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Domaine de la Charbonnière, VacqueyrasSouthern Rhône, France 2018 (750mL)

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Domaine de la Charbonnière, Vacqueyras Southern Rhône, France 2018 (750mL)

Fruit
Earth
Body
Tannin
Acid
Alcohol

It’s been a long, steady climb to prominence for the wines of Vacqueyras. Prior to 1990, it was one of the villages under the Côtes du Rhône Villages banner, but once “Vacqueyras” became an AOC unto itself, it took its rightful place alongside—not behind—Châteauneuf-du-Pape in the Southern Rhône hierarchy. In the hands of a stellar producer like Domaine de la Charbonnière, Vacqueyras is the qualitative equal of Châteauneuf, not the wine you settle for when you don’t want to “pay up” for the big name. But, because the market has yet to recognize this reality, Charbonnière’s beautifully realized 2018 comes in at just $32.


As someone who’s spent countless hours studying the most classic wines of the world, I can’t stress enough what a steal this wine is: It’s a lushly textured, evocatively fragrant blend of Grenache (60%) and Syrah (40%), and while it is reliably full-throttle in terms of body and texture, it retains the all-important energy that is missing from so many Southern Rhône wines these days. Having been consistently blown away by Charbonnière’s Grenache-driven Châteauneufs, I wasn’t at all surprised that this Vacqueyras is a category-best value—and it’s just about time for this style of wine to take center stage. Jump on it!



Writing for Vinous in 2020, critic Josh Raynolds dubbed Vacqueyras “the Southern Rhône’s stealth appellation.” He surveyed a dozen seasoned, Rhône-knowledgeable sommeliers, and found that none could name more than a few specialist Vacqueyras producers. “Keep in mind that these are people who could probably rattle off 90% of the producers of Cornas, Hermitage, and Côte-Rôtie,” he wrote, adding that the persistent under-the-radar status of Vacqueyras is badly misaligned with the quality of the wines. “That’s good news for consumers, as lack of attention tends to keep prices low,” he continued, “but Vacqueyras and its best producers deserve better, especially in the 21st century.”


Domaine de la Charbonnière, which has been in the same family for more than a century, is currently run by fourth-generation proprietor/winemaker Veronique Maret. She’s been the estate’s winemaker since 2007 and has run operations alongside her sister, Caroline, since 2014, focusing considerable attention and energy to organic farming and winemaking practices. The family’s vineyard holdings include 18.5 hectares in Châteauneuf-du-Pape and four hectares in Vacqueyras, the latter situated in the town of Sarrians—the other commune, along with Vacqueyras itself, in the AOC.


Arrayed on mostly southwest-facing terraces that climb the foothills of the jagged, limestone-rich Dentelles de Montmirail mountain range, the vineyards of Vacqueyras vary slightly in soil composition as you climb in altitude; the 35-year-old parcels that supply today’s wine are planted on the “garrigue plateau” in Sarrians, sharing space with all manner of fragrant Mediterranean scrub-brush and burrowing into soils of sandy-clay and limestone gravel.


The 2018 Vacqueyras underwent three weeks of skin maceration during its primary fermentation, followed by malolactic fermentation in a combination of stainless steel tanks and wooden vats. Aging was in a mixture of larger wood vats, demi-muids, and barrels. In classic southern Rhône fashion, the wine melds the silken texture and wild strawberry/cherry kirsch flavors of Grenache (60%) with some of the blacker, spicier, meatier characteristics of Syrah. It displays a deep ruby-purple hue in the glass, with heady aromas of red and black currant, cassis, raspberry, lavender, licorice, ground coffee, wild herbs, and dusty earth. The push-pull of Grenache red-fruitedness and Syrah black-fruitedness makes for a fun tasting, while the luxurious texture makes for delicious, practically tannin-free, drinking. Decant it 15 minutes before serving in Bordeaux stems at 60 degrees. The cooler temperature will dampen any heat from alcohol and point up the luscious fruit and Mediterranean herb notes. You’ll want to consult the Provençal playbook for recipe ideas, ideally those incorporating lamb or beef (this wouldn’t make a very appealing seafood wine). It’s tough to avoid recommending cassoulet here: Warm-climate red for a cold winter night? That’s the move!




Domaine de la Charbonnière, Vacqueyras Southern Rhône, France 2018 - SommSelect

  • CountryFrance
  • RegionSouthern Rhône
  • Sub-RegionVacqueyras
  • SoilSandy-Clay & Limestone-Gravel
  • FarmingOrganic
  • BlendGrenache 60%, Syrah 40%
  • Alcohol15%
  • OakVarious

  • CountryFrance
  • RegionSouthern Rhône
  • Sub-RegionVacqueyras
  • SoilSandy-Clay & Limestone-Gravel
  • FarmingOrganic
  • BlendGrenache 60%, Syrah 40%
  • Alcohol15%
  • OakVarious
  • Temp.Serve at 60° F
  • GlasswareBordeaux Stem
  • DrinkingNow-2028
  • Decanting15 Minutes
  • PairingCassoulet w/ Duck Confit