2016 Domaine Jérôme Gradassi, Chateauneuf du Pape Rouge, Rhone Valley, France.
Domaine Jerome Gradassi’s 2016 Chateauneuf Rouge is a gorgeous and textured wine with perfect vintage definition and depth. This is third or fourth vintage of Domaine Jérôme Gradassi Chateauneuf du Pape Rouge I’ve been able to try and I’m just as excited by this as if it was still the first time, Gradassi has become one of my favorite wineries in the Rhone and I’m thrilled with his new 2016 version, from an outstanding vintage. Jérôme Gradassi Chateauneuf handcrafts his old vine Chateauneuf-du-Pape from an ancient parcel Grenache that was once his grandfathers. Gradassi, Chef and Restauranteur, is much more famous for his Michelin-starred L’Isle Sonnante restaurant located in Avignon, which he sold in 2003, taught himself how to make wine rustic cellar after tasting over his family’s estate in 2004, and I’m thrilled with his recent offerings, which lean heavily on refined natural wine making techniques with only native yeasts and 100% whole cluster fermentation(s), which are done in cement vats. As the cellar is so small and fermentation tanks so old, there are no openings other than the tops of the tanks, hence after 4 weeks, Gradassi removes the fermented juice and macerated berries by hand with a bucket and a rope, as noted by his importer, it’s a painstaking process that can take up to a week. The must is then pressed and transferred into older barrels (4 to 10 years) and aged for 10 months without racking. All of which makes this a thrilling Chateauneuf that deserves your attention, it impresses in mouth feel presence and lingers on and on, it does so without any added frivolous endowments.
This 2016 Rouge flows regally across the full bodied palate with superb layering with glorious mouth feel, but with great detailing and life as well, it delivers blackberry, boysenberry, sweet plums, strawberry and pomegranate fruits along with hints of velvety mocha, kirsch, black licorice, dried lavender, mineral tones, violets/floral elements and a touch of a earthy/leathery meatiness. The main Chateauneuf Rouge is a cuvee of about 75% to 80% Grenache and between 20 to 25% Mourvedre, depending on the year, with the stems, as well as 4 week maceration and hand punch downs makes for a rustic and spicy wine, but good ripe berries and 10 months in very old barrel/cask help smooth the tannins and it is remarkably fresh and vibrant. The process in the cellar is meticulous, and all hard hand worked, with the whole bunches put into underground concrete tanks, rumored to be from an upstairs window, and slowly fermented without the addition of yeast, acid or sugar, and with very little sulfur being employed. The grapes, all organically farmed are from 12 beautiful acres in Chateauneuf-du-Pape planted with about 75% Grenache and 25% Mourvedre. His property is divided into 6 parcels, all set on sandy soils over clay and limestone, located in the Lieut-dit of Palastor, Bois Dauphin, and Cabriere, all in the northern sector of the AOC where, at 400 feet, it is slightly cooler giving the wines a bit more elegance, perfume and more lift, which shows here in this 2016.
($50 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive