On a beautiful crisp morning I took myself off to meet Damian Vache at renowned Vacqueyras producer La Monardière. This is a Domaine that has risen to the highest ranks of the aoc in a remarkably short time…though wine has been made on this 20h estate for generations it wasn’t until 1998 that Damian’s parents Christian and Martine Vache switched from co-operative production to making their own wine. Damian is a young wine maker very much in the Rhone’s modern guise ie well educated, degrees in enginering and agriculture; well travelled (stints in Burgundy, Roussillion and Joseph Phelps in California); and even 4 months selling wine retail. Now back on the family estate he has just completed his third vintage, mainly looking after the vines and the commercial side whilst assisting his father in the wine making.
The wines: the range comprises three red Vacqueyras cuvees, a red Vin de Pays, a rosé, and a white. The latter Damian is especially proud of…only around 4000 bottles made but that’s still more than 10% of production, high for the appellation…and it sells out quickly, even at €18 (many CDPs charge less), and mainly to the restaurant trade. The cepage is Roussanne, Grenache blanc and Clairette – the wines are aromatic, full bodied and rich in white stone fruit flavours and gentle toastiness (maturation is in 550l demi-muid) but with good acidity and freshness coming through from the Clairette. There are plans afoot to step up the level of production on this already successful white. The Vacqueyras reds start with Les Collades, younger vines designed for early drinking and lively fruit. Next the standard cuvee: “Les 2 Monardes” currently the 2008 vintage, 70% Grenache, 20% Syrah, from vines up to 40 years old, elevage in a mix of concrete cuve and demi-muid. This wine had a lovely fruity/herb nose, very fresh/lively with soft tannins, good acidity/structure and a ripe red cherry character on the palate, good length. A first rate lunchtime food wine. The “haute de gamme” here is the Vielles Vignes this time from 60 year old vines, 18 mnths in demi-muid, and with 20% Mouvedre in addition to the Grenache (60%) and Syrah (20%). The character here is very different: the nose a little closed (though Damian’s cold cellar wasn’t helping!), but the palate concentrated, a little spice and pepper and rich – this was the 2007 so the tannins already quite manageble- flavours of cherry kirsch, black olive and herbs. The perfect wine to accompany a winter daube. So, a first rate producer of a fascinating appellation. The Vache family keep good company too. They are leading lights in an association of the so called “Les Toqués des Dentelles” which loosely translates, rather strangely, as the Dentelles Crazies, 13 vignerons in and around the Dentelles hills that share a common passion for making wines with personality – the group includes other favorites of ours such as Domaine La Ferme Saint Martin, Chaume-Arnauld at Vinsobre and Domaine de L’Oratoire Saint Martin at Cairanne.
In the UK Monardière is available from OW Loeb….Loeb have a strong Rhone list which includes Grand Tinel our latest CDP partner and Montirius (www.owloeb.com)
La Madelene Rhone Wine Holidays will be taking guests to visit Monardière in 2010 for sure. You can discover more about these wines at their web-site: http://www.monardiere.fr