Last week, ABCFWS wine team members had the chance to engage with Chateauneuf-du-Pape enologist Xavier Vignon at our store locations in Bradenton and Fort Myers. Xavier and Jessica Songin from DIVA Wines USA put together a wine blending module with tank samples from Xavier’s winery. It was a golden opportunity to hear one of the Rhone’s top winemakers shares his insights in a small classroom setting.
Addressing the group with a soft-spoken demeanor, Xavier’s unassuming, casual nature easily belies the tremendous demand for his expertise currently in the south of France. Yet amongst his peers he stands at the very pinnacle of his profession. The list of clients that employ him as a consulting enologist includes many of Chateauneuf’s bright lights: Alain Jaume, Raymond Usseglio, Chateau de la Gardine, Jerome Quiot, Chateau La Nerthe, Chateau Mont-Redon, and Domaine de Marcoux.
Before establishing himself in the Rhone in 2002, Xavier worked stints as a winemaker in New Zealand, Australia, Alsace, Champagne, Saint-Emilion, Languedoc-Roussillon and Burgundy. Today he consults for almost two hundred wineries from the Luberon to the Languedoc, and oversees a team of ten enologists at his negociant operation, Xavier Vins. He is passionate about the unique terroirs of the southern Rhone Valley and shows a deft touch with Grenache Noir, Syrah, Cinsault and Mourvedre.
Xavier presented our group with six components from the 2012 harvest including two Grenache samples from plots of different age (one sixty years old and the other over ninety), two Syrah samples from opposite ends (and different soil types) of the Rhone Valley and one varietal sample each of pure Cinsault and Mourvedre.
He encouraged everyone to taste each element individually to establish a point of reference and then “picture” them as essential building blocks for a finished wine. It was a revelation for our group; every varietal contributing something to the mix in the way of fruit, bouquet, texture, PH, minerality or color. Some revealed freshness and high-toned acidity while others presented weight, body and volume.
As a whole, the entire exercise proved to be an invaluable experience for the staff. In the end, each attendee was given an opportunity to customize a wine blend from the sensational “ingredients” provided with some surprising results; not unlike what Xavier Vignon does with aplomb at his winery every day.
Jim Greeley, ABC Fine Wine & Spirits wine supervisor
Follow me on Twitter @ABCWineJimG