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Le Vieux Donjon Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2003

Rhone Red Blends from Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Rhone, France
  • RP95
0% ABV
  • WS95
  • V95
  • RP95
  • W&S92
  • RP91
  • W&S94
  • RP90
  • WS90
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Winemaker Notes

"A very strong vintage for this traditionally made Chateauneuf du Pape, the 2003, a blend of 80% Grenache, 10% Syrah, and the rest Mourvedre and Cinsault, has a deep ruby/plum/purple color and a big sweet nose of dried Provencal herbs, licorice, seaweed, and spice box. The wine is massively concentrated, relatively high in alcohol by the standards here (15% plus on their component parts), and has a long, concentrated, chewy finish with high tannin and equally high extract. If there is one Chateauneuf du Pape that smells like an open-air Provencal spice, flower, and food market, it is Vieux Donjon. It is a classic, concentrated essence of Provence, all in an alcoholic beverage. This wine will need 4-5 years of cellaring when released and drink well for 15-20 years."
-Wine Advocate 92-95 Rating

Critical Acclaim

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RP 95
Robert Parker's Wine Advocate
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Le Vieux Donjon

Le Vieux Donjon

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Le Vieux Donjon, , France - Rhone
Le Vieux Donjon
Le Vieux Donjon, as it exists today, was created in 1979 with the marriage of Lucien and Marie José Michel. Both Lucien and Marie José's parents owned vineyards in the region, and those holding were combined to form Le Vieux Donjon. The domaine covers fourteen hectares of vineyards (all farmed organically), thirteen planted to red grapes and one planted to white. The Michel's holdings are primarily in the North and Northwest of the AOC, but they also have small plots in the Southwest and East. Their most important parcel is Pialons, and the grapes from the 2008 come from that parcel as well as those in Cabrieres, Bois de Boursan, Les Marines and Le Mourre de Gaude. The soils are mainly limestone and clay, and are studded with the famed galets roulé, the round, rust-colored stones which were left behind after the retreat of the Alpine glaciers which once covered the region

One of the most iconic regions of Italy for wine, scenery, and history, Tuscany is the world’s most important outpost for the Sangiovese grape. Ranging in style from fruity and simple to complex and age-worthy, as well as in price from budget-friendly to ultra-premium, Sangiovese makes up a significant percentage of plantings here, with the white Trebbiano Toscano trailing far behind. Within Tuscany, many esteemed wines are produced in their respective sub-zones, including Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino, Bolgheri, and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. The climate is Mediterranean and the topography consists mostly of picturesque rolling hills, with the hillside locations hosting the best vines, as Sangiovese ripens most efficiently with maximum exposure to sunlight.

Sangiovese at its simplest, often carrying a regional designation of Chianti or just Italy, produces straightforward pizza-friendly wines with bright red fruit and not much more, but at its best it shows remarkable complexity. In top-quality Sangiovese-based wines, expressive notes of sour cherry, balsamic vinegar, dried herbs, leather, fresh earth, dried flowers, anise, tobacco smoke, and cured meat fill the glass. Brunello in particular is sensitive to vintage variation, performing best in years that are not too hot and not too cold. Chianti is associated with tangy and food-friendly dry wines at various price points. A more recent phenomenon as of the 1970s is the “Super Tuscan”—a wine made from international grape varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, or Syrah, often grown in Tuscany’s Bolgheri region, with or without Sangiovese.

An easy-going red variety with generous fruit and a supple texture, Merlot’s subtle tannins make it perfect for early drinking and allow it to pair with a wide range of foods. One simply needs to look to Bordeaux to understand Merlot's status as a noble variety. On the region’s Right Bank, it dominates in blends with Cabernet Franc, and on the Left Bank, it plays a supporting role to (and helps soften) Cabernet Sauvignon—in both cases resulting in some of the longest-lived and highest-quality wines in the world. They are often emulated elsewhere in Bordeaux-style blends, particularly in California’s Napa Valley, where Merlot also frequently shines on its own.

In the Glass

Merlot is known for its soft, silky texture and approachable flavors of ripe plum, red and black cherry, and raspberry. In a cool climate, you may find earthier notes alongside dried herbs, tobacco, and tar, while Merlot from warmer regions is generally more straightforward and fruit-focused.

Perfect Pairings

Lamb with Merlot is an ideal match—the sweetness of the meat picks up on the sweet fruit flavors of the wine to create a harmonious balance. Merlot’s gentle tannins allow for a hint of spice and its medium weight and bright acidity permit the possibilities of simple pizza or pasta with red sauce—overall, an extremely versatile food wine.

Sommelier Secret

Since the release of the 2004 film Sideways, Merlot's repuation has taken a big hit, and more than a decade later has yet to fully recover, though it is on its way. What many viewers didn't realize was that as much as Miles derided the variety, the prized wine of his collection—a 1961 Château Cheval Blanc—is made from a blend of Merlot and Cabernet Franc.

LIM3315617_2003 Item# 83174

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