Our friends at AHD Vintners invited us to a wine luncheon held at the Forest Grill in Birmingham this Monday past, to present the wines of one of the producers in their portfolio, Chateau de la Font du Loup Chateauneuf du Pape. On hand to talk about the wines was Anne Charlotte Melia-Bachas, who, along with her husband Laurent, owns and operates the Chateau. “Font du Loup” means “Fountain of the Wolves,” a reference to the local legend that tells of the wolves of Mont Ventoux stopping to drink at the spring located on the property while making their way down to the Provencal plains.
Anne Charlotte is an absolutely delightful lady, and we were fortunate enough to be seated directly across from her. Throughout the course of both our conversations with her and also her presentation to the group assembled, she stressed the fact she prefers the freshness of a younger wine and strives for wines of elegance, which traits are both beautifully reflected in those that we tasted on this occasion. The domaine’s vineyards are located on north-facing slopes, which affords them some protection from the intense heat of the region, and while not certified, they are farmed organically with sheep manure and grape pomace, chemicals are used when there is no other alternative and only natural yeast found on the grape’s skin and in the cellar are used in the fermentation process.
We began our tasting with some Chateauneuf du Pape Blanc, and Anne Charlotte told us a little about it, as seen in the accompanying video.
2008 Chateau de la Font du Loup Chateauneuf du Pape Blanc, 40% Grenache Blanc, 30% Roussanne, 20% Clairette and 10% Bourboulenc, 13.5% alc., $59.50: Clean pale to medium color, with flavors and aromas of lanolin, mineral, white tree fruit, fresh acacia flowers and a touch of honey, this is all about balance. Medium-full to full bodied, smooth, soft and harmonious, with good length and ample acids to allow it to age and develop for five years or more, not that our two bottles will last that long. This pairs nicely with an arugula, yellow beet, glazed walnut and chevre salad drizzled with 25 year-old balsamic vinegar. From 1 ha. of 35 year-old vines.
About the two regular Chateauneuf du Papes tasted on this occasion, Anne Charlotte exclaimed, “They came from the same vineyard, were made by the same winemaker (Laurent, along with consulting oenologist Phillipe Cambie) and they’re completely different wines, it’s crazy!” The vines that produce them range in age from 50-60 years old.
2007 Chateau de la Font du Loup Chateauneuf du Pape, 65% Grenache, 20% Syrah, 10% Mourvedre, 5% Cinsault, 14.5% alc., $40.25: Clean, dark color, with a hint of animal over the lovely black plum and berry perfume, all of which echoes and expands on the palate with an added note of licorice. Balanced, elegant and lovely, this is full bodied and deceptively well structured, so you can drink it tonight or in 5 to 10 years. This cuvée is aged for 18 months, 80% in steel tank and 20% in small 1-3 year old barrels.
2006 Chateau de la Font du Loup Chateauneuf du Pape, 65% Grenache, 20% Syrah, 10% Mourvedre, 5% Cinsault, 14% alc., $40.25: Showing clean, dark color, this is more approachable than the ’07, and for me, despite Anne Charlotte’s comments above, shows somewhat similar character to the younger wine, more perfumed than earthy, with pretty red and black plum and berry fruit. A perfect example of the freshness of a younger wine that she prefers, this wine is more about finesse than power, but it’s no wallflower. Simply lovely, and right there, right now.
The single vineyard Le Puy-Roland cuvée is produced from 100% Grenache; the vines are 100 years old. About this wine, Anne Charlotte told us, “You have to be careful with Grenache, it’s very oxidative, (so) we never put it in new barrels.” Instead, they are aged for 18 months in concrete tanks, foudre and steel vats.
2006 Chateau de la Font du Loup Chateauneuf du Pape Le Puy-Roland, 14.5% alc., $52.50: Clean dark color; perhaps just a little less perfumed than the regular bottlings, but no less balanced, elegant and lovely. Smooth and refined, with pretty red and black fruit shaded with subtle mahogany and chestnut; full bodied, with deceptive structure and nice length on the finish.
2003 Chateau de la Font du Loup Chateauneuf du Pape Le Puy-Roland, 14.5% alc., $49.00: This clean, dark colored wine reflects the intense heat of the vintage, with a raisiny, dried fruit almost port-like character; the most intense of the reds, it sports a solid core of fruit, more black than red, shaded with some subtle roasted meat. Still, it maintains that elegance that is consistent in all of these and is drinking well right now, with plenty of stuffing for more of the same for some years down the road.
These are all lovely wines. The reds are different from almost any Chateauneuf du Pape we’ve had; they’re not as muscular , nor do they show much, if any, of the earthy iron and cola character that is typical of so many from the region. All they do is deliver immense pleasure (they also paired wonderfully with Forest Grill’s wonderful veal cheeks) and we bought two bottles of each for just that reason. I don’t think there’s a better recommendation we could come up with than that.