At almost any visit to a cellar, in rather serious tones, it is announced that the wine is made in […]Keep Reading
At almost any visit to a cellar, in rather serious tones, it is announced that the wine is made in the vineyard. True enough, grapes are a product of the land from which they come, but the very act of viticulture, let alone turning grapes into wines, a uniquely a human pursuit. Birds and wild boars also love grapes, but you do not see them terracing vineyards or tending vines. An understanding of terroir cannot be complete without including the people who uncover it and nurture it. As important as the various soils of Chateauneuf are to the wines it produces, so are the people who make the wines and farm the vineyards. Perhaps no better representatives of this fact are the Armenier sisters, Catherine and Sophie.
Upon meeting Sophie and Catherine, one cannot help but notice their ease and quiet confidence in a setting that is neither modern nor traditional. Their tasting room is simple and modest, much like their cellar, so that the overall impression you get is one of timelessness. Being located in a rural part of an already remarkably pastoral appellation only reinforces the impression that they operate in an oasis of calm, balance, and poise. So it only makes sense that their wines also share these qualities. While their family’s roots in the region can be traced back to the 13th century, the Domaine is surprisingly new, founded in 1989 but from vineyards that have been in the family for generations.
Domaine de Marcoux was a pioneer in organic and biodynamic farming long before it was fashionable, which is now overseen by Catherine with assistance from Sophie’s son Vincent. They farm about 18 ha in Chateauneuf-du-Pape, 8 ha in Lirac, and a little over 2 ha just north of Châteauneuf, where they make a lovely and nuanced Côtes-du-Rhône. There is a wide range of soil types from sandy soils in Charbonnières, to red clay and galets in L’Arnesque and Les Bouquets, to limestone and marl in Les Esquirons and Beaurenard, to red clay and gravel in Gallimardes, Les Serres, La Crau, and Les Plagnes. They grow Grenache primarily, with an average vine age of 50 years old, with smaller amounts of Mourvedre, Syrah, Cinsault, Roussanne, Bourboulenc, Clairette, and Grenache Blanc.
Their aforementioned modest cellar, the domain of Sophie, is equipped with stainless steel tanks for fermentation and concrete vats for the aging of most of their wines. Some of the Roussanne and a portion of their other cuvées are aged in 350L French oak barrels, the percentage depending on the vintage’s characteristics. In years where the Grenache is both abundant and suitably complex, they make a release their Châteauneuf-du-Pape Vieilles Vignes from their oldest parcels in Charbonnières (on the border with La Crau) and Les Esquirons, in addition to their regular Côtes-du-Rhône, Lirac and Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc and Rouge. Each cuvée begins with hand-harvested grapes that are destemmed and crushed upon reaching the cellar. They are allowed a short pre-fermentation maceration of a few days. Fermentation and maceration last between 2-3 weeks with daily délestage for a gentler extraction. After pressing, the wines are aged primarily in concrete, with a portion of each cuvée aged in 350L barrels and Stockinger foudres. These are wonderfully elegant and balanced wines that showcase the potential for Grenache to be viewed as the Pinot Noir of the Mediterranean.