By Paige Donner
Châteauneuf du Pape Is White It’s like a natural reflex, certain wines, varietals, regions make us think automatically of a color of the wine. Red, White, Rosé. This is one of the most gratifying symptoms of entering more deeply into the world of wine, learning that, for example, a brilliant Châteauneuf du Pape comes in a white as well. We’ve recognized it before and we’ll say it again, good winemakers are always the first to say that wine starts in the vineyard, on the vines. After seeing and participating in several harvests and talking to dozens of winemakers and vineyard hands, I couldn’t agree more…with the caveat that the methods differ greatly from vineyard to vineyard with some focusing on vineyard farming as opposed to vine husbanding.
After a mere 5 years in the heart of Provence’s Châteauneuf du Pape AOC, Patrick Coste, with wife Karine, has proven just what can be accomplished with vineyards and a cellar when good strong methods of vine husbanding are carried through from the vineyard to the fermentation tanks to the barrels and, finally, to the bottles.
It was only in 2004 that the first harvest of Domaine le Pointu went into their vats. “Le Pointu is the name of one of our vineyard plots planted with white grapes; it is located on a hillside near the wood of Château Rayas,” explained Mssr. Coste, the younger. Patrick’s father, Maurice, is the former President of the Courthézon Cooperative Cellar. Courthézon is where the winery of the 27- hectare, 5 year old Domaine is located. Six hectares of vineyards are in the Châteauneuf du Pape appellation, 11 in the Côtes du Rhône appellation and 10 in Vin de Pays.
Le Pointu vines from that plateau butt up against the the renowned vines of Beaucastel, signaling the same terroir. Still, it does come down to technique. And there’s quite a difference between farming and harvesting and husbanding and tending. The signature terroir of these vines are large rocks that transmit the heat from the sunshine they absorb in the warm Provenςal days to the vines at night, thus aiding in the slow maturation and warm ripening of the grapes. The French term for this terroir is galets roulés.
Land of The Rising Sun
Success has come quickly for the husband and wife team who named two of their best vintages so far after their first two sons, Clément and Mathieu.
With a combination of marketing and good, solid, French countryside people skills, Patrick was able, straight out of the gate, to get the attention of Japan’s President of the Association of International Sommeliers, Kazuyoshi Kogai at Japan’s Foodex Salon 2007. A contract with a leading Japanese cosmetics company has fallen into place since then which has Domaine Le Pointu supplying gift boxes of wines for the company during holidays.
Domaine Le Pointu will also be the wine supplier for Paris-Dakar for this year’s races. Good vineyard practices, solid people skills and knowing when and who, to ask for advice seems to be the Coste’s winning recipe here. The reputed Bordeaux wine consultant, Christian Prud’Homme, has been advising Patrick Coste on the vinification process, notably the barrels he uses at Le Pointu, which are all Bordeaux barrels.
And the wines themselves? Well, they’ve already earned the attention of Bettane & Desseauve, Robert Parker, Andréas Larsson and Jancis Robinson. Personally I would recommend anything from their 2007 run, whether it’s their Côtes du Rhône – especially Cuvée Le Vieux Chêne – or Châteauneuf du Pape, particularly Cuvée Clément and Mathieu, both made from vines 90-105 years old with a production of 10000 and 8000 bottles respectively. Each are Grenache noir and Cinsault noir made from different vintage years.
But the wine that got me excited was Domaine le Pointu’s Châteauneuf du Pape Cuvée Spéciale Feuilles d’Or (label pictured above). It is made with organically cultivated grapes, indeed the Domaine will be certified organic in 2011, from 90-year-old vines. This wine is made from the famous terroir of galets roulés. White Châteauneuf du Pape wines represent only 4% of the total production of the appellation. It has a delicate bouquet, floral with a touch of fruit, citrus. It makes a nice aperitif when young but you can keep it 2-5 years and pair it with herb-encrusted fish, veal and fresh cheeses. Total of 2000 (two thousand) bottles.
Domaine Le Pointu, 255 Chemin de la Grande Allee, 84350 Courthezon, France. www.domaine-le-pointu.com