This stunning selection of John's personal favourites contains two bottles of each of the following wines.
Vilmart Grand Cellier
Over the last few years, Vilmart has earned some extraordinary reviews; the N/V Grand Cellier being rewarded 95 points by the Wine Spectator, equal top with both Dom Perignon and Cristal! Given the Grand Cellier is almost a quarter of the price of those two illustrious Champagnes, which is some achievement!
2016 Chateauneuf du Pape, Domaine Giraud
If there is a harder working team in the village, I have yet to find them. Marie Giraud, along with her marathon running, mountain climbing brother, Francois, never stop. Like Julien Barrot, they took over from their father Pierre in 2003. With the family wines being sold off to cooperatives in bulk up until 1998. If you are searching for elegant and finesseful Chateauneuf-du-Pape, look absolutely no further than Domaine Giraud. The meteoric rise in Domaine Giraudsâ€™ reputation, as well as the extraordinary accolades that have been bestowed upon the estate, are a testament to their combined dedication, perseverance and skill.
2014 Chateauneuf du Pape, Cuvee Reservee, Domaine du Pegau
Run by the tenacious and driven Laurence Feraud who is a fervent proponent of the most traditional wine-making styles of Provence and Rhone. Pegauâ€™s style is a throwback to another era when the keeping of grape stems for fermentation and long barrel ageing was the norm. Nowadays, few estates in Chateauneuf-du-Pape keep their stems, preferring their wines to be more easily accessible when young. Pegau is classic old school Chateauneuf-du-Pape at its finest. The Cuvee Reservee is wonderfully structured but has tempered and rounded with age to present powerful yet soft tannins, spicy notes and rich deep fruit. Rustic notes of Garrigues on the nose along with aged aromas of deep plums, leather and earthy spice. These wines are the perfect partner to a variety of gamey meats and blue cheeses.
2014 Chateauneuf du Pape â€˜Signatureâ€™, Domaine La Barroche
Domaine la Barroche is one of the impressive ChÃ¢teauneuf producers who have emerged on the wine scene here. Ironically, itâ€™s also one of the oldest properties, with a family that's been in the region since the 1400s. Since 2002, this 14-hectare estate is run by the impish, ever-smiling and cheeky, Julien Barrot, along with his sister Laetitia. The last 15 years or so have been momentous for both of them. In the short time that Julien has been at the helm, the wines have taken flight as some of the best in the area and laurels and gongs have been heaped upon his shoulders - deservedly so.
2014 Gigondas, Domaine La Bouissiere
Owned and run by the thoughtful and gentle Thierry Faraval, Domaine de la Bouissiere produces some of the most elegant, yet complex wines in the Rhone valley. Often mentioned in the same breath as other legendary Gigondas estates such as Chateau St Cosme, Thierryâ€™s reputation speaks for itself. Whilst other growers reap awards from so-called â€˜punditsâ€™ for their highly extracted, mouth-filling wines, Thierry produces wines brimming with vibrant fresh fruits and mellow tannins. Nothing from this winemaker is ever done without the utmost care and consideration.
[2014 Bandol Cuvee IX, Domaine Gros Nore
With the help of his brother, Guy, Alain Pascal works 16 hectares of vines dotted around the hillsides of Cadiere dâ€™ Azur. Farming, one suspect, is intuitive to Alain as is the process of making wine. One follows the other in a natural way: there is little need for an oenologue here. 80% of his red Bandol is made from Mourvedre (the appellations permits a minimum of 50%), with a little Grenache and Cinsault. Ageing is as old as the hills, certainly in this area: 18 months in old, giant foudre. No filtration, no clarification: the wine makes itself. It would be easy to think that Alainâ€™s wines were chunky and brutal but they are not. There is a class here, a complexity that reveals itself with time in the glass. Alainâ€™s wines are as good as anyoneâ€™s in Bandol, just different and honest, like Alain.
The Cuvee, now named Cuvee IX (after the foudre number) is remarkable! Extremely perfumed, and pure. It is made from 95% Mourvedre with an average age of around 85 years. Like Antionette, it comes from one vineyard (with the exception of the 10%) high up overlooking Cadiere. I cannot talk up this wine enough! It is as good a Bandol as I have ever tasted.