12 Days of Vinebox: Day 11

4 01 2019

By Peter Vetsch

It’s the penultimate day of the Vinebox 12 Days of Christmas calendar, and while Christmas feels like a long time ago, there’s never a bad time to use the word “penultimate” when you have an occasion in need of its natural meaning.  Thanks to the outcome of the one-by-one Vinebox vial draft that I had with Ray, I ended up with the last two days of this miniature vinous adventure, and I certainly sat up and took notice when I pulled a 100 mL test tube of Chateauneuf-du-freaking-Pape out of the box and knew that it had to be mine.  When Vinebox says that they quality-control like crazy and look to represent the best in their sets, it’s not just marketing talk; the level of the wines across this dozen tastes has been consistently legit.

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Where I might give Vinebox a bit of constructive feedback is in the relatively slim amount of information that comes along with each vial.  The Vinebox reveal website for this calendar (which I might as well give you now that it’s the penultimate day of our countdown — see how useful and awesome that word is??) tells me only that tonight’s wine is the “Graveirette Chateauneuf de Pape”; the label of the tube adds that this is the 2014 rendition of this wine.  As the current vintage of this Chateauneuf is the 2015, and as it is not a widely known producer or wine in this market, it is next to impossible to track down any information about this specific bottle, which can be exceedingly frustrating when you’re the Type A kind of person who wants to know these things but can’t find them.  If future reveal sites could at least include the vintage, blend, vineyard details and winemaking and aging regime for the wines, it would be of tremendous assistance in bringing crucial context to the sensory impressions that this wine has in spades.

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Here’s what I can tell you:  Domaine de la Graveirette was founded in 2005 by Julien Mus, a native of the small southern Rhone village of Bédarrides, located in between Orange and Avignon in the Chateauneuf-du-Pape appellation, immediately east of the famed new castle of the Pope itself.  Mus was a relative rarity in that he left home to pursue a formal wine education in Beaune, Burgundy, and was perhaps even more rare in that, after said certified advancement of his profession, he came back to his very same tiny hometown to work, first growing grapes which he sold to the local cooperative, but then in 2005 founding his own estate that would allow him to forge his own winemaking path.  This estate, Graveirette, has been organically farmed since 2012 and Demeter-certified biodynamic since 2015.  Under the Graveirette name, Mus makes everything from prestige-cuvee CNDP to experimental micro-vat offerings (100% Marselan, anyone? I’m in) that are intentionally downgraded to the Vin de France designation to allow for creativity and flexibility in how the finished product comes about, freed from restrictive appellation legalities.

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This particular Châteauneuf-du-Pape comes from grapes within Mus’ 25 hectares of vineyards that are harvested from 70+ year-old vines.  The blend is predominantly Grenache, likely 85-90%, with the remainder being Syrah possibly joined by Cinsault (the 2015 vintage of this wine eschewed Cinsault completely, but it was used in prior years).  The grapes were hand-harvested, fermented using natural yeasts and not subject to any additives whatsoever in the winemaking process other than a small amount of sulphur dioxide at bottling; the wine was fermented in steel and spent a further 30 months there maturing, with possible further time (the record is unclear) in old oak foudres…given the wood-heavy tasting notes below, if this Chateauneuf somehow achieved these flavours without oak, I would be exceptionally intrigued.

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From the second I grabbed the vial out of the Vinebox, I couldn’t get over the shimmering, jewel-like, wholly transparent ruby colour of this wine, suggestive that the liquid inside was both treasure map and treasure.  This initial look of the wine is why I wanted to taste it so badly, further cementing the impact (subconscious or otherwise) of colour on our overall impressions of a bottle.  My initial notes, pre-research, were that the nose of the Graveirette CNDP had the “oak-laden complexity classic to the region”; while the oak part may now be in question, I stand by the classic part.  Charred embers, warm cedar, sauna and kindling aromas are strewn across mulled strawberry and cherry with duskier blackberry lurking in the background.  To taste is to be surprised yet again, as the tannic structure of this young Chateauneuf is overt and palpable, serving to shield and mask the wine’s powerful alcohol but also to mute some of its corresponding flavours.  The delicate silken robe suggested by the Graveirette’s colour turns out to be kevlar, carefully protecting stewed red fruits, leather, peppery beef jerky, rosemary, black rocks and potting soil beneath a layer of structured armour.  From a seemingly open and inviting start to a closed and serious finish, this invites further study, and another glass that I wish I had.

90+ points

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