2007 Xavier Vignon Vacqueyras

Xavier Vignon Vacqueyras Dollar for dollar, it may well have been the wine of the year from the spectacular 2007 vintage in the Rhone. We thought so as did Robert Parker. Xavier Vignon, the oenologist who oversees the making of 65% of the wines in Chateauneuf-du-Pape, put out an ancient vine Vacqueyras that blew away most of the top name CDP's of this monumental harvest. Parker rated the wine 91-93 points, and that was subdued. We spent three days with a bottle in February, then lobbed a call to the genius oenologist hoping for a Spring date during our trip to the Rhone. That date became a 6-hour dinner, and at that dinner we learned more about the 2007 vintage, its challenges, and the future of what may be the most captivating wine region in the world.

The 2007 Xavier Vignon Vacqueyras is largely composed of ancient vine Grenache, head-trained bush plants grown in the terraced hillsides of the Plateau des Garrigues. But, as Vignon explained to us a year and a half ago when analyzing the samples his star-studded clientele was sending to his lab, too many wines had surprisingly low acid levels -- dangerously high pH. So, when Vignon went about putting together his own assemblages, buying individual barrels for micro-bottlings, he knew he needed a healthy dose of low pH Mourvedre, the secret weapon of 2007. That old-vine Mourvedre when combined with the wild red fruit richness of the 'best vintage in the last 30 years,' largely accounts for a Vacqueyras that simply defies its appellation.

Dinner Chez Vignon

The dinner began with toast, olive oil and shaved black truffles. Somewhere in the middle there was a to-die-for blanquette de veau. At the end, just dark chocolate and a very short espresso. But during, between and after each course, we listened to Xavier's hypnotically staccato monologue touching on global warming, wine ratings and experts, and the stupefying impact of irrigation on finished wine.

We tasted 43 wines over dinner. We listened as Vignon aromatically dissected each bottle, speaking of flavor, smell and place, and how, with detailed chemical analysis, he could determine exactly where a wine is grown in Chateauneuf without looking at the label! But most amazingly, after all the electrifying series of ifs and thens, Vignon came back to Earth, to the soil, to place and winegrowing.

"Great wines need to age," Vignon continued, eyes darting, "acids need to be in balance, pH not too high. All of the efforts to manufacture concentration -- irrigation, de-alcoholization, osmosis -- have only succeeded in imitating greatness, altering the intrinsic nature of place, of what makes wines unique and fascinating. In the end, we're back where we should be -- in the vines, the depth of the roots, the natural health and balance of the vineyard."

Xavier went back to his espresso (like the guy needs espresso!). We were left with his words and thoughts, rethinking the direction the wine industry has taken, wondering if the consumer really knew what was going on, if there wouldn't be a sort of buyer's revolution. Something tells us, none of us have heard the last of Xavier Vignon.

Ancient-Vine Grenache
Ancient-Vine Grenache
Tasting Notes
2007 Xavier Vignon Vacqueyras
"The prodigious, full-bodied 2007 Vacqueyras boasts a deep ruby/plum/purple color along with dazzling levels of blackberry and kirsch fruit interwoven with notions of licorice, camphor, and scorched earth. It possesses remarkable intensity and purity as well as a skyscraper-like mouthfeel. Consume it over the next 10+ years."
91-93 points--Robert Parker, The Wine Advocate

"Dark purple color. Slightly closed, but explosive red/purple fruit aromas, hint of herbes de provence. Intense flavors of small dark berry fruit, tremendous firmness in the mid-palate, slowly putting on weight with air. Wonderful rich, pure flavors, silken, intense and long. Goes on forever. Drink now for the sheer hedonistic fruit flavors or age a decade or more."
--WineAccess Dinner Notes with Xavier Vignon