Domaine de la Solitude, The Next 500 Years
Apr 23, 2019
In our almost 50 year history importing fine wine from Europe, it’s fair to say that Wine Warehouse has played an important role in the development of several key wine categories. From the alluvial vineyards of Bordeaux to the sun-drenched hills of Sancerre to the chalk terraces of Champagne and the mystical hills and dales of the Rhône Valley, we’ve sculpted a respectable fine wine trail.
Certainly, many things change over the course of five decades including suppliers who come and go and fashion trends that ebb and flow. But a lasting commitment to quality wine and the choice suppliers we work with only gets stronger with each passing year.
And so it is that we continue down this storied Rhône path and as we celebrate our four-decade partnership with the Quiot family of Domaine du Vieux Lazaret and our almost two-decade collaboration with the Grangeons from Domaine de Cristia, so too do we open the doors to one more top estate from Châteauneuf du Pape.
In this case it was an easy decision as the estate is Domaine de la Solitude and the importer, Dreyfus Ashby, is one of our favorites here at Wine Warehouse. Great wine and Dreyfus Ashby are synonymous in the wine business. It’s that same synergy that brought together our two companies.
Domaine de la Solitude is one of Châteauneuf du Pape’s leading estates, with roots stretching back to the early 1600s. The estate’s holdings, 38 contiguous hectares in the superior lieu-dit “La Solitude” on the fabled La Crau plateau, are platinum quality. The oldest parcel of Grenache vines is over 100 years old. Under the stewardship of young Florent Lançon, a direct descendent of the estate’s founder, the vineyards are maintained scrupulously. It’s been over ten years since fertilizers touched the soils in these venerable sites.
There are many other new facets that now embellish this venerable estate but effectively the process of modernization began 30 years ago when Florent’s dad and uncle assumed the helm and immediately abandoned the estate’s cadre of old wood “foudres” (capable of storing up to 1,000 liters of wine) in place of concrete vats and modern steel jacketed tanks. French oak followed soon after, an evolution that spawned several new cuvées including the critic’s darling Domaine de la Solitude Réserve Secrète, a thoroughly modern wine that ironically takes inspiration from a 400 year old ancestor.
Like all but a handful of Châteauneuf du Pape producers (less than a dozen traditionalists leave stems in grapes these days) Domaine de la Solitude practices a regimen of grape destemming, but in this case only partially. The ratio will vary from year to year and depend on a range of factors. Vinification occurs in larger vats but the final malo takes place in small French oak barrels as does aging for up to 25% of the production. It’s a pretty careful process and it works – the wines are deeply fruited and have their own thumbprint.
Much of this winery DNA is a result of Solitude’s method of vinifying different grapes and sites separately. All of the estate’s wines, from the top cuvée Châteauneufs to the basic Côtes du Rhônes are blends of two or more grapes from up to several dozen individual sites. There are more factors involved than spots on a leopard is one way to look at it. But everything comes together nicely in the hands of Florent Lançon.
A Look at Florent’s Current Range
Domaine de la Solitude Côtes du Rhône – For Domaine de la Solitude it’s vanilla, chocolate and strawberry time with all three traditional Côtes du Rhône renditions, rouge, blanc and rosé, in play. The delicious rosé is a marriage of 70% Grenache and 30% Syrah, a healthy dose. The Blanc sidesteps all of that for a base of 60% Clairette partnered with 30% Viognier and only 10% heady Grenache Blanc. It’s back to basics for the rouge, a tasty blend of 60% Grenache, 30% Syrah and 10% Mourvèdre.
Two expressions of Châteauneuf du Pape complete the present range, Domaine de la Solitude Châteauneuf du Pape and Châteauneuf du Pape Réserve Secrète. Both are made from carefully handpicked and sorted fruit. The basic wine is 50% Grenache, 25% Syrah, 15% Mourvèdre and 10% Cinsault.
Only 250 or so cases are produced of Châteauneuf du Pape Réserve Secrète, a wine whose blend varies from year to year around a starting point of 50/50 100 year old Grenache and 25 year old Syrah from superior sites on the La Crau plateau. In some years a small amount of Mourvèdre joins the basic blend. Lots of savory French oak gives Réserve Secrète a finishing touch. For those wondering what very full bodied, yet supremely refined Châteauneuf du Pape tastes like, this is it.
For many there’s never enough great wine to drink from the majestic Rhône Valley. That’s clearly not the problem at Wine Warehouse where the cupboards, like our glasses, always are full to the brim.
DOMAINE DE LA SOLITUDE WINES
“Savory notes of clove and leather add nuance to the rich fruit of the 2016 Chateauneuf du Pape. It’s full-bodied, creamy, lush, plump with red berries and stone fruit and remains fresh and fruit-driven through the long finish. It should drink well for a decade or more.” 93pts Wine Advocate
“A suave, expansive bouquet evokes fresh dark berries, candied flowers and smoky minerals, backed by a hint of peppery spices. In an elegant yet concentrated style, offering seamless black raspberry and spicecake flavors that show very good depth as well as clarity.” 93-95pts Vinous
“A ripe, glossy and slightly honeyed nose with grilledpeach and apple-custard aromas. The palate has smooth, fleshy, textural build and a fresh, strong finish. Drink or hold.” 92pts James Suckling; 92 pts Wine Enthusiast