Ventoux, making fresh wines in the Southern Rhône

Matt Walls presented this masterclass on Ventoux in Avignon. Ventoux is a large appellation and it’s forging a reputation as a pioneer of sustainability in the Rhône. 20% of the vineyard area is certified organic, and there’s a new sustainability scheme that is well thought out, modern and has teeth.

Ventoux in the east of the Rhône, and it has a big surface area. But much of this area is taken up by a big mountain so the potential viticultural areas are restricted. But, still, 150 producers farm 5623 hectares, which makes it pretty sizeable. The wine produced is 54% red, 38% rose and 8% white. The AOC was born in 1973, and before this, it was all cooperative production. Private estates began with the creation of the AOC, and there was a big expansion in the 1990s.

At 1912 m Mount Ventoux is one of the biggest mountains in France. Most of the vineyards are to the east of the mountain, on the flats and up the slopes. The cool air descends the mountain at night and cools the vineyards down. This gives a fairly wide diurnal range during the latter part of the growing season, which helps preserve freshness in the wines. But this is a warm Mediterranean climate overall.

As with all AOCs, there are quite a few rules. In terms of varietal breakdown, reds have to be a blend of at least two of the following: Carignan, Cinsault, Grenache and Mourvèdre or Syrah, with some supporting varieties. Rosés similar. Whites must be a blend too.

THE WINES

Domaine des Hauts Traversiers La Foudonne Blanc 2020 Ventoux, France
14% alcohol. 40% Viognier, 35% Grenache Blanc, 20% Rousanne. Fresh and expressive with lovely pear and apricot and some nice balance. It’s ripe and expressive with lots of Viognier character and just a hint of oak in support. Very stylish and well balanced. 92/100

Chateau Pesquié Cuvee Juliette 2020 Ventoux, France
13% alcohol. 70% Clairette, 30% Grenache Blanc. Fresh and layered with a hint of honey, spice and some melon. Very stylish with lovely pear fruit and nice intensity, and a brisk finish. Lots of weight on the palate. 93/100

Domaine Caroline Bonnefoy ‘Caroline Bonnefoy’ 2020 Ventoux, France
14.5% alcohol. Organic. Grenache, Syrah, Carignan. Fresh, supple and juicy with lovely red fruits. It’s pure with nice ripe fruit, but also lovely focus and some floral character. Vinified in concrete, this is really lovely in a pure, relatively light style. Very stylish. 92/100

Chateau Saint Pons Volupte de Cinsault 2020 Ventoux, France
13.5% alcohol. 80% 50 year old Cinsault, 20% Syrah. Lovely texture here with fresh red cherry and strawberry fruit with a nice sweet core of fruit. This is delicious with lovely weight and balance. Has a little crunch on the finish with a nice twist of bitterness. Lovely stuff. 94/100

Via Caritatis Tota Pulchra Es 2020 Ventoux, France
99% Syrah, 1% Grenache. 14.5% alcohol. Clay limestone souls near Le Barroux at 350-600 m. Very rich and textural with generous cherry and berry fruits. Concentrated and pure, meaty and spicy, with some pepper under the lush fruit. Very generous and open but showing lovely purity. Impressive in a ripe style. 93/100

Domaine Marsaleix Tradition 2019 Ventoux, France
14.5% alcohol. Sandy clay soils, organic, 50% Syrah, 40% Marselan and 10% Carignan. Fresh and expressive with lovely vibrant berry fruits. It’s juicy and intense with a hint of blackcurrant, mint and some dried herbs. Some green notes on the finish from the Marselan, but it works. 92/100

Domaine Vindemio Amadeus 2020 Ventoux, France
15% alcohol. Grenache with Cinsault, Syrah and Mourvèdre. Open, ripe and sweet with lots of lush pepper-framed cherry and strawberry fruit with some ripe plum. Lots of fruit here, with a touch of apple, too. Unoaked with some liqourice on the finish, and there’s a sense of freshness. 92/100

Domaine de Fondreche L’Etait Une Fois 2020 Ventoux, France
14.5% alcohol, 80% Grenache, 10% Mourvèdre and 10% Syrah. There’s some spicy, savoury oak here adding support and a touch of cinnamon and clove, as well as some peppery notes. Has a sweet and sour character, and although the Grenache is unoaked, the oak on the other 20% sticks out a bit here. 89/100

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