Yesterday to Domaine de Cristia the Chateauneuf producer in the village of Courtezon just down the road from Janesse. I joined their UK merchant H&H Bancroft for a magnificent tasting. Amazingly Cristia only started estate bottling in 1999 so have just completed their 13th vintage…yet they are producing wines which some of their better known peers must be envious of. The estate comprises 16ha of Chateauneuf , mainly in the north east on a mix of soils,sand, cley , chalk , stones - there is another 9ha of Cotes du Rhone adjacant to Beaucastel`s Coudelet on the other side of the A7. The two principle family members driving the property forward are Baptiste Grangeon, the winemaker, and his sister Dominique , who seems to manage everything else and who hosted our tasting session. Dominique explained that much of the groundwork for Cristia`s current success is down to the hard work of her father who completely overhauled the vineyards, employing organic viticulture, allowing his children to take over first class assets when the winery launched at the end of the 90`s. The estate was fully certified as organic from 2008.
Tasting: We started with the 2010 Cotes du Rhone, “Vielles Vignes”, 100% Grenache, 50% in cuve, the rest in wood, 12 months aging, a humble aoc, very modest price (€9) but a wine showing the power and balance of the vintage -packed with juicy black fruits, herbal garrigue notes and little liqorice. A class act, reminded me of that other CduR which boxes out of its class Terre d `Argile made by their neighbours at Janesse. Next up was a comparison of the 2009 vs. 2010 vintages ( cask samples) for the classic CDP, the Renaissance and the Vieilles Vignes. The differences between the the two special cuvées and the basic? Both are from older vines, some circa 100 years, Renaissance gets 25% new oak, but key is cepage: the latter is 60% Grenache/30% Mourvedre/10% Syrah wheras VV is 100% Grenache and the tradition is 80% Grenache. The overall house style is one of polished power - the wines are huge in every dimension ( alcohol no doubt well exceeding the 15% stated) but tannins in both these vintages are ripe and the wines are approachable now though I would expect to see more integration of the oak on the Renaissance in a few years. The Vieilles Vignes 2009 ( only 4,000 bottles made) in particular struck me a real gem of a wine, one of the very best I have tasted from the vintage - deep ruby, on the nose already very open, sweet dark red fruits and spice, on the palate more super intense plum flavours combine with roasted expressso, liqorice, manages to retain balance and some freshness inspite of awesome weight. Differences between the vintages? : Though the 2009`s already ahead in appeal based on a little bottle aging there is no doubt that the 2010 vintage in CDP, based on the evidence at Cristia, is going to be a stonker - the power , the fruit and the structure are all there as per the 2009`s but if anything there is just a wee bit more acidity and freshness to cope with all that richness - in short potentially a nose ahead in terms of overall balance. We finished the tasting with two whites, the tradition ( very classic, light, mineral) and the Vielles Vignes , the latter 100% Grenache, deeply coloured , rich, viscous and quite delicious) but sadly Dominique explained that the white Grenache grapes from which it is made are giving over to reds ( commercial decision) so the 2010 will be the last vintage of this delightful wine.
Like her friend Laurance Feraud at Pegau Dominique also runs a “negoce” business…under the name “Cristia Selections”, they trade wines from Gigondas, Vacueyras, Rasteau, Beaumes de Venise and Cairanne.
And best of all…Cristia will be on our vigneron network for 2012 so our guests will be able to taste for themseves just how fine these wines are.