Saint Préfert/Isabel Ferrando
- Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Rhône, France
As I wrote last year, proprietress Isabel Ferrando continues to fashion some of the most profound wines on the planet, and her 2017s and 2018s are not going to change that trend. Looking at the wines, the estate is in the southern portion of Châteauneuf-du-Pape and covers roughly 55 acres, from which she releases five cuvées: two whites and three reds. For the reds, the classic Châteauneuf-du-Pape is always a rough blend of 90% Grenache (from 70-year-old vines) and the balance Syrah and Mourvèdre aged in demi-muids and smaller barrels. The Reserve Auguste Favier comes from 60- to 100-year-old vines and is based largely on Grenache with around 15% Cinsault, aged all in older barrels. This cuvée always shows a seamless, elegant profile. Lastly, and what I would consider her top wine, the Collection Charles Giraud is always a blend of 60% Grenache and 40% Mourvèdre, with the Grenache aged in tank and the Mourvèdre in demi-muids. I’ve also included her Châteauneuf-du-Pape Colombis cuvée here, which is released under the Isabel Ferrando label. It’s 100% Grenache from the sandy soils of the Colombis lieu-dit located on the western edge of the appellation. - Jeb Dunnuck, jebdunnuck.com, August 2019.
Isabel Ferrando deserves enormous credit for raising the quality and image of this estate. In many ways, she epitomizes the wines she crafts, showing great generosity and elegance on the outside, while possessing a strong will and great ambition. The 2018 vintage wasn't an easy one here, with crop losses reaching 50%. The highlight for me of this year's visit was a chance to look back at a couple of the wines from 2009. There's no doubt in my mind that the wines Ferrando is making now surpass what she was doing at that time, and she seems to agree. "In ten years, I've progressed. My sensitivity to the terroir is much more now," she said. - Joe Czerwinski, Wine Advocate, August 2019.
"Domaine St.-Préfert and Domaine Ferrando, the joint domaines owned by Isabel Ferrando, have become reference points for red and white Châteauneuf-du-Pape since they were founded.... " -James Molesworth, Wine Spectator, July 2014.
Isabel Ferrando’s reputation for outstanding wines has grown every vintage since her first release in 2003. She purchased Domaine Saint-Préfert from the Serre family, who was one of the first to estate-bottle in the appellation in the 1930’s; at that point, the domaine was 13.2 hectares, all in the Les Serres lieux-dit, south of the village of Châteauneuf. In 2004, she purchased more land and started making the 100% Grenache cuvée Colombis, primarily from the lieux-dit of Colombis, with sandy soil; she bottles this wine as Domaine Isabel Ferrando.
Ferrando has always farmed organically and starting in 2019, the vines are being managed following biodynamic methods. She has very old vines in her holdings: the Grenache vines average more than 70 years old, and she still has some of the original Mourvèdre that was planted in the 1920’s. Throughout each parcel, all thirteen varieties are co-planted, something that Henri Bonneau told her is, “the beginning of the complexity [of her wines.]”
There is not a secret formula here to making great wines. Ferrando has a young team and she is open to new ideas; she relies on tradition without being trapped by it. Starting in the 2009 vintage, Ferrando started working with whole-cluster fermentations (without added yeasts,) finding that it increased freshness in the wines and lowered alcohol, giving the wines vibrance. Aging happens in a mix of concrete and 600L used barrels for up to 18 months. Year after year, the Saint Préfert wines continue to impress us with their finesse, elegance, and true terroir expression.