2014 Domaine Jérôme Gradassi, Chateauneuf-du-Pape Blanc, Rhone Valley, France.
As mentioned in my earlier reviews, Jerome Gradassi Chateauneuf is one of the most exciting new producers of this historic region I’ve tried in years, and his wines are an amazing value in tiny production handcrafted old vine Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Gradassi is much more famous for his Michelin-starred L’Isle Sonnante restaurant located in Avignon (which he sold in 2003), but after taking over a parcel of ancient Grenache that was once his grandfathers, plus plots of Mourvedre and a little bit of Clairette vines, he has taught himself how to make wine, with promising results. Gradassi has been very much influenced by the area’s legacy of hard work and tradition, and through trial an error, Jérôme has gone down the natural winemaking path in his very rustic cellar which had included ancient concrete vats which sit below ground level so grapes had to be shoveled down through a window, though I think now he is using the old Domaine du Remparts facility to make his wines.
The exceptionally rare Chateauneuf-du-Pape Blanc, by Gradassi is mostly all Clairette Rose (a natural mutation of the Clairette Blanc clone with a pinkish tint, with maybe a tiny percentage of Grenache Blanc though not necessarily, it’s an ultra limited bottling and somewhat a unicorn wine, and almost impossible to get, so I consider myself lucky beyond belief to have got a few bottles of this 2014 version from Martine’s Wines, Gradassi’s importer out west. Only about Only 420 bottles were made of this all stainless steel fermented and aged Blanc, and from what I gather it was whole cluster pressed and kept cold, with indigenous yeasts, all from organic grapes in Gradassi’s northern site in Chateauneuf. The vines sit on clay and sandy soils over limestone and are at about 400 feet of elevation, which allows for more natural acidity and aromatics, especially in this Blanc.
These 2014 Gradassi Clairette Rose (or Gris) is one of the most unique Chateauneuf-du-Pape Blanc(s) you’ll find, it’s slightly oxidative, not unlike Marsanne with peach and apple notes along with hints of tropical fruit, quince and lemon/lime aa well as adding dried herbs, white flowers and wet stones with a pale golden/yellowish hue in the glass. I really enjoyed this quick maturing white and hope to again get some of the new vintages if it comes available, which is not always a guarantee as so little is made, but Gradassi’s red is available and it’s even better, so I console myself in that, and I have a few bottles of the glorious 2016 vintage in my collection.
($52 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive