Domaine André Mathieu, Châteauneuf-du-Pape "Centenaire"
Domaine André Mathieu, Châteauneuf-du-Pape "Centenaire"

Domaine André Mathieu, Châteauneuf-du-Pape "Centenaire"

Southern Rhône, France 2019 (750mL)
Regular price$65.00

Domaine André Mathieu, Châteauneuf-du-Pape "Centenaire"

If you asked us to conjure up the ingredients needed to create the perfect, traditionally made Châteauneuf-du-Pape here’s what we would say: Find some very old vines of Grenache, planted among all 12 other allowable varieties in this old-school appellation, add a team of farmers and winemakers with as much experience as possible, and hopefully an estate with a centuries old tradition in the region. Oh, and if at all possible throw in sandy soils in the vineyard too. Well, presto: That is exactly what we have for you today! André Mathieu’s cuvée “La Centenaire” is made from vines dating back to 1890, his family domaine dates to 1600, and the old vines are all growing on a sandy-loam substrate. Perfect ingredients, and as it turns out they make a near perfect wine. Grenache is the star here, but every one of those 12 other grape varieties play an important supporting role in creating a true benchmark of powerful yet supremely elegant Châteauneuf-du-Pape. This is just what the holidays call for, and it will be great for many holidays to come, so don’t wait to pounce!

When winemakers talk about generational knowledge, they are referring to a sort of sixth sense that can develop as a young vigneron in training moves about the family farm where they grew up, and where their ancestors have lived and worked for many generations. Well, André Mathieu has some generational knowledge in droves. His domaine, at the heart of the Southern Rhône’s most famous appellation, Cháteauneuf du Pape, has been passed down from parents to children in a continuous line since 1600. To say that farming grapes here is in his blood would be an understatement; it kind of is his blood. But generational knowledge still needs good raw materials, and here André is also blessed: His estate includes some parcels of vines that were planted between 1890 and 1914, so 110 to 130 years old. We think that counts as “old vines.” How have they survived? Much of it has to do with geology. They’re planted on a very sandy loam soil, which is resistant to pests including the scourge of phylloxera that ravaged European vines in the late 1800s and early 1900s. And, it just so happens that sandy soils, rare in Châteauneuf, encourage a more elegant, graceful, almost ethereal side of Grenache to emerge. Indeed, it is hard to say “sandy” and “Châteauneuf” in the same sentence without mentioning Rayas, but no need to name drop here, the “La Centenaire” cuvée stands on its own two feet with ease. 

It should not be shocking that winemaking at this domaine is ultra traditional. All thirteen allowable varieties (including five white grapes) are macerated and then co-fermented in concrete tanks before aging for 18 months in large, old foudres. As is the mantra with André Mathieu we do mean “old” barrels, some as old as 100 years. There is no temperature control in order to allow for true native yeast fermentation, and the wines are bottled without filtration. The wines are both powerful and elegant, with hints of wild berries and wild herbs, but also sappy and silky and sumptuous on the palate.

Serve this apogée of tradition in a Burgundy stem, to accentuate the aromatics and elegant textures, at about 60-65 degrees after a brief decanting. The deep, garnet hue will turn a shimmering ruby with tiny hints of orange at the rim, and the aromatics will leap from the glass: Wild blackberries, raspberry coulis, dried roses, peonies, star anise, green and black peppercorn, game, and herbs de Provençe all surround a mineral laden core and a long, spice driven finish. Serve with all your favorite, hearty fall dishes including roasts and stews, or with a traditional Rhône dish like lamb chops over Puy lentils. This is a wine that will make every holiday gathering a gastronomic celebration, and given the outstanding 2019 vintage it will do the same for many holiday seasons to come!

Domaine André Mathieu, Châteauneuf-du-Pape "Centenaire"

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