- 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
History: Domaine la Barroche is a family estate that has been passed down from one generation to the next since the 14th century. Julien’s 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.
Terroir: “You cannot make a great wine without a great terroir, and a great terroir is nothing without the winemakers love for his vines.” –Julien Barrot.
The vineyards are mainly in the north/north-east sector of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Each parcel has a unique terroir. 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. Overall, most of the vineyards are on a sandy soil and vines average 65 years-old. The wines are characterized by silkiness, exhibiting freshness and finesse.
Winemaking: The 2014 vintage was the last to be made in the gravity-fed cellar from 1930; a new cellar was built for the 2015 vintage. It's still gravity-fed, just with much more space, and the cement tanks were replaced with beautiful cement tulips, which are not epoxy lined. A four to five week pre-fermentation cold-soak maceration happens in large epoxy-lined cement tanks that are built right into the ground. 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, two cuvees are bottled: a prestige cuvee, Châteauneuf-du-Pape “Barrot” and a very small amount of Châteauneuf-du-Pape “Pure” from centenary Grenache vines. An entry-level “tradition” Châteauneuf-du-Pape is not bottled by Domaine la Barroche.
2017 Vintage from the winery: 2017 was full of paradoxes : the smallest crop for the 40 last years (due to the cold snap in April, causing shot berries) and one of the warmest summer for of the past 20 years; only 2003 was warmer.
The very early harvest showed a perfect sanitary state. The wines present an incredible purity and freshness for such a warm year. The great terroirs did their job by adapting to these extreme conditions. The only downside is the very low quantities harvested, especially on Pure where the production was halved. The reds are characterized by perfect ripeness, aromas of black fruits, with a long and silky texture and incredible purity. They have fine, soft tannins, show good balance, and give signs that they will have the capacity to age a long time.