Château Pradeaux: The 2012 Vintage

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There are few wines in the Rosenthal Wine Merchant portfolio as idiosyncratic as those made by Chateau Pradeaux.  A visit here always charts among our best visits in France. Nothing compares to the experience of tasting the range of Pradeaux’s vintages while being dwarfed by the enormous foudre that line their centuries-old cellar.  The sight is an unforgettable one: Cyrille, and now his son, Etienne, scrambling to the top of their massive barrels to siphon out a sample.   A visit to Pradeaux is a trip to the past, to a time before enologists, stainless steel tanks, and thermal regulation. Tasting multiple vintages of Mourvedre here over the years has proven to us that the true expression of Bandol cannot be rushed. This noble grape makes wines that are backwards and ferociously tannic in their youth. These are reds that develop slowly, and seeing this evolution makes the case:  Pradeaux’s rare patience rewards us with some of the most extraordinary and age-worthy wine in our portfolio.

The problem in understanding the wines of Pradeaux is one of reference; there are few wines to compare it to. Today there are very few quality wines being made in Bandol, and many of the notable producers have adopted new methods with the goals of earlier bottling and easier drinking.  The recipe at Pradeaux is 95% Mourvedre (all selection Massale) /with 5% old-vine Grenache. The vineyards are worked organically and the grapes are never de-stemmed.  Macerations here are quite long, typically lasting for about a month, sometimes longer. The rest is left to time, aged in large foudre for a minimum of three (but more often four) years before bottling. There are no producers in the appellation who age their wines as long as Pradeaux.

The 2012 Bandol Rouge, arriving in our warehouse in the middle of January, does not necessarily fit into the most classic examples from Pradeaux.  After a warm and dry summer, the autumn was particularly rainy. This difficult weather at the end of the season, while not ideal, produced a fresh and elegant wine: less tannic and closed than recent releases.  The fruit, which is quite revealing at this early stage, leans a bit more toward cherry with more subdued notes of dried herbs and a hint of animal. The typical tannins are present but not as overbearing as what we found in the 2010 or 2011 vintages. The less structured character of the ’12 prompted Etienne to bottle it at the same time as the 2011 (three years of aging instead of the typical four). The 2012 is composed of 90% Mourvedre and therefore has a slightly higher percentage of Grenache than normal.  It is a rare Pradeaux that drinks this well upon release.

The wines are scheduled to arrive in New York around January 16th.

A Quick Preview into the Future:
During our visit this fall, Etienne presented us with a surprise he had hiding in the cellar.  Ageing in a 35-HL barrel was a portion of the 2007 Bandol that was not bottled.  Although this foudre on it its own was of very high quality at the time of the original bottling, it did not fit in well with the final assemblage.  Instead of forcing the issue, he decided to leave the wine to age and bottle it at a later date.  Having spent nine years in foudre, it is scheduled to be bottled this winter and should be released later next year. 2007 was a great vintage in Bandol, and as a result, this wine is quite powerful, with its dark sweet fruit and firm tannins which have softened with the extra aging. This will be a completely unique and one-time offering that I am sure will interest many of you. Stay tuned.

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