Clos du Mont-Olivet Châteauneuf du Pape / 2014 / 375mL
The owners and their history:
It was Seraphin Sabon who launched winemaking at Clos du Mont-Olivet in 1932. He started bottling his wine right in the winery after World War II. In 1952, he transferred the responsibility for the domaine to his son Joseph who, in his turn, passed it on to his three sons Jean-Claude, Pierre, and Bernard. Today, the next generation, now the fourth, of vintners from the Sabon family is already at work at Clos du Mont-Olivet, in the persons of Thierry, David, Céline, and Mylène Sabon. All of them are participating in the work procedures. Thierry is responsible for the wine production, while the older generation is still taking care of the vineyards.
At present, a total of 11 people are working at Clos du Mont-Olivet.
Thierry Sabon studied physics before he decided to attend agricultural college simultaneously for a year. He went to Constantia Valley in South Africa to gather professional experience, and then worked for a while for a large wine producer in Australia. These experiences opened his eyes to new production methods and taught him to be more efficient. Hardly had he returned to France than he initiated such important changes as more intensive pruning of blossoming buds and planting the young grapevines’ breeding grounds with grass in order to make the earth more firm and to launch advantageous competition for nutriments.
Thierry also harvested a small part of the vines when they were still green in order to prove to his father and his uncles that in this way, yields are reduced, while the quality improves. Since 2001, he has gradually taken wine production over from his uncle Pierre, who tragically lost his sense of taste when he fell from a tall foudre. Thierry’s goal is to make fruity wines with elegance, power, and finesse that have the same aging potential as the traditional old wines.
The cellars of Mont-Olivet are located in three different places. In 2006, they built a new tasting room, and a private wine cellar in 2008.
Details on geography and varieties of wine:
A total of 27 hectares of vineyards are spread out across the entire region, on two of which white grapes are planted. The biggest parcel comprises 10.4 hectares on the hills in the lieu-dit of Montalivet near La Crau, where one hundred year-old Grenache grapevines grow, as well as grapevines of all of the other permissable varieties. They are used for the Cuvée du Papet. Clos du Mont-Olivet also owns old Grenache grapevines in the lieux-dits of La Crau, Palestor, and Bois Dauphin, as well as a large vineyard in the Le Pied du Baud lieu-dit on a plateau covered with stones at an altitude of 110 meters above sea level. The soil there has a higher concentration of clay, and relatively young Grenache, Mourvèdre, Syrah, and Cinsault grapevines grow there. A third large plot on which mainly Grenache, but also Cinsault and Vaccarèse are grown, is situated in the southwestern section of the region near the Rhône in the Les Galimardes lieu-dit. The soil there is rather pebbly and thus well irrigated.
In 2008, Mont-Olivet planted some new Syrah and Roussanne grapevines in Palestor in the northern section. The green grapes such as Grenache blanc, Clairette, Bourboulenc, and Roussanne are grown mainly in the lieux-dits of Montalivet and Chemin de Sorgues.
After a severe hailstorm in 1997, Mont-Olivet started selectively destemming its red grapes coming from Pied de Baud in order to avoid undesirable aftertastes. When this brought about positive results, its employment was gradually increased, and today, destemming is a customary step in the procedure. Depending on the vintage, the age of the vines, and the varieties, up to 60% or more of the grapes are destemmed. The grapes are slightly ground, and fermentation and maceration take place for 20 to 30 days in concrete tanks. During the following May or June, the varieties are mixed, and then aged in foudres and corrosion-resistant steel tanks. Bottling is conducted step by step at intervals throughout the year. After the first part of the wine from the foudres is bottled, the wine from the steel tanks comes into the empty foudres in the hope of introducing the same character into the wine, bringing its taste as close as possible to the initial bottling. Thierry wants to delay bottling for a long time, as had been a customary procedure in the past. One part of the wine has already been stored for 8 – 10 years in barrels in the cellar of the estate.
The standard-Clos du Mont-Olivet consists of 80% Grenache, 10% Syrah, and 10% of a mixture of Mourvèdre, Cinsault, and other varieties. A second version of this wine is marketed in the U.S.A. by North Berkeley Imports. This wine ages in small oak barrels, with an annual production of 3,000 bottles.
Since 2005, Mont-Olivet has been producing its Cuvée Le Petit Mont composed of 95% Grenache and 5% Syrah. It is mainly made from the grapes from relatively young vines, and 80% of it ages in corrosion-resistant steel tanks, the remainder in barrels which have already been used. Le Petit Mont is a fruity Châteauneuf which is best consumed while it is still young.
When the vintages are very good, the special Cuvée du Papet is produced. Its first harvest was in 1989, and the mixture varies from year to year. In 1989, 1990, and 1998, for instance, it consisted of 95% Grenache and 5% Syrah, whereas it contained only 80% Grenache and 10% each of Syrah and Mourvèdre in 2004 and 2005. In 2007, on the other hand, a mixture was made of 75% Grenache, 15% Mourvèdre, and 10% Syrah. This wine ages for 18 months, partly in vats, and partly in demi-muids.