Domaine de l’Harmas in Châteauneuf du Pape
Nathalie Fabre standing in lieu-dit Mont-Redon amongst the vines of Grenache planted by her grandfather in 1927
Nathalie Fabre left the tasting room at Domaine de l’Harmas and returned with a typewritten document from 1933, with much greater speed than it would have taken to locate the document online. Her grandfather, Bois Lauzon, had joined the fight to create the Châteauneuf-du-Pape AOC, and this was the document that she inherited, along with 3.5ha in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, split between three different parcels, including a 1ha plot in the lieu-dit Mont-Redon. With the lieu-dit Boislauzon named for her grandfather, which is now farmed by her siblings, Daniel and Christine Chaussey at Mas de Boislauzon, her family has been farming in Châteauneuf-du-Pape for five generations.
As of 2012, all of the properties that she farms with her husband Patrick in Chateauneuf du Pape are certified organic, and in 2014 and 2015, their 7ha in Côtes du Rhone and Côtes du Rhone Village will become certified in parts. “We wanted to do it for nature,” said Patrick, “for the earth and for our health.” In 2002, they ceased using chemicals in the vineyards. “With me,” he added, “if I stop something, I do it until the end. Not everyone does the manual labor that we do.”
“This afternoon,” explained Nathalie, “he’s going to clean by hand around the trunks of the vines.”
Patrick and Nathalie Fabre in the Côtes du Rhone Village plot behind their house
At first, she admittedly was nervous about the conversion to organics, because with a single bad vintage they could lose the entire crop. However, in the last 25 years, Chateâuneuf-du-Pape has only seen a few bad vintages. “The climate here is ideal,” she added, knowing that organic viticulture suited them best because they’re “in the vineyard all the time.”
Located up near Beaucastle, sits their single parcel of 0.5ha of 85-year-old Grenache vines that were planted by her grandfather. In 2012, it yielded 20hl/ha, and in the best of vintages, the fruit here is fermented and bottled separately, but in most years it is blended with fruit from the other two parcels for their Châteauneuf-du-Pape wine.
Lieu-dit Mont-Redon Grenache planted in 1927
In Mont-Redon where Nathalie and Patrick farm their 1ha of Grenache vines that were planted by her grandfather in 1927, Chateau Mont-Redon sits just across the dirt road. Residing in the northwest corner of the appellation of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, in the commune of the same name, Mont-Redon borders the commune of Orange, with soils of red clay, sand and thick layers of Galets Roulés. “It’s some of the finest terroir in Châteauneuf-du-Pape,” said Patrick, and it is also one of a handful of vineyards in Châteauneuf-du-Pape with winegrowing that dates back to Roman times, with Mont-Redon first documented as a vineyard in 1344.
Their third parcel in Châteauneuf-du-Pape is the lieu-dit Cabrières (South). Co-planted to Grenache and Mourvedre (50/50), at 60-years-old, these are their youngest Châteauneuf-du-Pape vines. Once planted to cherry orchards, the plateau sits at 95-115m and consists of clay, calcareous limestone and large pebbles. “The Mourvedre is a difficult grape to ripen,” said Patrick, so he drops a lot of fruit and pulls a lot of leaves, leaving only eight bunches per vine. But it “does better here,” he added, so they are replacing the Grenache with Mourvedre when the opportunity to replant arrives.
Old vines in lieu-dit Cabrières (South)
Named for an old French slang term for a ‘field that lays fallow’, Domaine de l’Harmas bottled its first vintage in 2000. In the beginning, the couple made whole cluster, big tannic wines that took time to come around. In 2007, they started partially de-stemming the clusters for their Châteaunuef-du-Pape, and now, they craft wines that are far more approachable than they were ten years ago, a change that came with the expansion of the winery.
With the cellar located in what resembles a large garage from the outside, their house is on the property, as is a parcel of Côtes du Rhone Village Syrah that was planted in 1999.
Blended on March 29th, the Domaine de l’Harmas Côtes du Rhone 2012 is a blend of 50-year-old vines of 80% Grenache and 20% Syrah. From the tank, it offered cherry fruit, smokey notes and mid-palate spice. The Côtes du Rhone 2011 is of the same blend, with ripe fruit, round acidity and pepper spice on the finish. Both wines are 100% de-stemmed and fermented for 29 days in stainless steel and concrete vats, before being aged for five months in large oak casks.
In the cellar with Patrick and Nathalie Fabre
Co-fermented from the lieu-dit Cabrières (South), but not yet the final blend, the Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2012 was savory with dark berry fruit and slightly smokey. Using a small destemmer, Patrick said that it takes a long time, but the process is gentler on the fruit. He also works with a pneumatic press that they purchased a few years ago, which is also easy on the fruit. As of a few years ago, their filteration process was only to remove the larger particles, so the wine is essentially unfiltered and unfined.
From the bottle, the Domaine de l’Harmas Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2010 is spicy on the nose and with aromas of dark berry fruits and plum. Silky in texture, the tannins are integrated, offering a light grip, while the fruit recedes on the finish leaving the savory black pepper spice to linger. “2010 is a great vintage,” said Patrick.
Patty, KU, Patrick, Patrick and Joe at Cabrières (South)
Côtes du Rhone Village vines behind the Fabre’s home