Chateau Valcombe

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Chateau Valcombe came into our lives around the year 2000 when our long-time vigneron in Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Paul Jeune of Domaine Monpertuis, decided to spread his wings and purchase this domaine in the heart of the Ventoux, on the outskirts of the town of St. Pierre de Vassols. The Ventoux has never been known as an area capable of producing exceptional wines but the prior owner of Valcombe, Claude Fonquerle, had acquired a rather grand reputation for the wines of this estate. Frankly, on first encountering the wines of that epoch, I was underwhelmed. Stylistically, the wines were very much the opposite of what we like in wine: overripe, overoaked, overdone! I looked at Paul Jeune, whose graceful wines from Monpertuis have proven an exquisite match for our taste over the many years we have worked together, and pointedly asked him whether this was what he expected to produce at Valcombe. I was relieved to discover he valued the property for its potential, for the old vines, the excellent exposure of the vineyards on the lower slopes of Mont Ventoux and not for the wines that were another man’s fantasy.

Paul’s instincts were proven correct over the following decade as he proceeded to produce wines of impeccable balance that had staying power to boot. We have remarked numerous times on the ability of the reds of Valcombe to improve with significant bottle age. Both the 2005 and the 2008 Ventoux Rouge “Signature” bottlings developed a following long after other wines from this appellation would have already seen their best days.

With a view towards retirement and the problems associated with succession to the next generation which can be complicated and costly in France, Paul opted to sell his holdings in the Ventoux. Luc and Cendrine Guénard purchased the estate and worked under Paul Jeune’s tutelage during the transition period. They now are proudly independent vignerons with a compulsion to further improve this jewel of an estate. Their first efforts were in the 2009 vintage and we expect to have a long relationship with this couple who have taken the necessary steps to gain certification as organic growers.

There are twenty-eight hectares of vineyards at Chateau Valcombe which is situated at an altitude of 1000 feet and in the shadow of Mont Ventoux. Four red grape varieties (Syrah, Carignan, Grenache and Cinsault) and four white grape varieties (Clairette, Grenache Blanc, Roussanne and Bourboulenc) are planted and the average age of the vines is 50 years (as of 2011). Certain parcels of Carignan and Grenache were planted in 1936 (making them 75 years old as of 2011). The soils are essentially limestone and are covered with the famous “galets” of that area, large round rocks worn smooth by the movement of the Rhone River. Deep in the subsoil of Valcombe one also finds the unusual blue-inflected clay (“bleu argile”) that helps define the unique characteristics of the wines of Valcombe. The harvest here is exclusively by hand with a strict sorting occurring in the vineyard.

Their vineyards have been Certified Organic (ECOCERT) since 2013.

Valcombe-Epicure-white Chateau Valcombe Ventoux Blanc L’Epicure: The white wine of the domaine is a blend of Grenache Blanc (40%), Roussanne (20%), Clairette (20%) and Bourboulenc (20%). Yields are shockingly low (this is a very dry area with little rainfall and the winds from both the Mediterranean to the south and from the mountains to the north act to dry the vineyards further), oftentimes registering at 25 hectoliters per hectare. Three-fourths of the wine is vinified in temperature-controlled tanks with the other quarter being vinified in barrel (not new) where there is a brief period of batonnage. Organic
Valcombe-Epicure-Rose Chateau Valcombe Ventoux Rosé L’Epicure: The Rosé is vinified via the direct press method from a blend of Grenache Noir (60%), Cinsault (20%), Carignan (10%) and a touch of Clairette (10%). Interestingly, the vines for the Rosé are of an average age of 40 years. This is a completely dry Rosé. Organic
Valcomber-Epicure-Red Chateau Valcombe Ventoux Rouge L’Epicure: The classic red wine of Valcombe is a blend of Grenache Noir (60%), Carignan (20%), Syrah (10%) and Cinsault (10%). However, these are general guidelines and the blend of each vintage’s ultimate cuvée can vary to a large or small degree depending on that year’s growing conditions. The grapes are destemmed, then are fermented in temperature-controlled cement tanks. After the initial racking the wine ages in a combination of cement tanks and larger barrels (foudres and demi-muids). Organic
“Les Hauts de Valcombe” is a blend of 60% Grenache and 40% Syrah from exclusively north-facing vineyards, and this less-sun-drenched exposition keeps the wine fresh, balanced, and agile. Harvest takes place at night to ensure the healthiest possible fruit entering the cellar, and fermentation begins spontaneously and lasts for around ten days—again keeping the wine relatively light on its feet. Both fermentation and aging take place in the traditional cement vats of the region, and sulfur is applied to the wine only just prior to bottling, and in homeopathic amounts. The wine combines an appealing ripeness with a spice-tinged, savory streak—the mark of a relatively high percentage of Syrah in the blend. Organic
Download Valcombe Tech Sheet
Domaine NameValcombe
Family/Owners NameLuc Guénard
How many years has the family owned the domaine?8 years
How many generations?First generation
How many hectares of vines are leased?0 hectare
How many hectares of vines are owned?28 Hectares
Are your vineyards or wines Organic or Biodynamic Certified? If yes, in the EU? In the US? If no, are you in the process of becoming certified? When?Certified organic since 2013 by ECOCERT
Describe your vineyard management practices (e.g. low-intervention, organic, biodynamic, standard, etc.).Field work mainly by hand : de-budding, green harvest, leaf-thinning, harvest with sorting.
PLEASE ALSO ADDRESS THE FOLLOWING IN YOUR REPLY: Do you do field work and harvest manually? By machine? By horse? Do you practice green harvest? Leaf thinning? How do you fertilize?Soil work by tractor with a plow. We don’t use fertilizer
Do you typically sell or buy any grapes? Please specify.No
Do you sell off any of your wine en vrac?No
WINE 1Epicure Rosé
GENERAL INFORMATION
AppellationAOC Ventoux
Cepage/Uvaggio25% Grenache noir, 25% Grenache gris, 25% Cinsault, 25% Syrah
%ABV13% by vol
# of bottles produced16 000
Grams of Residual Sugar
VINEYARD AND GROWING INFORMATION
Vineyard/lieu dit name(s) and locationsLa Combe, le Limon
Exposures and slope of vineyardsNorth hillside , slope 3°
Soil Types(s)Clay, limestone and sand
Average vine age (per vineyard)55 years
Average Vine Density (vines/HA)3200 vines/ha
Approximate harvest date(s)43358
PLEASE SHARE ANY NOTES ABOUT HARVEST/GROWING SEASON FOR THIS WINE IN THIS VINTAGE20mm of rainfall in Winter and Spring
HOW DOES IT COMPARE TO PREVIOUS VINTAGES?Frost in February. Little or no rains in Summer. Dry and cold winter. Dry summer with low temperature at night and very hot during the day (Ventoux influences). 2016: Dryness
WINEMAKING/CELLAR INFORMATION
% whole cluster, % destemmed100% Destemmed, direct pressing
Fermentation: vessel type and sizeConcrete tank
Duration of contact with leesNo contact with lees
Duration of skin contactNo skin contact
Select or indigenous yeast?Select yeasts
Please share notes about winemaking process for this wine. Cold maceration with two settling, without fining.
Elevage: vessel type(s) and size(s)Concrete tank
Duration of elevage5 months
Duration of bottle ageing before release to US market0 year
Do you practice fining and filtration? If yes, please describeNo fining. Plate filtration
Do you add sulfur? If so when and how much? How much sulfur remains in the wine at release?Sulphiting the day before the bottling. Total SO2: 70 mg/l
PLEASE DESCRIBE THIS FINISHED WINE FROM THIS VINTAGE. HOW DOES IT COMPARE TO PREVIOUS VINTAGES?The 2015 Epicure Rosé has an intense colour. On the palate: red fruits with little acidity
WINE 2Epicure Rouge
GENERAL INFORMATION
AppellationAOC Ventoux
Cepage/Uvaggio60% Grenache noir, 25% Carignan, 15% Syrah
%ABV14% by vol
# of bottles produced30 000
Grams of Residual Sugar
VINEYARD AND GROWING INFORMATION
Vineyard/lieu dit name(s) and locationsLa Combe, le Limon, Plein Pagnier
Exposures and slope of vineyardsNorth hillside, slope 3°
Soil Types(s)Clay, limestone and sand
Average vine age (per vineyard)55 years
Average Vine Density (vines/HA)3200 vines/ha
Approximate harvest date(s)43368
PLEASE SHARE ANY NOTES ABOUT HARVEST/GROWING SEASON FOR THIS WINE IN THIS VINTAGE20mm of rainfall in Winter and Spring
HOW DOES IT COMPARE TO PREVIOUS VINTAGES?Frost in February. Little or no rains in Summer. Dry and cold winter. Dry summer with low temperature at night and very hot during the day (Ventoux influences). 2016: Dryness
WINEMAKING/CELLAR INFORMATION
% whole cluster, % destemmed100% destemmed
Fermentation: vessel type and sizeConcrete tank
Duration of cuvaison2 or 3 weeks according to the vintages
Duration of contact with lees3 weeks
Select or indigenous yeast?Indigenous yeasts
Please share notes about winemaking process for this wine.
PLEASE ADDRESS THE FOLLOWING, IF APPLICABLE: pump-overs, punch-downs, racking, movement/transfer of wine done by gravity or pumping?), battonnage, malolactic fermentation allowed, chaptalization8 racks and returns (by gravity). 4 racks. Malolactic fermentation
Elevage: vessel type(s) and size(s)Concrete tank
Duration of elevage10 months
Duration of bottle ageing before release to US market3 to 4 years
Do you practice fining and filtration? If yes, please describeNo fining. Plate filtration
Do you add sulfur? If so when and how much? How much sulfur remains in the wine at release?Sulphiting the day before the bottling. Total SO2: 70 mg/l
PLEASE DESCRIBE THIS FINISHED WINE FROM THIS VINTAGE. HOW DOES IT COMPARE TO PREVIOUS VINTAGES?Epicure Red 2013 is characterized by the “coulure” of the Grenache: very little berries on the clusters what gave a wine with a beautiful aromatic concentration as well as finesse and elegance. It looks like more Northern Rhone wine than Southern Rhone wine. Unique and very interesting vintage.
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