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.
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).
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.
Certified organic since 2013 by Ecocert
Only copper sulfate
Annual ploughing to maintain vineyard health
Limestone-clay and sands
Planted at 3,200 vines/ha and trained in Gobelet and Cordon de Royat, vines average 55 years old, with the oldest Carignan an Grenache vines planted in 1936.
Controlled through pruning, debudding, and green harvesting
Entirely manual, usually mid-September
Entirely estate fruit
Rosé wines ferment with selected yeasts in concrete vats. Following total destemming, red wines ferment spontaneously in concrete vats. Cuvaison lasts c. 14 days.
Racks-and-returns for Reds during fermentation.
Pneumatic pressing for red wines. Direct pneumatic pressing for rosé wines.
Spontaneous, in vat following alcoholic fermentation for red wines. Prevented via temperature for rosé wines.
Wines age 6-12 months in concrete vats.
Red wines are racked off their lees following malolactic and remain on their fine lees until assemblage prior to bottling. Rosé wines are separated from their lees to promote freshness.
FINING & FILTRATION
Wines are unfined and see plate filtration.
Added only at bottling, with c. 70 mg/l total sulfur