Rhône discovery (1) Les Chancel, Ventoux

Website: https://www.leschancel.com/

Pierre Chancel was working for Sanofi, a drug company, in his previous life. At one point he was CEO of the UK and Ireland, and later headed up the global diabetes division. But at the age of 62 he retired and headed to the Ventoux to become a vigneron. ‘I didn’t want to have some boring life,’ he says.

Pierre Chancel

He wanted to find a place to make wine, and visited some vineyards that were for sale, but nothing was hitting all the targets. ‘Then we found this place,’ he says: a 30 hectare estate all in one piece, with 12 hectares of forest as well as 12 hectares of vines. ‘The guy wasn’t making wine,’ says Pierre, ‘he was growing table grapes.’ But there was some old Carignan, Syrah and Grenache that he was taking to the coop.

They purchased the property at the end of 2017 and started changing it in 2018. One task was to graft over the table grapes to wine varieties, and they chose some interesting ones, including Carignan Blanc (they now have 1 hectare), Ugni Blanc and Chenin Blanc. It was quite a bit of work to get things going. ‘It was the opposite of what we wanted to do,’ says Pierre. ‘We wanted a running operation.’

Les Chancel is very well situated, at 350 m looking north to Mont Ventoux. It’s all surrounded by forests, and the soils are quite sandy, with deep clay about 1.5-2 m down. There are some underground springs that mean there is water here, and no hydric stress. This is relatively cool in climate and ideal for white varieties, which unusually for a southern Rhône estate is two-thirds white and just a third red.

The first vintage was 2018, with one red and one rose. White was added the next year. ‘The advantage of this place is that it brings a lot of freshness,’ says Pierre. ‘Even some salty notes at the end which is the sand.’

We tried barrel samples of 2023 – all the barrels are 600 litre demi-muids here.

  • Ugni Blanc: fresh, fine and mineral, with a chalky edge to the texture. Such finesse here with a slight salinity. Generous but fine. 92/100
  • Chenin Blanc: lively and spicy with nice brightness and good acidity. Supple and fine with good texture. 93/100
  • Carignan Blanc: supple, bright and aromatic with fresh citrus fruit that’s quite linear. Has a saline twist. 93/100
  • Grenache Blanc and Gris: this has richness, with pear and peach as well as some citrus. Volume and depth here. 92/100
  • Grenache Rouge: ripe but fresh with supple red cherries and some plums. Nice grainy edge to the textural fruit with fine spices. 93/100
  • Carignan: bright and lively with good acidity and sweet raspberry and cherry fruit. Nice structure here, really elegant. From 80 year old vines. 94/100


Les Chancel Le Blanc No 1 2022 IGP Vaucluse
Carignan Blanc, Ugni Blanc and Bourboulenc. Wild ferment in 600 l barrels for the first two then Bourboulenc in stainess steel. Bright and beautifully focused with crisp citrus fruit and some nice textural notes, finishing with a slightly saline twist. Understated but really expressive with delicate floral notes as well as salty limes. 93/100 (€16)

Les Chancel Lerécit Blanc 2021 IGP Vaucluse
13.5% alcohol Grenache Gris and Blanc as well as some blanc de Noirs from Grenache Rouge. This has a lovely wet stone and chalk undercurrent to the bright mandarin and lemon fruit with a spicy flourish on the finish. Lovely brightness with plenty of detail and personality. 93/100 (€26)

Les Chancel L’Evrest 2022 IGP Vaucluse
Chenin and Carignan Blanc. Lovely weight and texture here with bright, delicate, fine citrus and pear fruit with a vivid personality and some hints of mandarin and peach richness on the finish, which is really long. Chalky, fine, slightly saline and full of interest. 95/100 (€42)

Les Chancel Lerosé No 1 2023 IGP Vaucluse
Fresh, subtle and delicate with fine citrus and a touch of red currant. Quite textural with a slight sappy edge to the fruit. Sappy and fine, this is really good. 92/100

Les Chancel Rouge No 1 2020 Ventoux
Grenache, Cinsault and a bit of Syrah. Fresh and supple with a stony edge to the cherry and plum fruit. Has nice texture, some grainy structure, and good acidity. Nice brightness here with a stony, mineral finish. 93/100

Les Chancel Lerécit Rouge 2019 Ventoux
Carignan (40%), Grenache (40%), Syrah (20%). Fresh, bright and linear with good acidity and a touch of cranberry brightness as well as red cherry fruit with a bit of plum. Subtle peppery notes here. Has elegance and is developing very nicely. 94/100