Domaine du Bagnol’s 2019 Cassis Blanc “Caganis” A Very New Wine from Very Old Vines

Posted on Posted in Domaine du Bagnol, Rosenthal Wine Merchant News, RWM Contributor

With only 11 domaines and 220 cultivated hectares of vines, the gorgeous seaside appellation of Cassis produces distinctive wines of sun-soaked Mediterranean generosity and marked salinity, the vast majority of which are consumed locally. We have worked with the Domaine du Bagnol since the early 1980s, first with former owner Claire Lefevre, and since the early 2000s with the magnetic Genovesi family, proudly representing among the very few examples of this historic appellation to be found in the American market.

Under the stewardship of Jean-Louis Genovesi and his children Sébastien and Lisa, Bagnol has become Cassis’s most renowned and dynamic domaine, converting to organic viticultural practices—certified since 2011—and continually refining their work in the cellar to achieve maximum expressiveness. Bagnol’s stunning Cassis Rosé, from Grenache and Mourvèdre, has been among our most coveted wines in the category for decades, and their Cassis Blanc in recent years has gained notable textural depth through Sébastien’s searching and thoughtful approach.

In early 2019, the Genovesis had the remarkable opportunity to purchase the vineyards of the Domaine Saint-Louis Jayne: eight hectares of old vines in the most well-regarded sector of the appellation, on the breeze-buffeted slopes immediately under the limestone promontory of La Couronne. Former owner Laurent Jayne worked according to biodynamic principles; thus, vines and soil were already in excellent health at the time of the acquisition. Notably, Jayne retained all nine allowed grape varieties in his vineyards, including the elusive Pascal Blanc for which he had a particular affinity.

Rather than simply folding the holdings of Saint-Louis Jayne into their existing production, the Genovesis created a new cuvée to showcase this special terroir and this unique mélange of varieties, debuting the Cassis Blanc “Caganis” (meaning “last-born” in old Provençal) with the 2019 vintage. As with their flagship white wine, Marsanne and Clairette dominate here, but the blend is fleshed out by Ugni Blanc, Grenache Blanc, Bourboulenc, and Pascal Blanc, from tightly spaced vines between 50 and 60 years of age. Sébastien utilizes a brief pre-fermentation skin maceration for his basic Cassis Blanc but not with this cuvée, as the old-vines fruit from this sector provides stunning textural complexity on its own. Fermented and aged entirely in steel, the 2019 “Caganis” is both more ample and more profoundly mineral than the flagship white, with notes of marzipan and waxy orchard fruit complementing the brighter citrussy tones. Its minerality is awe-inspiring: simultaneously smoky and crystalline, less extrovertedly salty than the basic cuvée but more palate-dominating, and intensely persistent, particularly on the wine’s long, tunneling finish. Aging seaside white wines is perhaps not a common practice, but Sébastien notes that the “Caganis” will improve for at least a decade in the cellar, which is easy to understand given its remarkable concentration and tension. Only 100 cases are available for the US market.

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