This tiny, artisanal Domaine is one of the pioneers of biodynamic viticulture – in fact they were the first in Châteauneuf to convert to biodynamics some 22 years ago. Since this time, and especially since 1996 when the Armenier sisters took full control of the Estate, Domaine de Marcoux has been on a steady path to becoming one of the true greats of the region. Yet they are so small, only producing between two to four thousand cases for the world (roughly half the production of DRC and something like 1/10th of Beaucastel) that for many, they remain a hidden treasure. Perhaps this is a good thing as there isn’t enough to go around as it is! More Details
In the winery the sisters interfere as little as possible with the natural processes. No yeast additions, no fining, no punch downs. On the other hand, the absence of manipulation does not mean the Sisters Armenier do not search for perfection. They declassify a significant portion of fruit and wine most years (roughly 1/3 of the harvest was thrown out or sold off in 2011 for example) which explains the outstanding quality that they are able to achieve in more challenging vintages like ’08 & ’04. The Armeniers firmly subscribe to the fruit-equals-terroir school of thought. They love purity, clarity, perfume and seduction. Biodynamics, with its fresher acidities, helps in this cause as does the stringent fruit selection, gentle handling and large format maturation vessels (concrete & foudre). This is a timeless Estate whose delectable wines capture in Stephen Tanzer’s words,“…the essence of Chateauneuf du Pape”.
Marcoux has 17.5 hectares of bio-dynamically farmed vineyards in total, broken into 13 parcels across the appellation. They are, therefore, blessed with a cross section of Châteauneuf terroir, from the iconic alluvial stones, to sand, gravel, clay and limestone. The average age of the vines that supply fruit for this wine is 50 years old with the oldest being 110 years. In 2011 the blend is 80% Grenache, with 10% Syrah, 7% Mourvèdre and 3% Cinsault. The grapes are harvested according to maturity, which of course varies from one vineyard to another. The harvest and elevage here is as simple as it is intuitive. Harvesting is by hand into 50kg crates, and the grapes are sorted both in the vineyard and on a sorting table at the cellars. The grapes are destemmed, crushed and cooled off which means there is a short cold soak (2-3 days) before the indigenous yeast ferment takes off. In total, the wine stays in contact with its skins for 2 to 3 weeks. The wine matures for approximately 18 months in concrete vats, large foudres and the odd, used, 350L casks. The wine is not fined.
From a late harvest that delivered draconian yields of 12 hl/ha, the 2010 classique is a profound, in-the-zone Châteauneuf. There is inspiring freshness to balance its undoubted low-yield, old-vine concentration, a radical contrast to the more voluptuous 2009. Even by the Domaine’s high standards, it’s the striking, red-fruited purity and perfume, as one guest put it this week, that makes this such a seductive, eye-opening illustration of what is possible when a perfectly balanced vine ‘puts out’ in a perfectly balance vintage. It's a study silky refinement. We counsel not to hesitate. Demand for this will far exceed supply and anyway, you'd never forgive yourself if you missed out! As with any more elegant years in Châteauneuf, the American critics are grossly understating the quality of these wines.
(91-93) Robert Parker Wine Advocate #197 ... “The 2010 Chateauneuf du Pape (80% Grenache, 7% Mourvedre, 10% Syrah and 3% Cinsault aged two-thirds in cement tanks and one-third in wood foudres) has a dense ruby/purple color, a sweet nose of floral-infused blueberry liqueur, a striking minerality, impressive concentration, and a solid, dense core of fruit and glycerin. This is a classic and potentially long-lived Marcoux that should drink well for 15 or more years."
91-93 points, Josh Raynolds, Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar, Jan/Feb 12 ... "Bright purple. High-pitched aromas of black raspberry, candied flowers and spicecake, with a mineral overtone.Juicy, focused and pure, offering tangy red and dark berry flavors that turn spicier with air. Finishes with impressive energy and cut, leaving floral and spice notes behind."
"Such vintages are rare: I place 2010 in the top three of my 40 years covering the Rhône, alongside 1978 and 1990...Could 2010 be the year when growers woke up and realised that wines not dosed with extreme, nearly overripe grapes, are actually fun to drink? I hope so...The wines in 2010 dance with pleasure, are cool and expressive..." John Livingston-Learmouth, Decanter, May 2012
“The talented team of sisters Sophie and Catherine Armenier are gracefully carrying on the heritage of the Armenier family, which has been making Châteauneuf du Pape for only 700 years!... [the Vieilles Vignes] can be one of the greatest wines made in the world (the 1998 and 2000 for example), if not the single most phenomenal wine in Châteauneuf du Pape. The regular cuvee of Marcoux is no wimpy wine either. In top vintages, it is a powerful Châteauneuf du Pape that is given the same élevage and…is bottled without fining or filtration.” Robert Parker, The World's Greatest Wine Estates.