Mike Temple had a soft spot for Rhône wines and therefore the region has always been a strength in our portfolio. We spent several days both on our own and with the perennially charismatic Harry Bosmans.
Arnoux Pere et Fils
Vacqueyras’ oldest winery, Arnoux is centered smack dab in the middle of Vacqueyras center and takes up a few blocks with its various buildings. From modern operations to traditional ones to inexplicably idiosyncratic setups, we pride ourselves in our diversity of tastes! For better or worse! Jean-Francois Arnoux is the latest generation of his family to run the ship at this historic house, and take us through a Rhône lineup he did. Tasting notes are below but the short answer is that we’ve made the decision to double down on what Arnoux does best – the old school, and you’ll see more quantity and more focus on their Vieux Clocher line from us in 2019 and beyond. Below is a video walk through of what has to be one of the more timeless cellar setups in the Rhône Valley.
Arnoux 16 Ventoux, dry, rustic
Arnoux 17 Ventoux, similar to the 16 just younger
Arnoux 17 Cotes du Rhone “Vieux Clocher,” some fruit, dry, rustic, traditional
Arnoux 16 Cotes du Rhone Seigneur de Lauris, richer fruit, garrigue, nice
Arnoux 17 Cotes du Rhone Seigneur de Lauris, fresher than the 16, slightly more going on
Arnoux 16 Cairanne “Vieux Clocher,” quite good, outperformed most of the Cairanne we’ve tasted on this trip, with the telltale floral Cairanne nose
Arnoux 17 Cairanne “Vieux Clocher,” more fruit, but dry right now, should come around well
Arnoux 16 Vacqueyras “Vieux Clocher,” good flavor, some fruit, traditional, we appreciate the style
Arnoux 17 Vacqueyras “Vieux Clocher,” somewhat lighter than the 16 but that is just fine with us, as it is, again, traditional
Arnoux 15 Vacqueyras 15 “Penitents,” fuller, but dry and d0ubling down on rustic
Frank interrogating Jean-Francois on adoption of modern hose storage practices
I have to say this was one hell of an eye opening winery visit and it reminds me why we take these sleepless, jambon fueled journeys in the first place. We’ve long admired Pelaquie’s best in class examples of Laudun Rouge and Blanc, but never experienced their bombastic Cotes du Rhone values firsthand, at least not with an understanding of the simple but magic approach that results in a pure, focused, rich yet slippery core of Grenache goodness in every sip (sorry to tease, but more on Pelaquie’s proprietary technique later via video post to coincide with the arrival of the massive initial load of Cotes du Rhone Rouge and Rosè we booked on the spot…check back here in 45 days). Packaging was always a bit of an issue here but that was taken care of when we walked into the office and saw not one but three final draft options for a revised label that matches the spirit of this house. We decided on the below wardrobe, and the reference to Le Rive Droite (aka the underdog left bank of the Rhone) fits the whole spirit at Pelaquie like a glove. Frank will be the first to say that this is the finest Tavel in Tavel. All of you must agree if your appetite for it last year is any indication. 2017 was the warmest year in Lirac/Tavel/Laudun since 2003, but for some reason the whites have the highest acidity they’ve ever measured in the appellation…probably due to the 2-3 months with absolutely no rain which basically meant concentrated everything. Luc Pelaquie believes that in order to make balanced Rhone whites you need to use slow ripening varietals (ie Bourboulenc and Clairette). More than a few people will tell you that this little area here is the very best in the Rhone for expressive whites. We certainly feel that way right now.
Mocking up the final label tweak on a deliciously unfiltered Tavel tank sample!
Domaine Pelaquie 17 Cotes du Rhone Villages Laudun Blanc, led by Bourboulenc and Clairette but uses all six grapes allowed in the appellation. Very balanced, classic stuff even if rich this go-round
Domaine Pelaquie 17 Lirac Blanc, broad, waxy, full wood but plenty of accompanying acid, modern
Domaine Pelaquie 18 Tavel, firm but open, dark, settling out, another winner this year
Domaine Pelaquie 18 Cotes du Rhone Rouge (tank), rich and loaded with flavor, home run
Domaine Pelaque 17 Cotes du Rhone Rouge, garrigue loaded nose, lovely texture, almost silky, total steal
Domaine Pelaquie 17 Cotes du Rhone Villages Laudun Rouge, superpie Laudun, Mourvedre adds the structure and spice needed to keep this interesting
Domaine Pelaquie 17 Lirac Rouge, MEATY! Only Grenache and Mourvedre used here, lack of Syrah gives this a specific personality. Lirac and Rasteau have the best Mourvedre in the Rhone, and if you add even 10% Syrah it totally changes the wine so as Luc would say, why add it. Lirac is planet Earth’s absolute temperature limit for Mourvedre.
Another reason these are so good? Look at the thick old vines that surround the Domaine!