- Rating: 94 out of 100
- Tasting Fee: $0
- Accepts Reservations: No
- Reservation Required: false
The tasting at Domaine Durieu provided a perfect foil to my tasting at Beaurenard in that it served as proof that the wine tasting experience can have as much impact on the customer as the quality of the wines themselves. And nothing is more important to the wine tasting experience than the quality of the wine ambassador giving it. It didn’t hurt either that he took me through their entire portfolio while rock music from the 60s set the mood in the background. And at 20€ to 30€ a bottle, the wines were nice QPR darlings. The 2012 Traditional CdP also provided a glimpse of what aging would do to these wines (spoiler alert: great times ahead). Domaine Durieu is worth the stop while in town and may end up surprising you in a great way!
Like the majority of wineries in Châteauneuf, Domaine Durieu is family-owned and managed. It was first started by the grandmother (Lucile Avril) and grandfather (Henri Duriel) several decades ago, but today boasts 40 hectares of land in Châteauneuf-du-Pape and 9 hectares in the greater Cotes du Pape. Although they produced mostly strict AOC blends in the past, after the two brothers took over in 2004, Domaine Durieu began to produce other blends that are more accessible earlier in the life of the wine (ie. reduced harshness of tannins). Even still, I’d like to give everyone of their wines a few more years in bottle… And this is not to say they’ve completely overthrown tradition - they still produce a traditional blend each vintage for those that like to emphasize ageability.
Although their shop in town is quite small, the selection of wines is vast and goes back several vintages. There is no need to make a reservation to stop by - just make sure that you go before lunch or wait until 2pm or so. If you come with questions and curiosity, you will enjoy the tasting even more and the wine ambassador loves to talk and explain the wines. Though if you are a white wine lover, this is not the place for you. Like many wineries in the area, Domaine Durieu does not taste any of their white wines as they were either sold out or close to it. Remember, 95% of the wines produced in Chateauneuf are red, so you really are in the wrong city in general for white wines.
After some brief introductions, sharing our love of wine, American rock music, and a great discussion on science versus tradition in the “field” of wine, the wine ambassador poured me some wines and let me experience them at my own pace. That may be what I loved most by this tasting. Although I was the only patron in the shop, he could have rushed me through everything. Instead, we enjoyed decent pours of each wine at a leisurely pace and he didn’t let me move on to the next wine until he was satisfied that I took away what I should from each of them.
- 2016 Plan de Dieu (9€)
- 70% Grenache, 10% each of Syrah, Cinsault, and Carignan. Because of the Carignan, this cannot be classified as an AOC wine, hence the name. There is a brooding, raisined fruit note blended with bright flowers on the nose with medium intensity. Medium(+) acid, high tannin, medium body with a lighter intensity palate than the nose hints at. Ripe, raisined red fruit, wood notes, light spice, and a hint of some unripened cranberry on the finish. The wine is complex and interesting, though probably not for the easy drinking crowd. At 9€ a bottle, that’s saying something…
- 2015 Traditional Chateauneuf-du-Pape (19€)
- 80% Grenache, 10% Syrah, 5% Mouvedre, 3% Cinsault, and 2% Counoise. Light red fruit and herbs on the nose. It’s unfair to even attempt to drink this wine right now. I wouldn’t even bother trying to decant it. The screaming high, rough tannins make this wine hard to taste, not to mention hard to enjoy. The red fruit seems to be big enough to stand up to the aging and hopefully evolves on the nose in the future. The wine ambassador did warn me about this wine, but I wanted to taste it anyways because 2015 is such a heralded vintage…
- 2015 Lucile Avril Chateauneuf-du-Pape (24€)
- 85% old vine Grenache, 10% old vine Mouvedre, and 5% Syrah. We had an amazing discussion on how Duck Breast and Truffle Risotto would pair perfectly with this wine. Not the usual conversation for a 24€ wine. The red fruit is a bit sweeter than the traditional blend (candied cranberry) and the pepper is much more upfront. Medium acid, high tannin, and medium bodied. The palate still has the candied cranberry and while the tannin is high, it’s rounded enough to enjoy now. Earth, spice and a very light wood undertone contribute to the wine feeling grounded. I could easily drink more than a couple glasses of this wine.
- 2016 Henri Durieu Plan de Dieu (11€)
- 90% old vine Grenache and 5% each of Carignan and Mouvedre. Even brighter red fruit than the last wine, but still a complex nose. Feels lighter/brighter on the palate as well with high acid, high tannin but a medium(-) body. It is harder to feel out more than red fruit of medium(-) intensity thanks to the tannin, medium(-) body, and the closed state of the wine. As this wine ages (softens/integrates), I think you can expect this to become a complex wine that offers the red spectrum of flavors and maybe even dried fruits at a low intensity.
- 2013 Traditional Chateauneuf-du-Pape (21€)
- Like the 2015, it feels like you can wait an additional 15 years on this wine if you wanted. The red fruit is present, but there is an earthy perfume already present from aging (weirdly pleasant, almost like freshly shampoo-ed hair) with some spices. Feels much better on the palate than the 2015 with a complex palate that is mostly tertiary driven, contrasting the nose. There is enough fruit on the palate that you do not feel as if you are tasting earth and wood, but that is the dominant profile and it’s not unpleasant. Definitely one of the more terroir-true wines I’ve had from Chateauneuf.
- 2013 Lucile Avril Chateauneuf-du-Pape (26€)
- This wine also has that weirdly pleasant “freshly shampoo-ed hair” aroma, but with a bit more bright cranberry behind it. The tannins have softened to make this drinkable and the red fruit has begun to balance with the tertiary flavors as well. I don’t know if this wine is lower intensity than the others or if the tertiary flavors just make the wine appear that way. Still, another wine where you can easily drink multiple glasses. Softest of the wines in the portfolio tasted thus far.
- 2012 Tradition Chateauneuf-du-Pape (30€)
- This wine was the star of the tasting. Black plum, licorice, smoke, and black pepper on the nose in high intensity. On the palate, this wine is incredible. The secret to making the wine taste this great is opening the bottle and letting it sit overnight before drinking it. That alone is enough to integrate the tannins even more and bring out the black plum flavor out to the extent that it is. That flavor flows over the palate and there is a juiciness that supports and integrates with the tertiary flavors. I had to get a bottle of this, even with my full suitcase. It was that good and at only 30€… I just hope I can replicate the process to make the wine open up.
As you can see above, the wines in this lineup were very traditional and a little closed in the beginning. If you purchase a Durieu wine, be prepared to wait on it until it is ready or to decant it like a Barolo. But when it is ready, like the 2012 Traditional CdP, the result can be absolutely inspiring. Even at a cost of 10-15€ a bottle, it may still be worth shipping a case back to the USA.
So if you are in town and in the mood for more rustic Chateauneuf, make sure you stop by and ask them what the oldest vintage is that you are able to taste. If you can go back further than the 2012, you know I’ll be jealous and asking your thoughts. In the meantime, I’m going to let my bottle hit 10 years old and give it another go. I just hope that I can find some more bottles in the US in the meantime… Cheers!!
Rating: 94 out of 100