Vignobles Yves Cheron Vacqueyras Domaine du Grand Montmirail 2014
Burgundian Yves Cheron graduated from the Lycée Viticole in Beaune in 1983 and headed south the following year to assume control of the family’s new domaine in the Southern Rhône. His father, Denis Cheron, saw the untapped potential in some of the region’s lesser-known appellations back in the early 1960s and left Burgundy to set up shop in this sun-baked sub-region of Provence. Denis purchased a production facility in Vacqueyras and began vinifying wines for several area growers. It wasn’t long before he had earned the trust and friendship of his client-vignerons. In 1982, one of them, the heirless owner of Grand Montmirail in Gigondas, decided to retire and gave Denis right of first refusal to buy his domaine in the appellation’s southeast sector.
Since taking over for his father, Yves has expanded the family’s vineyard holdings into neighboring Beaumes de Venise and Vacqueyras and now produces an impressive line of pure, elegantly-structured, Grenache-based reds without the rustic characteristics so common in wines from this region. All of the domaine’s vines are on gently-sloping hillsides at the foot of the Dentelles de Montmirail mountain range. Yves has also established long-term grape contracts with like-minded growers in Sarrians, Seguret and Violes for another 60 acres, which he uses for his Côtes du Rhône. Yves monitors each parcel and decides when to harvest. He then vinifies this excellent value red in the same manner as his Gigondas and Vacqueyras.
This charming appellation within the Côtes du Rhône Villages was second only to Gigondas to earn its own village appellation status. Its wines may be red, rosé or white—though hardly any is white. Its high winemaking standards follow many of the same rules as Chateauneuf-du-Pape. But for Vacqueyras red wines, half of the grapes have to be Grenache and the remainder is usually a combination of Syrah, Mourvedre and Cinsault.
While they can be robust and rustic in style, typically a great Vacqueyras red combines delicate aromas with intense fruit and a bright, crisp texture. They certainly don’t lack any character and show an abundance of black cherry, wild berry, plum, fig, baking spice, and a touch of game or smoke.
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.