We have new to our market in BC some exceptional wines from the Lirac and from Châteauneuf-du-Pape made by Domaine Duseigneur. I had a preview of these wines and was able to interview Bernard Duseigneur, tasting through these wines and trying them with a light lunch. I have been a great fan of Rhone Valley wines but had not yet had a chance to try the wines by Domaine Duseigneur. You will have a chance to taste these wines at the Vancouver International Wine Festival.
About Domaine Duseigneur
Domaine Duseigneur was started by Bernard’s father who moved to the southern Rhone Valley in the 1960s and planted grapes for his vineyard in Lirac AOC, which is along the right bank of the Rhone River and across the river is Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Over time the family was able to purchase land across the river and own in both Lirac and Châteauneuf-du-Pape. While they grow all 13 varieties of grapes permitted in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, their primary grape, covering 60% of their vineyards, is Grenache Noir. The average age of their vines is 60 years old. They are also fortunate to have vineyards that cover the range of soils in the AOC; limestone, galettes (round stones), and sandstone, which each imparts a particular character to the wines.
Of special note is that Domaine Duseigneur has been certified organic farming since 1998 and biodynamic since 2002. They belong to the Biodyvin association which now has 148 members and includes such Domaines as La Romanée Conti and le Château de Puligny Montrachet. One of their wines is still organic, while the rest are all from biodynamic vineyards. Harvest is done by hand. The wines are all fermented with indigenous yeasts.
I was intrigued by the naming of the wines. There were wines named after women, a church, and a constellation. Bernard is interested in the history of the region and spoke with a historian who described some important female figures of the time, so he brought recognition to these women by putting them on the wine labels.
If you look carefully at the labels you will see a drawing of the person on the label, such as Catherine of Siena, in the background on the left side of the label (Click on the photo to enlarge and more easily see the drawing of Catarina). Here are the named individuals or locations on the labels and how they played a part in the history of the southern Rhone Valley.
Catherine of Siena, Saint and Doctor of the Church, went to Avignon in 1376 as the ambassador to the city of Florence. She persuaded Pope Gregory XI to return to Rome to relocate the Papacy back where it belonged.
The cuvée gets its name from the historical character Jeanne of Naples, also known as Queen Jeanne, Queen of Naples and Countess of Provence who in 1348 sold the city of Avignon to Pope Clement VI.
The label with Antarès is not a person, but is related to biodynamics. Antarès is the main star of the constellation of Scorpio. One of the basic principles of biodynamics is to work in harmony with cosmic rhythms.
The cuvée gets its name from the chapel Notre Dame de Mayran built in 12th century, located in Saint Victor La Coste, close to their vineyard.
The Wines Featured at the International Festival Tasting Room
Domaine Duseigneur La Chapelle 2016 – this wine is not biodynamic, but is organic. Bernard purchases these grapes from organic vineyards that he has a long-standing relationship. This is a blend of 50% Grenache and 50% Syrah. The wine is medium garnet in colour and has a medium intensity red fruit nose. It is dry with a lighter body and higher acidity. It has a mix of red fruit flavours and floral perfume and some toastiness. Toward the finish, you also get some candied red fruit flavour as well. Fine tannins.
Domaine Duseigneur Catarina Blanc 2018 – a rainy year making this a difficult vintage. It is from a single vineyard. The wine is made from the Clairette grape. It is a bright medium intensity lemon colour. It has a nice rich tropical fruit nose. It is round with a rich feeling, medium-plus body. I enjoy the flavourful tropical fruit, butterscotch and sweet spices. It has a long length finishing with some pepperiness. With a bit of air, this wine becomes softer on the palate and you taste the minerality in this wine. –
Domaine Duseigneur Antares 2015 – these grapes come from the Lirac AOC and are the original planted vines by Bernard’s father 50 years ago. The wine is made with 60% Grenache and 40% Mourvedre. This wine is a deeper garnet colour in the glass. It has a light intensity nose showing dark cherries. It has a medium body with nice red fruit, raspberries and red cherry flavours, but also has a touch of greenness and light sweet spices. The wine gets peppery on a long finish. The tannins also get a bit grainy but are still light. A very balanced wine and great value from an under-rated AOC.
Domaine Duseigneur Catarina Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2016 – (Not at VanWineFest. Shown to compare 2016 with 2017 vintage) Bernard says that this is his best wine that he has produced in 20 years and luckily it is in our BC market. It shows strength and finesse according to Bernard. It is from 100% Grenache grapes from 3 separate plots, on three different soils; galette, sandstone, and limestone which impart different characters to this wine. The wine has a deeper garnet colour. It has a nice red fruit nose. It is soft and round, has a lighter mouthfeel, with flowery, mineral, red fruit and red cherry flavours. Peppery later. Finishing with red fruits and soft tannins. An elegant wine.
Domaine Duseigneur Catarina 2017 – 2017 was a very hot year so that they had to pick early which gives this wine lots of acidity. It is a blend of 90% Grenache and 10% Syrah. It is a medium-plus garnet in colour. It has a light intensity nose showing red fruit and some dustiness. It has a medium-plus body with a round mouthfeel. Lower acidity (the feel to me). This wine has floral, vanilla, candied red cherries and red fruit flavours. A peppery finish. Some light sweetness to the wine. –
Domaine Duseigneur Le Songe de Catherine 2016 – (Trade Tasting Only) This comes from a single vineyard with limestone soil. It is 100% Grenache. The wine has a deeper garnet colour. A nice light intensity red fruit nose with a touch of sweet spice. It is soft and round in your mouth. Silky mouthfeel with firm tannins in the background. Mineral, sweet ripe red cherries and red fruit flavours with a light peppery finish. |This wine feels more to be in a New World, fruit-forward style. The tannins finish light and dry. –
Giving these quality wines time to decant is important. Bernard noted that the last 3 wines in my list above should be decanted for 24 hours before serving. We did not have that much time as Bernard had flown into Vancouver the same day as we did the tasting. But I did notice a change in the wines as I swirled them and re-tasted a short time after my initial sip. All the red wines I tasted have fine tannins which are really wonderful when you enjoy these wines now, or in the future.
My Interview with Bernard Duseigneur
During the tasting of these wines, I asked Bernard many questions, and he provided me with detailed answers. My next article will provide you with many insights and inspirations for Bernard and Domaine Duseigneur. Stay tuned for this interview.