I was contacted recently by Jean Barthélémy Chancel of Domaines Chancel Père & Fils, based at Château Val Joanis in the Côtes du Lubéron region that straddles a buffer zone
between the southern Rhône and Provence.
Domaines Chancel is a négociant and grower, producing estate wines at Château Val Joanis and Domaine Saint Andrieu, and making Champagne many miles to the north, under the
Champagne Louis Barthélémy label. The domaine has earned a very good reputation for its wines, with Coup de Coeur awards from the Guide Hachette and big points from critics like Robert Parker.
|Château Val Joanis is situated north of Aix-en-Provence, on the site of an ancient Roman villa, the foundations of which are still visible. Jean-Louis Chancel bought the property in 1977,
and began a "Herculean task of rehabilitation," including the planting of 186 hectares of Syrah and Grenache for red and rosé wines, and Grenache blanc, Roussanne and Ugni-blanc for whites.
A system of sustainable agriculture is employed, with chemical fertilisers replaced by organic supplements of vegetable origin. Erosion is controlled by systematically sowing the vineyard with ground cover plants, and
spraying is kept to the necessary minimum on these limestone and gravel soils.
The Champagnes of Louis Barthélémy have been causing some ripples too, with Swiss magazine '24 hours' awarding the Cuvée Brut Améthyste top marks in a tasting of non-vintage
Château Val Joanis Reserve les Griottes 2004
Val Joanis's Reserve les Griottes is a blend of Syrah and Grenache, harvested at a lowly 35 hectolitres per hectare and matured in Alliers oak for up to one year, with one-third new barrels. It has a dark, saturated crimson colour and tight, sinewy aromatics with compact dark cherry and blackberry fruit, woven with a hint of woodsmoke and herbs. On the palate this is a dense, muscular wine, where a meaty weight of thick, chocolate-rich tannin marries with savoury black fruit. This is a firm and authoritative wine, with spice and a lean acidity adding to its structured, powerful personality. It finishes with the tannins coating the mouth, and a suggestion that this may well need a year or two more to loosen up. Around £13.50, wine-searcher.com