“I always find Charvin’s wines closest to those of Chateau Rayas, although the Charvin wines are slightly more concentrated. Charvin may indeed produce the Richebourg of Chateauneuf du Pape.” www.robertparker.com
Domaine Charvin sits comfortably in our top five estates of the Chateauneuf du Pape region alongside the revered (and more expensive) wines of Rayas, Beaucastel, Vieux Telegraphe and Marcoux. Charvin is a small estate in the cooler north of the region, with 10 hectares of certified organic vineyards on the unique sandy soils, much like the cultish Rayas, the regions benchmark fetching circa $700 a bottle when you can find them. We have said it before, but Grenache grown on sand has an allure, boosting the aroma, poise and elegance of the variety, while on the contrary, Grenache grown on clay produces wines of darker and denser style. Our preference is the former.
Charvin nails our brief when we look for great producers of the world. The focus is on wines of elegance and purity. Purity in that the focus is on the vineyard and there is no winemaking artefact that gets in the way of expressing this. The fruit is picked, fermented in concrete with stems included (to enhance aroma and structure), then pressed to concrete tanks for elevage. There is no oak on this wine, which shows great confidence and skill. The wines always focus on floral fragrance, spice and red cherry and raspberry fruits, with the usual brown spice, aniseed and wild herb (garrigue) rustic influence that is common with great Chateauneuf. Whilst these three vintages are all great (2016 one of the best of all time), they have been dryer and warmer than usual, so there is an impressive concentration to these.
Chateauneuf was the first appellation created in France’s Appelation Origine Controlee system back in the 1930’s¸ which sought to regulate quality wine production. Whilst it has long been seen as the jewel of the South of France, in recent decades, following international media hype, many of the wines became big, rich, alcoholic, simple and boring. This is a similar trend to regions like Barossa and Napa, where traditional wines of balance and elegance were left to a few. Charvin is one of these few, and whilst media have been kind to their wines, they are because of an unwavering quest for balance expressing site and balancing power with freshness and structure.
This is a vintage pack with wines from the excellent current release of 2018, the hyped 2016 and the very strong 2015. The wines all received 96 points from Vinous media, our main reference point, with some things of note below. These are full bodied red wines and a global benchmark for the style. They will comfortably cellar in to the 2030’s for those that are patient. They also come with a well deserved price tag, but for those looking for a more affordable look in to the producer and region, we will back this offer up with Charvin’s Cote du Rhone tomorrow.
2018 – Low yields, near perfect growing season, excellent quality. A highly perfumed bouquet evokes ripe red and dark berries, baking spices, garrigue and candied flowers, and a smoky mineral flourish appears as the wine opens up. Sappy, sweet and penetrating on the palate, offering juicy black raspberry, cherry and lavender pastille flavors joined by hints of allspice and bitter chocolate. Smooth and seamless in texture, showing superb finishing clarity, gently gripping tannins and strong, spicy persistence.
2016 – Warm and even. One of the great vintages. Richer and more concentrated than usual. Deep bright-rimmed red. An expansive, highly complex bouquet evokes ripe red fruits, candied flowers, exotic spices and minerals, and a subtle garrigue nuance emerges with aeration. Sweet, seamless and broad on the palate, offering intense Chambord, cherry pastry, star anise and candied lavender flavors that show superb delineation and back-end lift. In a distinctly suave style, as is usual for this domaine, with an added measure of richness thanks to the vintage.
2015 – Perfect spring conditions, rain early in the growing season, then a warm and long season. Grenache excelled. \Sexy, highly perfumed raspberry, boysenberry and floral pastille scents are complemented by hints of musky rhubarb and Asian spices. Palate-staining sweet red and blue fruit and spicecake flavors show power as well as superb vivacity thanks to a spine of juicy acidity. The floral quality comes back emphatically on a strikingly long, sappy finish shaped by smooth, slow-mounting tannins. This might be the finest wine to emerge from this estate that I have ever tasted, and I've had some pretty amazing ones over the years.