Le Vieux Donjon, as it exists today, was created in 1979 with the marriage of Lucien and Marie José Michel. Both Lucien and Marie José's parents owned vineyards in the region, and those holding were combined to form Le Vieux Donjon. The domaine covers fourteen hectares of vineyards (all farmed organically), thirteen planted to red grapes and one planted to white. The Michel's holdings are primarily in the North and Northwest of the AOC, but they also have small plots in the Southwest and East. Their most important parcel is Pialons, and the grapes from the 2008 come from that parcel as well as those in Cabrieres, Bois de Boursan, Les Marines and Le Mourre de Gaude. The soils are mainly limestone and clay, and are studded with the famed galets roulé, the round, rust-colored stones which were left behind after the retreat of the Alpine glaciers which once covered the region
Learn More About Rhone Red Blends
The Rhone region of France has a delightful selection of red varieties. There are 22 grapes allowed in the Rhone AOC, about half of them red. Most of these varieties are used as secondary blending partners, often comprising less than 10% of the blend. The primary red players of Rhone blends are Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre. Most wines from the Southern Rhone use Grenache as their primary grape, while Rhone blends in California and Australia like to change up the order, occasionally using a high percentage of Syrah or sometimes Mourvèdre. Wines from the Northern Rhone are Syrah-based, and if not 100% Syrah, the wine may have Viognier blended in for added color and aromatics. Typical wines termed "rhone blends" will have two or more grapes from the Rhone and occasionally, small percentages of the secondary varieties.
Notable Facts Rhone Blends are a wonderful combination of rustic and ripe - showing their flavors and delicious character upon release, although some Rhone wines, particularly those with a good amount of Syrah, are able to age for a few years. Australia's Rhone blends are often called "GSM" or "SGM" - using the initials of the grapes used, the most predominant variety being the first initial. Australia has also had great success with their Northern Rhone Shiraz+Viognier wine styles. You'll find delicious Rhone blends in California as well - the Central Coast and Santa Barbara regions have a similar climate to the Rhone, and the varietals flourish there. South Africa is another blossoming Rhone blend producer. Blends from all regions are good with juicy, gamey meats and food with common French spices, like rosemary or herbs de Provence.
Summing it up Successful Sites: Rhone, California, Australia, South Africa
Common Descriptors: Gamey, jammy, blackberry, pepper, leather
Learn More About Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Rhone, France
(shah-too-NUHF due Pahp)
Southern Rhone's landmark region, Chateauneuf du Pape, was the first region to gain AC status in France. That was the 1920s – it's history goes much further back than that. As the name suggests, the wine region was named after the "new papal home," referring to the period of time in the 1300's when the pope resided in Avignon instead of Rome.
There are 13 allowed varieties in Chateauneuf du Pape (14 if you count Grenache Blanc separately from Grenache Noir). Grenache is the primary variety, followed by Syrah and Mourvedre as well as Cinsault. About 97% of the wines here are red, although many chateaux are producing whites ranging from quaffable to decadent and ageworthy. Reds from the best estates emit wonderful flavors of gamey spice, blackberries and currant, as well as the herbs and spices that are known to grow in the region.
Note on the soil: The grapes grow on soils covered in rounded, smooth stones called galets (gah-lay). The stones naturally cover most of the soils throughout Chateauneuf du Pape and are two fold in their duties. First, they are able to reflect and absorb the heat, to quicken the ripening of the grapes. They also help to hold in moisture so that the soils are not dried out by the hot Southern French sun.