Laudun: the birth of a new cru in the Rhône
Laudun isn’t perhaps the best known of the Rhône’s appellations, but it is currently moving from one of the Côtes du Rhône Villages to become a Cru in its own right.
What’s the big deal? Well, a cru is a top tier appellation in the Rhône: they are villages with their own appellation. Currently, there are 8 in the northern Rhône and 9 in the southern Rhône, and so when Laudun gets promoted there will be 10.
The hierarchy of appellations in the region as a whole is this: at the bottom we have AOC Côtes du Rhône, which covers 48% of all wine in the region. Then we move up to Côtes du Rhône Villages, and then the 22 Côtes du Rhône Villages with their geographic name appeneded. Finally, we have the two Vin Doux Naturel appellations, and then the 17 (soon to be 18) Crus.
The benefit of moving to a Cru are an increase in land price; (hopefully) an increase in bottle price; and more control over the cahier des charges (the rule book an appellation must abide by: they get their own one). They also have more control over how to spend their promotional money. The last promotion to Cru was Cairanne in 2015
Geographically, Laudun is north of Lirac on the west bank of the Rhône. The appellation covers 3 km on the right bank of the Rhône, and it’s like a big valley with the Tave river running west to east, flanked by hills. There’s a limestone plateau, and then foothills. It’s cooler than other areas around, and part of this coolness is because there are some wooded areas nearby. Most of the vineyards are between 60 and 200 m altitude, and the limestone plateau is at around 300 m.
Not all of Laudun’s vineyards will be included in the cru – around 1000 of 3000 hectares will be involved. Lots of the best sites are in the foothills, where the soils are a bit bonier and rockier. The parcels of Côtes du Rhône Villages Laudun that are not part of the cru will remain as Côtes du Rhône Villages Laudun, rather then be demoted.
This is an important region for whites, which account for 28% of production. In this case, it’s similar to Lirac who also focus on whites quite significantly. Overall, though, Laudun is second in white production to Châteauneuf du Pape (a smaller focus on whites but a much bigger vineyard area). The white varieties are Clairette, Grenache Blanc, Roussanne and Viognier, supported by Bourboulenc, Marsanne, Piquepoul Blanc and Ugni Blanc. Clairette is the most important. Currently, whites need a minimum 75% of the three main varieties.
There are two main red varieties, Grenache and Syrah, and at least 66% of the blend must be these two, with Grenache a minimum of 40%. There are a whole range of accessory varieties. 5% white grapes can be in the blend, too. When Laudun is promoted to Cru it won’t be making rosé, and the plantings will be further refined. Main white varieties will be Clairette, Grenache Blanc and Roussanne and Viognier, which must together make 80%
Accessory varieties will be Bourboulenc, Marsanne, Piquepoul and Ugni Blanc. Blends must be at least three of the four main varieties, and Grenache Blanc and Clairette must be involved. For the red cru wines, Grenache Noir and Syrah more than 75%, and Grenache must be at least 40%, with a whole bunch of accessory varieties.
Laudun got the Laudun name appended to Cotes du Rhone in 1953 (this is something that Brézème do today), and Côtes du Rhône Villages Laudun in 1967. In 2012 they launched the process of accession to cru. There are 24 producers, 18 private estates and 6 coops. 2.2 million bottles are made a year.
Changes on moving to cru include yields reducing to 40 hl/ha from 41 for whites and 40 to 38 for whites. Wood chips and thermovinification have been banned. And the release date has moved from 15 December to 1st May. First vintage should be 2024.
Botte Château de Bord Elegance Blanc 2021 Laudun Côtes du Rhône Villages, France
13.5% alcohol. 80% Grenache Blanc, 10% Clairette, 10% Viognier. This is aromatic and fruity with some peach and apricot aromatics. The palate is fruit-driven and has quite a lot of volume in the mouth: it’s rounded with peach and pear notes as well as some richness and warmth, finishing with a slight spiciness. Textural and fruity, it’s quite appealing and has plenty of personality. 90/100
Brotte Château de Bord Cuvée Elegance Blanc 2022 Laudun Côtes du Rhône Villages, France
Negociant wine. Grenache Blanc, Clairette, Roussanne, Viognier. Short elevage in stainless steel with no malolactic. Fruity and bright with nice pear and citrus fruit. Pure, quite stony, nice fruit purity and good acidity. A light, bright wine. 88/100
Les Vignerons de Quatre Chemins Sols et Sens Blanc 2020 Laudun Côtes du Rhône Villages, France
14% alcohol. 60% Grenache Blanc, 30% Viognier, 10% Roussanne. This is really distinctive and characterful, with some distinctive fenugreek and pepper notes as well as peach, apricot and some pear skin character. Has some honeyed richness, and a slight bitterness on the finish. 88/100
Domaine Pélanquié Blanc 2020 Laudun Côtes du Rhône Villages, France
13.5% alcohol. 40% Clairette, 15% Grenahce Blanc, 20% Roussanne, 15% viognier and the balance Bourboulenc and Marsanne. Layered and quite delicate with lovely pear, citrus and peach. It has a touch of apricot too. Lovely texture with a wonderful mineral mouthfeel. Lovely weight and texture. 92/100
Maison Sinnae Camp Romain Blanc 2022 Laudun Côtes du Rhône Villages, France
The biggest producer in the appellation: a coop whose members work 3000 hectares. Mostly Clairette on galets roulés soils. Fruity and direct with good acidity, showing nice citrus fruit and juicy acidity. Nice fruit emphasis with some appealing spicy citrus and a hint of pith on the finish. 88/100
Château Courac Blanc 2021 Laudun Côtes du Rhône Villages, France
80% Clairette, 20% Grenache Blanc. Sand over clay soils. Stainless steel. Nice weight of fruit here: melon, pear and a touch of sweet citrus. Has some ripeness, but there’s also brightness and straightness to the fruit. Satisfying and expressive. 90/100
Château Pélaquié Blanc 2021 Laudun Côtes du Rhône Villages, France
Clairette, Grenache Blanc, Viognier, Marsanne, Roussanne, Bourboulenc. Sandy clay soils. Nicely textured here with some spicy pear fruit as well as a touch of citrus and fine spiciness. Nice generosity, but still has freshness and a nice tapering finish. Very stylish. 92/100
Château Courac Rouge 2020 Laudun Côtes du Rhône Villages, France
Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre. Sandy clay soils. Plump and appealing with ripe cherries and berries. Has a sweet fruit core with nice sweet cherry and plum fruit with some notes of pepper, olive and lavender coming through. Stylish and fruit driven, this is very drinkable. 93/100
Vignerons de 4 Chemins Sols et Sens Rouge 2020 Laudun Côtes du Rhône Villages, France
Co-op wine. 75% Grenache, 25% Syrah. Fruit driven with some spicy framing to the sweet cherry and berry fruits. There’s some nice chalky grip on the finish with a savoury, peppery character as well as the sweet fruit. Stylish. 91/100
Domaine Pélanquié Rouge 2019 Laudun Côtes du Rhône Villages, France
Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre. Nice depth here with some appealing tannic structure. Sweetly fruited with some pepper and dried herbs giving savoury interested. Nice weight with a sense of refinement. 93/100
Domaine Chantegrives L’Abuèle 2018 Laudun Côtes du Rhône Villages, France
14.5% alcohol. 80% Syrah, 20% Grenache. Distinctive coffee, spice and ripe berries on the nose. The palate is very ripe, sleek and has sweet black cherry and blackberry fruit, with a slight jammy character, and more coffee. But there’s a sense of freshness as well as some lushness. Distinctive style with some appeal, especially if you like coffee. 88/100
Domaine des Marvilhas Maestra 2019 Laudun Côtes du Rhône Villages, France
14.5% alcohol. 50% Grenache, 30% Syrah, 20% Mourvèdre. This has a sense of freshness with red cherries, berries and a hint of pepper. It’s really fresh with some nice structure and lovely fruit purity. Nice bright red fruits here: a lovely, expressive wine that has good concentration and a fresh finish. 93/100
Maison Sinnae Clos de Tannan 2019 Laudun Côtes du Rhône Villages, France
14.5% alcohol. 50% Grenache and 50% Syrah, vinified without added sulfites. Nice vibrant fruit here with sweet cherries and plums. Has lovely density and a bit of grippy structure. This is all about the generous but fresh fruit with some dryness and baked fruit notes on the finish (I often find this in rich reds vinified without sulfites). Drinking really well now. 92/100