Grape varieties:70% Grenache, 10% Syrah, 10% Mourvèdre, 10% Carignan
Southern Rhône wines are almost always blended around Grenache to bring balance, complexity and richness of aroma to the wines. Thirteen varietals are permitted. The main varieties are:
Grenache – Medium ruby colour and high alcohol. Delightfully fruity (red fruits) in youth, spice: prune notes with age. Medium dry tannins that soften with age.
Syrah – Deep colour with purple shades. Very tight but velvety tannins giving good ageing potential. Violet and/ or black fruit aromas. With age the aromas evolves towards wild aromas of leather, truffle, and towards liquorice
Mourvèdre – Dark brick red, high tannin brings additional ageing quality to the blend. Sometimes animal notes in its youth become fruity (dark berries, leather, undergrowth, pine, liquorice) and spicy with age.
Cinsault – High proportion in Rosé. Elegant, fruity aromas, light colour and tannin (in reds).
Grenache Blanc – Low acidity giving smoothness and length on the palate with floral aromas and notes of apple and pear.
Clairette – Brings acidity and freshness to the blend. Floral, complex aromas of rose and acacia with notes of white peach and exotic fruit.
Roussanne – Brings finesse and delicacy and a great deal of elegance. Good acidity in the northern Rhône enabling the wine to age well. Complex aromas of honeysuckle with touches of apricot, hawthorn or narcissus.
Bourboulenc – Brings good acidity to the blend. Floral aromas.
Marsanne – Medium acidity, with high aromatic potential in young wines. Complex and subtle floral aromas of acacia, dried fruit and nuts (almond, hazelnut, walnut).
Viognier – Medium colour with low acidity and very fruity (pear) in the Southern Rhône. In the Northern Rhône, it brings suppleness and smoothness. Great aromatic potential – acacia, honeysuckle, violet, almond blossom, linden, and with age, musk, honey and dried apricot.
Terroir: Sand, clay, limestone and gravel.
The vast majority of wines in the Southern Rhône are aged in neutral tanks such as concrete and stainless steel in order to preserve the delightful fruity characteristics of Grenache. Where oak is used, it is often only used for a proportion of the blend. The majority of wines in the Northern Rhône however, are aged in oak.
The amount of oak flavour in the wine depends on:
The following classifications are used for wines listed on this website:
No Oak – The wine is aged in neutral vats or large, old oak barrels that impart no oak flavours. These wines will be fruit-forward and bright in their early years.
Light Oak – Oak flavours are present but do not dominate the wine when young. The wine may only be partly aged in smaller oak barrels and/or the barrels may have been used for one to three prior wines.
Prominent Oak – Oak flavour is a noticeable feature of the wine, particularly when young. Oak also imparts oak tannins into the wine which can increase the ageing potential of the wine, thus allowing the wine to develop complex aromas over many years.
Drinking time: 2 to 9 years
Reviews: RP 93 pts
The ratings of leading reviewers are listed here with their written comments detailed at the bottom of the page.
Remember that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”. Each wine reviewer has personal tastes and, as hard as they try, preferences can be reflected in the numerical score a reviewer gives to a wine. This is why is important to read their comments rather than judge a wine by its numerical score.
JR = Jancis Robinson. Score out of 20 points.
RP = Robert Parker, Wine Advocate. Score out of 100 points.
JD = Jeb Dunnuck. Score out of 100 points.
WS = Wine Spectator. Score out of 100 points.
W&S = Wine and Sprits. Score out of 100 points.
WE = Wine Enthusiast. Score out of 100 points.
VM = Vinous Media. Score out of 100 points.
JS= James Suckling. Score out of 100 points.
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This wonderful, family-run wine domaine was founded by Roger Sabon in 1952 from family vineyards that date back to 1560. Responsibility for the domaine passed over to Roger’s three sons, Gilbert, Jean-Jacques and Denis in 1976.Today they are joined by Denis daughter, Delphine who runs the commercial side of the winery and his son, Julien who works with him the vineyards. Jean-Jacques son-in-law Didier Negron is in charge of the winemaking, having previously worked at other prestigious domaines in Châteauneuf-du-Pape.
The domaine cultivates 46 ha (117 acres) of vineyards, of which 18 ha are in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, 12ha are in Lirac, 6 ha are in Côtes-du-Rhône and 14ha designated as Vin de France. The Châteauneuf-du-Pape vineyards are spread over 14 plots of quite diverse terroir. The reds are therefore, not just blends of different grape varieties, but blends of different terroir which no doubt explains part of the complexity of these wines.
The domaine produces the three different red Châteauneuf-du-Pape cuveés: “Les Olivets”, “Réserve” and “Prestige” which reflect differing blends on grape varieties, terroir and vine ages.
In certain vintages, the domaine bottles very limited amounts of a fourth cuveé called Le Secret de Sabon which is produced from low-yielding vines over 100 years old.
The domaine also produces small quantities of a delightful white Châteauneuf-du-Pape cuveé call “Renaissance” which is fermented and aged in a new 2500 litre oak cask that gives a hint of oak complexity to the wine.
The wine styles are traditional with delicate touches of modernity that do not comprise the unique expression of their terroir. The Châteauneuf-du-Pape reds are fermented in concrete vats. This, and a long maceration on the skins provides for good extraction of colour and tannins without the need for punching down of the skins (“pigeage”).
Large oak barrels (“foudres”) are used for the reds to round out the tannins without imparting oak flavour, thus allowing for a fuller expression of their terroir in the wines.
Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate (RP)
2019 vintage (93 points): Even better than his 2016 (!), the 2018 Lirac by Roger Sabon starts off perfumed and floral, backed by delicate berry notes. Medium to full-bodied, it’s creamy and supple, with a long finish. Even after blind-tasting 40+ Liracs, I described this in my notebook as “electrifying stuff.” It should drink well for close to a decade.