Domaine Olivier Hillaire Chateauneuf-du-Pape Les Petits Pieds d'Armand 2019
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While Hillaire's Les Terrasses bottling comes from Grenache grown on galets roulés, the 2019 Chateauneuf du Pape Les Petits Pieds d'Armand is a sand-based bottling, sourced from la Crau (ouest). On the nose, it delivers scents of mocha, dark toast, earth, plummy fruit and cola-like spices. Full-bodied, rich and supple—almost creamy in texture—it's also layered, velvety and long on the finish.
Olivier’s winemaking career began almost 30 years ago when he started out at Domaine des Relagnes. After 20+ years of hard work as winemaker at the estate, raising the quality of wine with each vintage that would allow it, Domaine des Relagnes, not owned by Hillaire, was sold in 2005. Olivier immediately created his own label and, using the charm that he was abundantly blessed with, was actually able to convince the owner of Relagnes, Henri Boirin (Olivier’s Ex-Father-in-law), to keep a couple of hectares so that Olivier could rent the parcels to get himself started. Naturally, Olivier chose the very best parcels! Most notably ‘Les Petits Pieds d’Armand’ from which Olivier makes his top cuvee. He likes to allow nature to work its magic but he keeps an extremely watchful eye and insists on working the soil of his mostly sandy parcels often to discourage any growth in between the rows that might steal nutrients away from the vines. Green harvest, minimal chemicals and manual harvest are staples with Olivier.
Famous for its full-bodied, seductive and spicy reds with flavor and aroma characteristics reminiscent of black cherry, baked raspberry, garrigue, olive tapenade, lavender and baking spice, Châteauneuf-du-Pape is the leading sub-appellation of the southern Rhône River Valley. Large pebbles resembling river rocks, called "galets" in French, dominate most of the terrain. The stones hold heat and reflect it back up to the low-lying gobelet-trained vines. Though the galets are typical, they are not prominent in every vineyard. Chateau Rayas is the most obvious deviation with very sandy soil.
According to law, eighteen grape varieties are allowed in Châteauneuf-du-Pape and most wines are blends of some mix of these. For reds, Grenache is the star player with Mourvedre and Syrah coming typically second. Others used include Cinsault, Counoise and occasionally Muscardin, Vaccarèse, Picquepoul Noir and Terret Noir.
Only about 6-7% of wine from Châteauneuf-du-Pape is white wine. Blends and single-varietal bottlings are typically based on the soft and floral Grenache Blanc but Clairette, Bourboulenc and Roussanne are grown with some significance.
The wine of Chateauneuf-du-Pape takes its name from the relocation of the papal court to Avignon. The lore says that after moving in 1309, Pope Clément V (after whom Chateau Pape-Clément in Pessac-Léognan is named) ordered that vines were planted. But it was actually his successor, John XXII, who established the vineyards. The name however, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, translated as "the pope's new castle," didn’t really stick until the 19th century.
With bold fruit flavors and accents of sweet spice, Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre form the base of the classic Rhône Red Blend, while Carignan, Cinsault and Counoise often come in to play. Though they originated from France’s southern Rhône Valley, with some creative interpretation, Rhône blends have also become popular in other countries. Somm Secret—Putting their own local spin on the Rhône Red Blend, those from Priorat often include Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. In California, it is not uncommon to see Petite Sirah make an appearance.