What do you know about Chateauneuf-du-Pape? How many grape varieties are permitted in the blend? How many soil types are there in Chateauneuf-du-Pape? Raphael Pommier, an Associate Winemaker at Maison Ogier, spoke to us about the history of the winery and about the Chateauneuf-du-Pape AOC.
Raphael has his own vineyard but also works with Ogier, joining about 17 years ago. Ogier’s model is to develop a network of independent winemakers to make wines and for the winemakers to enjoy working together. Getting several winemakers together is like an orchestra working together according to Raphael. There are currently approximately 35 winemakers working with Ogier. Combined, each person in the orchestra makes a nice musical composition.
A Brief History of Ogier
Ogier started as a cooperage in 1859 in Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Christophe Ogier was a well-known negociant working in the Rhone. Approximately 100 years later, Ogier began to age and blend the wines that they sold. In 1995 Ogier merged with Vignobles JeanJean and formed partnerships with wine growers in the region. In 2000 they acquired the Clos de l’Oratoire des Papes property.
The Chateuneuf-du-Pape AOC
The Chateauneuf-du-Pape region has been an AOC since 1963, and was the first AOC in France. The climate is Mediterranean and gets a strong dry cold northwesterly wind called the Mistral that reduces the negative impact of rain. It is very sunny in the AOC with 2800 hours of sunshine annually, with 7 hours of sun daily at temperatures over 25 degrees Celsius.
The region has 250 wine growers, growing 13 different grape varieties; both red and white grapes. The primary grape grown in Chateauneuf-du-Pape and forms the largest proportion of the blend is Grenache. The other grapes permitted to be used in the Chateauneuf-du-Pape blend are Syrah, Mourvèdre, Cinsault, Clairette, Vaccarèse, Bourboulenc, Roussanne, Counoise, Muscardin, Picpoul, Picardan and Terret Noir.
There are also four different soil types in the AOC where the grapes are grown.
The Soil Types of Chateauneuf-du-Pape
The four soil types are: limestone (éclats calcaires), red sandstone-clay (grés rouge), sand (safres), and rolled pebbles (galets roulés). Each soil type contributes certain characteristics to the grapes grown on them. In 2011, Maison Ogier launched a unique series of wines, “Expression de Terroir”, based primarily on Grenache, to highlight the differences in the various soils types found in their vineyards.
What characteristics do these soil types impart to the wines?
Limestone: We were told that limestone provides minerality and elegance to the wines as well as firm tannins. Limestone is white which does not absorb the sunlight as much and is, therefore, cooler for the vines, which means that the grapes can better keep their acidity levels.
Sand: This area is not loose, but compressed sand. It gives fruitiness, elegance, and soft tannins. On the sandy soil, you get hot days and cool nights (which helps to maintain acidity in the grapes). The sand is easy for vines to penetrate and go down deep for water, but does not get any minerals from the sand. As such, you get more fruit flavour and less tannins in the grapes.
Red Sandstone-Clay: This soil type only covers 3% of the AOC. It provides salty minerality and freshness to the wine as well as soft tannins. It can be viewed as a cross between the limestone and the compressed sand characters.
Rolled Pebbles: The rolled pebbles absorb lots of heat from the sun and really roast and ripen the grapes giving you a full-bodied round wine, that has spicy and jammy characteristics. The roundness of the wine is also due in part to the heat causing the acidity level in the grapes to drop.
As part of this seminar with Raphael, he had wines made from grapes grown on these four individual soil types for us to try, and to see the differences in terroir caused by the different soils.
Tasting the Four Expression de Terroir Wines
Ogier Expression de Terroir Éclats Calcaires Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2015 – Medium minus garnet in colour. Light red fruit and oak on the nose. Light body, dry with medium body. Fresh tart red fruit, red cherries, and hints of vanilla and salty minerality on the palate. Softer tannins with more acidity. A hint of pepper on the finish.
Ogier Expression de Terroir Safres Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2015 – Medium-plus garnet colour in the glass. Medium intensity nose showing sweet ripe red fruit and red cherries. Deeper fruit aromas than the Éclats. Smooth mouthfeel with floral and red fruit flavours, together with some minerality. Red cherries and vanilla toward the finish. Medium tannins which get stronger on the finish.
Ogier Expression de Terroir Grés Rouge Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2015 – Medium garnet coloured with light intensity red cherry and red fruit aromas. Fuller bodied, round with medium acidity and fine tannins. Medium intensity flavours of raspberries, red fruit and red cherries, along with some salty minerality. Tart red fruit and red cherries toward the finish.
Ogier Expression de Terroir Galets Roulés Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2015 – Medium garnet. Light aromas of sweet spices and raspberries. Fuller bodied, silky and spicy, with red fruit, red cherries and vanilla on the palate. Overall soft and round mouthfeel. Tart red fruit and vanilla, and firm tannins on the finish. –
Tasting the Composition
Indeed these four wines did show differences in soil. But Chateauneuf-du-Pape is known for its blend, so how do the grapes and subsequent wines from the four different soils taste together in the blend, or the musical notes harmonize to form a musical composition?
That question is answered through our tasting of Ogier Chateauneuf-du-Pape Clos de l’Oratoire 2015.
Ogier Chateauneuf-du-Pape Clos de l’Oratoire 2015 – Most blends of CdP use a maximum of 60% Grenache for their wines, but Ogier, uses 80% Grenache, by selecting grapes from three different soil types. The rest of the blend is 10% Syrah, 5% Mourvedre, and 5% Cinsault, with the Syrah also adding colour to the wine. This wine is a medium plus garnet in colour. A light red cherry aroma. Round, smooth and silky mouthfeel, but with a medium plus tannic backbone. There was also a streak of salty minerality. Flavours of sweet red fruits and cherries, along with sweet spices. –
The whole is greater than the parts of the composition. This specialty wine is available in BC and I have recommended it many times. Ogier does have other wines available which you can purchase through BC Liquor stores, or private shops, such as EverythingWine.com.
How do Ogier’s wines pair with food? To answer that question, we enjoyed these and more wines from Ogier at Provence Marinaside. Stay tuned for my next article where I will cover our food and wine pairings. À votre santé!