- Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Rhône, France
Under the young and capable leadership of Laetitia and Julien Barrot, Domaine la Barroche represents a bright light in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. - Joe Czerwinski, Wine Advocate
Winemaker Julien Barrot didn’t seem to mind that yields were down in 2018. “I like vintages like this, where you have good natural balance,’ he said. ‘After June, it was a dream year.’ He’s also taken steps to try to find that balance in the vineyard. The domaine stopped performing green harvests in 2015, as the larger crops help promote freshness and lower alcohol levels. Paradoxically in 2017, the naturally low yields allowed the grapes to continue ripening despite the drought-like conditions...Moreover, here at Barroche, the focus is increasingly on detail, rather than power.” —Joe Czerwinski, Wine Advocate
Domaine la Barroche is a family estate that has been passed down from one generation to the next since the 14th century and it is now managed by sister and brother team, Laetitia and Julien Barrot. Their father, Christian Barrot, is passionate about viticulture and has taken meticulous care of the family’s 12.5 hectare of vines since the early 1970’s. Until Julien joined his father back in 2002, all of the wine had been sold in bulk to negociants. Now, half of the Grenache vines are more than 100 years-old and are some of the oldest found in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Julien has moved to completely organic viticulture (not certified) and his father is still following his passion and continues to work in the vineyards. Taking all of his father’s work to the next level, Julien is now vinifying each grape variety and some parcels separately, studying and learning his holdings parcel by parcel. According to Julien, “You cannot make a great wine without a great terroir, and a great terroir is nothing without the winemakers love for his vines.”
The vineyards are mainly in the north/north-east sector of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Each parcel has a unique terroir, but overall, what is notable is that their vineyards have a high proportion of sand giving the wines elegance and finesse. Because the family has been in Chateaneuf for such a long time, they have vines in the top parcels and the vines are quite old, averaging 65 years-old. Fine sand in Grand Pierre (next to Rayas) produces elegant and velvety Grenache from vines planted around 1900. From Grand Pierre one foudre of “Pure” is made per year. Fifty-year old Cinsault grows in Les Cerises with golden galets stones and produces a full-bodied and powerful wine. Grenache vines average forty years old in Pied-Long and Cabrières with a sandy, marl soil with some clay. There is another parcel of 100 year-old vines in Terres Blanches with a sandy, clay soil mixed with stones. There are also two more parcels of centenary vines in Palestor and Cabrières.
The Barrot's invested in a new winery, boasting beautiful tulip shaped cement (similar to the tanks used at Cheval Blanc) and were able to begin using it for the 2015 harvest. It's gravity-fed, like the old winery from 1930, just with much more space. The wines go through a four to five week pre-fermentation cold-soak maceration in the cement tulips. Pumping-over takes place for a gentle extraction. Ripe stems are kept and the amount varies from year to year. Natural yeast found on the grapes starts fermentation. The wine is moved from one vat to another by gravity without pumping or racking. Aging takes place over 18 months: in old oak foudres for the Grenache, one to three year-old barrels on the Mourvèdre and Syrah (aged on the lies) and stainless steel on the Cinsault. The wines are bottled unfiltered.
Given the exceptional age of the vineyards, Barroche does not bottle a typical entry-level "Classic" Châteauneuf-du-Pape. The flagship of the winery is a prestige cuvée, Châteauneuf-du-Pape “Barrot”. The vines average 65 years-old, from a mostly sandy soil, fermented and aged in cement tulips, large foudres, and demi-muids. They make a small amount of Châteauneuf-du-Pape “Pure” from centenary Grenache vines. In exceptional year, they will bottle a Châteauneuf-du-Pape called "Finacée" which is a blend of old-vine Mourvedre with young Syrah. In 2015, the Barrot's found a special vineyard east of Avignon; the vines are nearly 100 years-old and the soil is similar to "La Crau" in Châteauneuf. The wine is classified as Vin de France and called "Liberty". Dunnuck describes the 'Liberty' as tasting, "like a Châteauneuf du Pape with its juicy black raspberry, violets, peppery herbs and distinct minerality. This comparison is certainly still valid on the palate, as well and its medium to full-bodied, concentrated and structured, with a sappy, grippy style that will evolve nicely for 7-8 years or more. Don’t let the Vin de France label sway you, this is the real deal." And in 2016, Barroche made it's first white wine, also called "Pure" Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc. It's 100% Clairette from the "Pialons" vineyard, which has very fine sand of marine origin. It's also iron-rich with an outstanding subsoil supplying the vines with water and nutrients. The vineyard's unique geology is conducive to a range of extremely refined aromas in the wine, as well as an elegant, silky mouth feel accompanied by a great deal of freshness.
Over the years, Barroche has refined their style working to emphasize finesse over power. The wines from Châteauneuf-du-Pape are notoriously powerful and it's exciting to see the progress made each year by the Barrot brother and sister team.