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Éric Texier, Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc “Vieilles Vignes”Southern Rhône, France 2016 (750mL)  |  FREE Shipping on any 6 bottles!

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Éric Texier, Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc “Vieilles Vignes” Southern Rhône, France 2016 (750mL)

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I’m thrilled to be writing today’s email because, historically, SommSelect has never been able to acquire enough inventory to offer this best-in-class wine. In addition to being one of the great intellects and true “thought leaders” in French wine, Éric Texier earns reverence for a variety of accomplishments: he is a former nuclear engineer; a Bordeaux-born and Burgundy-educated winemaker; an enterprising négociant (merchant); a renowned expert in chemical-free farming; and a revivalist of ancient Rhône appellations/grape varieties. Yet, for an esoteric wine geek like me, Éric’s greatest single contribution may very well be today’s wine.

Each new vintage of Texier Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc “Vieilles Vignes” is not just a brutally scarce (100 cases total) and Grand Cru-equivalent wine, but also a triumph of historic preservation. For me, it is an important homage to the greatest Rhône Valley whites of decades past. In terms of vinification, style, and cellaring potential, this bottle is truly an “endangered species” and I believe a must for any sommelier or collector wishing to have a comprehensive, accurate understanding of the Rhône Valley. I might even go as far as to say that most wine enthusiasts born in the mid-1970s or later have probably never tasted a truly traditional, hand-crafted CDP white such as this. Its drop-dead gorgeous aromatics and structure, combined with the aforementioned educational value, makes it a wine that should be studied as well as enjoyed.

Born in Bordeaux, Éric settled in Burgundy in 1979 and began his career as a nuclear engineer. As the years passed, and with an increasingly generous income feeding a growing fascination with wine, Éric started collecting bottles from local vignerons, including the Northern Rhône icons Raymond Trollat and Marcel Juge. Soon, Éric became especially fascinated with the traditional techniques responsible for producing his favorite wines—keep in mind this was during an era when over-ripeness, destemming, new oak and general “point chasing” was dramatically redefining the character of Rhône wines. So, when Éric eventually left his career in nuclear engineering to pursue a life dedicated to wine, he aimed straight for arch-traditionalism and greatness: his first cellar position was under the wing of icon Jean-Marie Guffens at southern Burgundy’s Domaine Verget. 

By the 1990’s, Éric was bottling his own wines. Rather than own his own vineyards in one specific site, Éric sources fruit from a variety of sub-zones in the Rhône and Burgundy, from humble and lesser-known sites to grand parcels in Côte Rôtie and Châteauneuf-du-Pape. His process and end-goal are one in the same: the approach preserves and perpetuates the traditional techniques and inherited expertise of the regions’ multi-generational grape-growing families—today’s wine is a perfect example. 

Since 1999, Éric has been sourcing top tier Châteauneuf-du-Pape fruit from Fifth-generation grower Jean Riché. Most vintners would agree that Châteauneuf-du-Pape is primarily a red wine appellation, possessing very few (and small) sites that are truly ideal for white grapes. But, Jean Riché’s “Bois Sénéchaux,” of which a half-hectare’s worth goes into Éric’s Châteauneuf white, is certainly one of the finest. The vineyard is north-facing, which protects it from excessive heat and sun, and features a lighter, sandier soil composition, which accentuates freshness and insulates against climatic extremes. These site characteristics, combined with 60+-year-old Clairette and Bourboulenc vines—bush trained to optimize shading—come together to create an especially structured, mineral, and deeply elegant white.

Still, for a technique nerd like myself, this wine’s vinification is perhaps the most exciting part of today’s story. First, consider that in the last few decades, the typical high-end Rhône Valley white is the product of thoroughly controlled, technological and decidedly “modern” approach: high sugar levels in the vineyard, cold and low-oxygen fermentations to emphasize primary fruit, sterile filtration to arrest naturally occurring malolactic fermentation, and bottling shortly after vintage in order to produce an instantly gratifying, bright and fruity white. While there is nothing “wrong” with this approach, it’s worth mentioning that it shares very little in common with how the great Rhône Valley whites of the 20th century were created. 

Conversely, Éric Texier’s approach in producing the mere 100 cases of today’s wine is an exercise in traditionalism and anti-technology. After harvesting at modest ripeness, he deliberately oxidizes the must for 48 hours. The juice is separated from the heavy lees (sediment) before being fermented exclusively with wild, airborne yeasts in 450-liter neutral French oak demi-muids. Following fermentation, the wine ages for 15 months on its “fine” lees while completing malolactic fermentation (which accentuates texture, minerality, and depth at the expense of zingy acidity and neon fruit aromatics). In short, almost every aspect of this wine’s production runs in direct opposition to conventional winemaking techniques in the Rhône Valley.

In the glass, Texier’s 2016 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc is a monument to balance and elegance. In a world beset with flabby, tropically fruited Rhône whites, it’s impressive to behold a Châteauneuf-du-Pape with such a stony, structured, and refined character. There are no overwhelming tropical aromatics here—only judicious apple, pear, green apricot notes, tightly coiled around wild summer flowers, fennel, and dried herbs. There is just so much purity here and a complete absence of heavy-handedness. If enjoying today, please serve at 55 degrees in large Burgundy stems, preferably alongside a roasted whole halibut or trussed chicken with creamed potatoes and spinach. Still, like its spiritual sister from Chateau Rayas, this wine will only shine with extended cellar aging. As the years progress, you can expect this already gorgeous wine to become more exotic, with mushrooms, waxy/petrol aged Riesling notes, and pronounced minerality that eventually becomes the centerpiece. This is not a showy wine, but it is a living piece of history and a wonderful opportunity to learn white drinking. Don’t pass it up!



Éric Texier, Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc “Vieilles Vignes” Southern Rhône, France 2016 - SommSelect

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  • CountryFrance
  • RegionSouthern Rhône
  • Sub-RegionChâteauneuf-du-Pape
  • SoilSandy Loess
  • FarmingOrganic
  • BlendClairette & Bourboulenc
  • Alcohol13.5%
  • OakUsed Demi-Muids
  • Service Temp.55° F
  • GlasswareBurgundy Stems
  • DrinkNow-2030+
  • Decanting30 Minutes
  • PairingRoasted Chicken

  • CountryFrance
  • RegionSouthern Rhône
  • Sub-RegionChâteauneuf-du-Pape
  • SoilSandy Loess
  • FarmingOrganic
  • BlendClairette & Bourboulenc
  • Alcohol13.5%
  • OakUsed Demi-Muids
  • Temp.Serve at 55° F
  • GlasswareBurgundy Stems
  • DrinkingNow-2030+
  • Decanting30 Minutes
  • PairingRoasted Chicken

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