Domaine de l'Arjolle
Domaine de l’Arjolle
It was a hot afternoon and the best place for a tasting was in the cool of the barrel cellar. It had been a while since my last visit to Arjolle, which is one of the leading estates of the Côtes de Thongue. When I first visited, I used to meet the genial Louis-Marie Tesserenc. He has now retired and it is the next generation that has taken over, with his son, François, the president of the syndicat des Côtes de Thongue. The first bottlings of Domaine de l’Arjolle were in 1973, from 25 hectares; they now have 107 hectares, with the oldest vines some Cabernet Sauvignon planted in 1973. The production of Arjolle is 50% white and 50% red and rosé. They have always been quite innovative with their white wines. And all their wines are Côtes de Thongue - there is no Pays d’Oc here.
Our tasting began with the Gamme Equilibre, young wines that may be a single variety or a blend of two varieties, and aged in vat. All 8.90€ The aim is easy drinking with good varietal character.
2020 Viognier Sauvignon is a blend that they have made since the 1990s. It works very well, with each variety tempering the extremes of the other, so there is some pithy fruit and some peachy notes. Sauvignon was the dominant variety that particular afternoon. A juicy finish.
A little colour. Quite a rounded, lightly buttery nose. Nice texture on the palate with good mouthfeel, and some weight. Fresh fruit and acidity, and a salty note on the finish.
2020 Syrah Cabinet Franc Rosé
60% Syrah to 40% Cabernet Franc. Pressurage direct. Picked at night. No skin contact. A little colour. Quite fragrant, fresh raspberry fruit. A little weight and good acidity mouthfeel.
Deep young colour. Peppery black fruit on the nose. A good balance on the palate of peppery fruit and supple tannins. About 30% carbonic maceration, at a cool 18-20ºC and at 30ºC for the rest of the blend, with a traditional vinification. Good varietal character.
2020 Merlot Cabernet
50% of each, but Cabernet includes a little Cabernet Franc, as well as Sauvignon. Medium colour. Supple structure. Red fruit and cassis. Rounded with a supple balance of tannin.
Next came Gamme Equinoxe - 12.50€
The grapes are picked later, usually around the equinox and a percentage of the wine is kept in barrel. These are wines with more weight and character.
2021 Viognier Sauvignon.
40% Viognier to 60% Sauvignon. A little colour. The Sauvignon fruit dominates the blend with some peachy notes from the Viognier. A good streak of acidity. The oak is well integrated and palate nicely textured. This should evolve nicely.
As a Chablis girl, I often have reservations about Chardonnay from the south of France, but I have to say that this was nicely restrained and the oak well integrated. Compared to Equilibre, it was richer, softer and more mouth-filling, with some satisfying texture on the palate.
A blend of 70% Cabernet Franc with 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, Pretty pale pink. Light raspberry fruit on the nose. Ripe rounded fruit, and well integrated oak. An appealing freshness and satisfying length. More weight than Equilibre from later picking and about 5 - 10% of wine spent time in barrel
Picked three weeks later than Equilibre. A percentage aged in wood. Rounded with supple tannins. Ripe cassis at 14.5º. Youthful with some spice. The Pomerol du Sud joked François.
2021 Cabernet Syrah
A blend of 75% Cabernet and 25% Syrah. All maceration carbonique. Deep colour. Quite peppery nose. Youthful fruit. Balanced with a little oak. Cabernet gives the structure and Syrah the flesh.
Gamme Paradoxe - 19.50€
2021 Paradoxe Blanc
A blend of Viognier and Sauvignon. Two thirds Viognier to one third Sauvignon. Picked when the grapes are very ripe. All fermented in barrel with eight or nine months élevage. Light colour. A hint peachy with some Sauvignon pithiness on the nose and more peachiness, balanced with acidity on the palate. Nice intriguing, with plenty of nuances.
2020 Paradox Rouge
A blend of 35% Syrah, 20% Cabernet, 25% Merlot and 20% Grenache. The first vintage of this wine was 1998 and the blend has never changed significantly. Aged in oak. Deep young colour. Quite rich with oak on the nose. The palate is rich, rounded and ripe with supple tannins, and some peppery notes. A harmonious whole. Youthful with plenty of potential.
Gamme F - F stands for Fumé but they cannot use that term. Pouilly Fumé said Non. They see it as a more finely tuned Equilibre and pure Sauvignon, from older vines, 25 or 30 years old. The grapes are picked later. Five - ten percent is fermented and aged in barrels. A little colour. A rounded nose; and on the palate rounded fruit, ripe with texture and weight. It is a ripe Sauvignon as you might expect in the south, but not at all blowsy and there is good acidity on the finish.
François is also working on a Pinot Noir - he worked at Clos du Tart for a couple of years.
And finally the Gamme des Etonnants -14.50€ - from grape varieties that you would not expect to find in the south, namely Zinfandel and Carmenère.
2020 Zinfandel, Vin de Franc, rather than Côtes de Thongue
Aged in barrel to ‘calm’ it. Barrels of three to five fills. Deep colour. Peppery black fruit. A combination of opulence and freshness. Quite intense blackcurrant gums and spicy. Quite heavy and ripe, rich, tannic and gutsy. Very characterful, with an attitude. They have three hectares of Zinfandel that Louis-Marie planted a while ago.
2020 Karmenère, as the label says
Deep colour. Quite a firm nose. Same élevage as the Zinfandel. Quite rounded, quite gutsy. Firm fruit and supple tannins with some spice. They have two hectares of Carmenere.
And our tasting finished with 2020 Arlequin - 37.00€
They make just 3000 bottles, from 75% Syrah and 25% Cabernet Sauvignon. They blend lots of different small plots of Syrah, fifteen different barrels, some from a maceration carbonique froid, which makes for a gentle extraction and some maceration carbonique chaude. The colour is deep and the nose intense and youthful. There is ripe, black fruit, with supple tannins. It is all very intense, promising plenty of future potential. It certainly makes a statement, but in some ways several of the other wines were very much more approachable. The first vintage was 2012.
The range has also been extended to include wines without alcohol, Gamme Equilibre Zero and Gamme Brut without any added sulphur. but time did not allow for those to be tasted. Another time. And they are wondering about Pinotage and Petite Arvine.