Domaine de la Janasse Principaute d'Orange Viognier 2021
Critical AcclaimAll Vintages
The 2021 Viognier comes from vines just outside of Châteauneuf, and it tastes like a mini-Condrieu with its ripe peach, honeyed grapefruit, and floral aromas and flavors. Medium-bodied and nicely textured, it's well worth seeking out and, I suspect, will be a great value.
Domaine de la Janasse has quickly become one of the Superstar estates of Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Led by the dynamic Christophe Sabon, the estate combines the best of both traditional and modern techniques to craft a collection of truly riveting wines from “simple” value-priced VDP’s to benchmark Chateauneufs.
The estate was founded in 1976 by Aimé Sabon, Christophe’s father, who still oversees the vineyards and farms organically. The property consists of 40 Hectares, spread over as many as 70 different parcels throughout the appellation.
While Aime works in the vineyards, his son, Christophe Sabon, is in charge of wine production. Christophe is a self-proclaimed “great defender of Grenache,” which still represents 75% of their vines. He manages the common rusticity of Grenache-based wines through meticulous work in the vineyards and cellar. The result is a wide range of lavishly ripe, extracted Chateauneuf-du-Papes and Cotes-du-Rhônes that are complex and yet balanced with acidity -- often in contradiction to an appellation better known for sheer exuberance and power. As Robert Parker points out: “The young and talented Christophe Sabon continues to display the sure-handed touch of a veteran winemaker”.
A long and narrow valley producing flavorful red, white, and rosé wines, the Rhône is bisected by the river of the same name and split into two distinct sub-regions—north and south. While a handful of grape varieties span the entire length of the Rhône valley, there are significant differences between the two zones in climate and geography as well as the style and quantity of Rhône wines produced. The Northern Rhône, with its continental climate and steep hillside vineyards, is responsible for a mere 5% or less of the greater region’s total output. The Southern Rhône has a much more Mediterranean climate, the aggressive, chilly Mistral wind and plentiful fragrant wild herbs known collectively as ‘garrigue.’
In the Northern Rhône, the only permitted red variety is Syrah, which in the appellations of St.-Joseph, Crozes-Hermitage, Hermitage, Cornas and Côte-Rôtie, it produces velvety black-fruit driven, savory, peppery red wines often with telltale notes of olive, game and smoke. Full-bodied, perfumed whites are made from Viognier in Condrieu and Château-Grillet, while elsewhere only Marsanne and Roussanne are used, with the former providing body and texture and the latter lending nervy acidity. The wines of the Southern Rhône are typically blends, with the reds often based on Grenache and balanced by Syrah, Mourvèdre, and an assortment of other varieties. All three northern white varieties are used here, as well as Grenache Blanc, Clairette, Bourbelenc and more. The best known sub-regions of the Southern Rhône are the reliable, wallet-friendly Côtes du Rhône and the esteemed Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Others include Gigondas, Vacqueyras and the rosé-only appellation Tavel.
Full-figured and charmingly floral, Viognier is one of the most important white grapes of the northern Rhône where it is used both to produce single varietal wines and as an important blending grape. Look for great New World examples from California, Oregon, Washington and cooler parts of Australia. Somm Secret—Viognier plays a surprisingly important role in the red wines of Côte Rôtie in the northern Rhône. About 5% Viognier is typically co-fermented with the Syrah in order to stabilize the color, and as an added benefit, add a subtle perfume.