This deep ruby Côtes du Rhône 2016 is a blend of 65% old-vines Grenache (planted nearly a century ago), with a healthy 20% of Xavier’s signature low pH Mourvèdre, and the balance made up of high altitude Syrah. All grown in the 99-point vintage that Wine Spectator called “truly rare,” and “a new benchmark.”
In the glass, the wine has a not-quite-opaque dark ruby color, with soft-edged flashes of crimson at the edge. Aromas of black currants, prune plums, licorice root, and crushed peonies, along with a cornucopia of herbes de Provence and spices move in and out of the foreground as the nose evolves in the glass. According to Susan Crawshaw, my colleague in Pennsauken, “this smells like my blackberry-rhubarb jam as it’s approaching its set point, right down to the sage leaf I tuck in each jar.”
On the palate the wine is elegant, restrained, and refreshing, with juicy black fruit flavors that echo the nose, along with an unmistakable suggestion of kalamata tapenade, and a smoky, mildly peppery finish. Drink now – 2026.
About this wine producer: As the technical director and head enologist at “Laboratoire Avignon Oenologie Conseil,” Xavier Vignon is the consulting winemaker at more than 300 estates, including most of the best-known domaines in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. In lieu of payment for his laboratory’s service, he sometimes accepts wine, which the micro-négociant company he established in 2002, “Xavier Vins,” uses to produce exceptional wines of the southern Rhône Valley. Originally a physical chemist, Xavier is particularly interested in how the spectrum of dissolved mineral salts in the groundwater of each vineyard, which varies from parcel to parcel, influences the expression of terroir in the grapes. “I’m a trained enologist,” he says. “I’ve examined wine down to the molecular level. Which, in the end, convinces me that what is most important are the vines, the depth of the roots, and the health and balance of the vineyard.”