Andrew Guard

Châteauneuf du Pâpe

Jean-Paul Versino at Bois de Boursan is one of the few growers who stick resolutely to traditional methods and his wines stand out for their wonderfully classical and typical Châteauneuf aromas. This is Châteauneuf as it used to be, as it always was, and not the modern, sweet and easy style that is now often produced in collaboration with the various consultant oenologues that plague contemporary French winemaking - so instead of mocha and coffee you will find lavender, garrigue, stones, ash and fresh, sappy fruit. Bois de Boursan wines are very aromatic, with tremendous texture and energy.

Versino uses whole bunch fermentation, wild yeasts, keeps extraction to a minimum, presses using an old basket press, élevages the wine for nearly two years in large old oak barrels and bottles unfiltered and unfined.

Versino’s approach in the cellar is key but so is the diversity and quality of his terroir: 27 parcels of very old vines over 18 hectares in all sectors of the appellation. This is rare. Trees border many of the parcels which help to cool the vines a little; the different sectors lend complexity and are usually harvested at different times to take advantage of optimal ripeness. Most vineyards are at around 100m altitude and gently slope south, south-east or south-west; the climate is Mediterranean with the mistral wind to cool, dry and concentrate; all vines are bush trained and worked organically and meticulously.

When tasting Versino’s wines, they reveal themselves slowly but they build on the palate to offer layers of elegance, complexity and structure, and finish powerfully but most importantly, fresh and vibrant. Accessible when young, the best vintages will age brilliantly for up to 25 years.

Jean-Paul Versino, now in his late 40s, is a dynamo of energy, enthusiasm and intelligence. He is the third generation; his Grandad came from Piemonte and his Dad painstakingly built up the estate for Jean-Paul to take over in 1987. This is first class French family winemaking in every sense.

The traditional Châteauneuf du Pâpe is always delicious with medium to full-bodied flavours, silky tannins, and outstanding purity and length. It is a blend of 65% Grenache, 15% Syrah, 15% Mourvèdre, and 5% the other red grapes of the appellation. Made from the oldest vines (90 years old) the Cuvée des Felix is made from 60% Grenache, 30% Mourvedre, 5% Syrah, and 5% other authorized grapes and spends 18 months in small used oak barrels. It is full bodied and multilayered and can be cellared to advantage for many years.


Written by Andrew Guard — June 16, 2012