteauneuf. Generous and ripe without ever being heavy, thanks to the citrusy edge imparted by the bourboulenc grape’s presence in the blend.
Price: £64.00 Magnum
Price: £384.00 Case of 6
Low stock
Code: RH47654

Wine characteristics

  • White Wine
  • Dry
  • Grenache Blanc
  • 13.5% Alcohol
  • Oak used but not v. noticeable
  • Now to 2023
  • 150cl (Magnum)
  • Cork, natural

Chateauneuf-du-Pape

In many ways Châteauneuf-du-Pape in the southern Rhône just north of Avignon, is the birthplace of the appellation controlée system in France. The Baron Le Roy, owner of Château Fortia, with the co-operation of his peers drew up a set of rules in 1923. Initially the regulations drawn up by the good Baron specified 10 grape varieties which could be used to make the wines, and when official AOC status was conferred in 1936 this became 13, and when revised again in 2009 the number of varieties permitted rose to 18. To be fair, the 18 include variations on varieties rather than adding new ones but it is still a number that represents the pragmatism of the rule-makers in the face of the plethora of grapes used by various growers.

Indeed, although Châteauneuf is famous for its large, heat-radiating galet stones, the soils of the 3,200 hectares of vineyards in the AC are also diverse, ranging from the galets to pebbles, clay, sand, iron-rich limestone, marl, quartzite and sandstone with...
In many ways Châteauneuf-du-Pape in the southern Rhône just north of Avignon, is the birthplace of the appellation controlée system in France. The Baron Le Roy, owner of Château Fortia, with the co-operation of his peers drew up a set of rules in 1923. Initially the regulations drawn up by the good Baron specified 10 grape varieties which could be used to make the wines, and when official AOC status was conferred in 1936 this became 13, and when revised again in 2009 the number of varieties permitted rose to 18. To be fair, the 18 include variations on varieties rather than adding new ones but it is still a number that represents the pragmatism of the rule-makers in the face of the plethora of grapes used by various growers.

Indeed, although Châteauneuf is famous for its large, heat-radiating galet stones, the soils of the 3,200 hectares of vineyards in the AC are also diverse, ranging from the galets to pebbles, clay, sand, iron-rich limestone, marl, quartzite and sandstone with combinations and variations thereof. Almost all are alluvial, deposited by the shifting course of the Rhône over millennia having been left behind by retreating glaciers, and most are what might be described as impoverished. Many growers own land in different parts of the AC and so possess an assortment of terroirs. The land is relatively flat with the highest altitudes being some 120m above sea-level. The most famous vineyard area is Le Crau, which is covered with galets and on which the renowned Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe is among the owners. Some wines are blends across terroirs, but there are an increasing number of single-vineyard or terroir bottlings.

The common factor to all areas is the heat of the growing season, made even more arid by the action of the mistral winds which carry away moisture. Temperatures during the growing season can reach 40oC, and ripeness in the grapes is rarely a problem, particularly in those terroirs where the galets act as storage heaters, soaking up the heat of the day and radiating it back at night. In fact, Châteauneuf-du-Pape has the highest minimum required alcohol level of any AC in France at 12.5%, though in reality most reds reach 14.5% quite easily. Some growers have planted vineyards with a northerly aspect to reduce the effects of the sun. Grenache, syrah and mourvédre are required under the AC laws to be pruned as gobelet or bush vines, without wires or trellises, in order that vine can shade the fruit to some extent and retain moisture within its shade.

90% of Châteauneuf-du-Pape’s production is red, principally utilising grenache noir and often with the support of syrah and mourvédre. The remaining grapes, including white varieties that will make the 10% of production bottled as such or co-vinified with red varieties, are cinsault, counoise, vaccarese, terret noir, muscardin, picpoul noir and blanc, picpoul gris, grenache blanc, grenache gris, clairette blanche and rose, bourbulenc, roussanne and picardin. In theory a producer can use all these varieties in one blend. Château de Beaucastel is one domaine which has used all 13 of the originally specified varieties in their bottlings. Oak is used in reds or whites by many growers to mature their wine though not all do so, and the wood might be new, old, small barrels or huge vats. White wine is made using a variety of the grapes mentioned above. They are usually full-bodied and aromatic, and the best examples can age wonderfully.

With the natural sugars in the red wine grapes being high, it is important that the grapes are allowed to reach phenolic ripeness, in particular that the tannins are balanced. Generally, the vine stems are removed from bunches, and some winemakers use carbonic or semi-carbonic maceration to emphasise fruit flavours.
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Domaine Font de Michelle

The Font de Michelle estate in Châteauneuf-du-Pape was created by Etienne Gonnet in 1950. His sons, Jean and Michel took charge after him and now their own sons Bertrand and Guillaume have taken over in their turn.

Font means ‘fountain’ or in this case ‘spring’; in other words, a sure guarantee of the presence of water in this arid land. The vineyards are very low yielding and most of the work is done by hand, using no artificial fertiliser or insecticides. A more modern approach is taken in the cellar in order to make softer, rounder wines.

Everything is destemmed, as woody elements can create hard herbaceous flavours in the wine. Maceration is gentle under rigorous temperature control. The wines are raised in oak for 18 months, part foudres and part barrel.

Rhône Vintage 2016

The verdict of all the growers we asked? ‘Exceptional.’ The weather remained perfect at harvest time and growers had the luxury of being able to pick as they pleased, optimising ripeness, plot by plot. One grower referred to the fruit at harvest time as in ‘demonstration mode’: the crop was immaculate and ripeness complete. Even the stalks that often remain green, had, in many cases, turned brown! The wines really are that good, in both the north and the south – the latter boasting some remarkable successes, especially in Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

The Northern Reds

These wines are bright and sleek, and have a wonderful density and purity of fruit, fine, well-integrated tannins and perfect balance. Despite the quality, it was not quite plain sailing in the north: Hermitage was hit by hail in April, in some cases halving the crop. Thankfully, the vines themselves were not too damaged and the wines, if anything, are even more concentrated as a result. Everywhere is good but Saint-Joseph, with...
The verdict of all the growers we asked? ‘Exceptional.’ The weather remained perfect at harvest time and growers had the luxury of being able to pick as they pleased, optimising ripeness, plot by plot. One grower referred to the fruit at harvest time as in ‘demonstration mode’: the crop was immaculate and ripeness complete. Even the stalks that often remain green, had, in many cases, turned brown! The wines really are that good, in both the north and the south – the latter boasting some remarkable successes, especially in Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

The Northern Reds

These wines are bright and sleek, and have a wonderful density and purity of fruit, fine, well-integrated tannins and perfect balance. Despite the quality, it was not quite plain sailing in the north: Hermitage was hit by hail in April, in some cases halving the crop. Thankfully, the vines themselves were not too damaged and the wines, if anything, are even more concentrated as a result. Everywhere is good but Saint-Joseph, with its steep granitic slopes tempering the ardour of the vintage, performed particularly well.

The Southern Reds

Perfection! From beginning to end, nothing went against the 2016 harvest in the south. There was heat and rain when it was needed and not a drop more! The wines are a joy. They have weight and concentration to be sure, with tannins that are fine and well integrated, and yet they also have real lift and charm. Châteauneuf is outstanding but then so is everything else. This will be one to savour over many years to come.

The Languedoc-Roussillon
Fantastic wines with classicism and purity of expression, plus a wonderful balancing freshness that really seems to be the signature of this vintage.

The Whites

The cool summer nights helped to preserve the fruit in the white wines, too, and they are excellent: full of flavour and concentration (especially in hail-affected Hermitage), but also purity of fruit and invigorating freshness. The Condrieu wines are wonderful, opulent yet focused, and the Saint-Péray and Crozes-Hermitage whites also stand out for depth and grace. In general, the whites are likely to keep well too.
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2016 vintage reviews

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