Having decided not to make a Cuvée Etienne Gonnet in 2011, only the very finest fruit has gone into this very classy blend. A wine full of dark, wild spiced fruit flavours, it is gamey and rich and has excellent volume and concentration. A wine which highlights why this estate is rightly now considered one of the very best in the appellation.
Until recent this substantial estate owned by the Gonnet family had been known as Font de Michelle. The Font de Michelle lieu dit is a large parcel in the southeast of the Châteauneu du Pape appellation, named after the natural water source found there. Due to a recent legislative change that means there is no protection for the name of Font de Michelle – because the lieu dit is farmed by numerous vignerons – the family have taken the decision to rebrand. The style of winemaking, however, remains an impeccable as it ever was. Guillaume Gonnet has taken up the reins from his parents with impressive assurance. He guides the domaine with a combination of modern innovation and respect for tradition. The estate does not push alcoholic maturity, and the gentle pumping over of mostly destemmed fruit results in well-balanced wines with appealing juicy fruit. The domaine makes a number of cuvées in Châteauneuf. In some years the estate makes a Cuvée Etienne Gonnet, which is both homage to Guillaume’s grandfather as well as the 100+ year old Grenache vines that grow on the plateau, La Crau.
The emperor of southern Rhône appellations, Châteauneuf du Pape was the first A.O.C. in all of France, created in 1936. Their bottle is unique embossed with the papal coat of arms. Thirteen varieties (14 if Grenache Blanc is counted separately) can be incorporated in the blend. The reds include: Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Carignan, Cinsault, Terret Noir, Picpoul, Vaccarèse, Counoise, Muscardin, while the whites are Roussanne, Bourboulenc and Clairette. Only a handful of producers use all 13, Grenache often being the highest percentage of the blend. This enables each producer to highlight the varieties that are the ripest and most interesting in any given year. Most Châteauneuf du Pâpes are master examples of wines that can be approachable within the first few years of release yet able to develop superb complexity during many years of cellaring.