Andrew Guard

Châteauneuf du Pâpe

Philippe Bravay is now in charge of the family domaine and, to quote the recent article in Wine Spectator where his 2005 Châteauneuf du Pape was the top rated wine, he is “now in a groove here”. He is extremely dedicated to preserving the unique traditions that Châteauneuf du Pâpe brings to the wine world although only a few will ever get to enjoy his wines as the domaine is tiny (only 5 ½ hectares of which over half is on vines approaching 100 years old) all situated in the lieu-dit Chemin Saint Jean. He uses organic growing techniques and limits yields severely (his Côtes du Rhône yields less than 2 tonnes to the acre, and the Châteauneuf du Pâpe much less) vinification is traditional: open top fermenters, basket presses, and cement cuves.

The Côtes du Rhône vines were planted between 1933 and 1946, and consist of 80% Grenache, 15% Syrah and 5% Cinsault. It is quite unbelievable just how good these are. France’s appellation laws, whilst quite brilliant, can be frustrating for some, including Philippe Bravay - a little country road acts as a separation point that prevents these vines from being able to produce Châteauneuf du Pâpe. They are fantastic Côtes du Rhône!

The Châteauneuf du Pâpe is 90% Grenache, the vines ranging in age from 60 to 100 years of age, and the balance the other twelve Châteauneuf varietals. From these he obtains superb natural ripeness, usually in excess of 14%. His methods are classic and the aging is for the most part in large oak foudre, but also a small portion in old barriques, however no new oak. The reds here start off life dark fruited, juicy and succulent and will close up after 5 years before opening again to evolve into penetrating and exotic flavours of kirsch, ash, sandalwood, leather and spice; always big wines, they are the very image of their landscape—hillsides of mistral battered vines growing between sun bleached stones the size of your fist. This is a wine stylistically similar to Domaines Marcoux, Charvin and Vielle-Julienne - all of whom are neighbours.

I have been confident for some time that Philippe Bravay from Domaine de Ferrand had the right qualities of drive, skill and touch to become one of the most renowned vignerons of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. He makes one of the finest examples of pure unadulterated old vine Grenache in the world today. Trophy wine hunters are now taking an interest in his wines, but Philippe adheres to an incredibly reasonable pricing policy, which in turn enables us to offer his brilliant wines at a very fair price.


Written by Andrew Guard — June 16, 2012