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Sunday, April 27, 2008

The wines of Domaine Barroche

The Reserve label is a blend of 60% Grenache from the 100 year old Palestor parcel, 23% Mourvedre from the La Mascarone parcel, 9% Cinsault from the 60 year old Pierrefeu parcel and the remaining blend comes from the Syrah planted in the Parc parcel. This cuvee is a touch more traditional and provides the Barroche perspective of the appellation.

The Fiancee is a much more modern interpretation that I’m certain will have plenty of backlash from the reactionaries. A 50/50 blend of Grenache (from, you guessed it, a 100 year old early maturing parcel called Terres Blanches) and Syrah. While it is a fabulous wine (one of which I personally raved over), the enormous percentage of Syrah (a grape that is universally loathed for creating insipid wines in the appellation) and the 18 month period of French Oak aging are perfect fodder for the ‘modern stigma’ based debate.

The Pure cuvee has quickly become the Domaine’s flagship wine. The wine is 100 percent Grenache and comes from a parcel planted in 1901 called Grand Pierre, full of sandy soils and is a stone’s throw from the famed Chateau Rayas vineyard.
Barroche, Chateauneuf du Pape Reserve 2004
There is a marked difference in terms of quality from the 2005 vintage on from Domaine Barroche. The Reserve cuvee is tightly knit, sporting modest scents of crushed rocks, brick dust, cardamom, licorice and black cherry in the nose. Tight and extremely mineral in the mouth, as crunchy acidity carries along the berry driven palate to a lithe finish. While a bit of air did flesh out the wine and tack on some chocolaty richness, this wine lacks the power and excitement of younger Barroche expressions, 88+ points.

Barroche Pure, 2004
Much like the Reserve, the Pure is somewhat closed aromatically and showed a much more compact, undelineated profile in the mouth. Modest amounts of black cherry liqueur, anise and garrigue are present in this medium bodied, dense, yet elegant ’04 that could use a bit more cellaring to coax out its best qualities, 91+ points.

Barroche, Chateauneuf du Pape Reserve 2005
This is another Barroche that begins a bit taut and reserved aromatically, with graphite characteristics dominating the nose for now, but paving the way for a dark, tannic powerhouse in the mouth. Deep, gutsy flavors of blackberry sauce, melted licorice, Maplewood smoked bacon and a mélange of other dark fruits bring more stature than the ’06, but a bit less polish texturally. After a couple more years of settling down, this should really cruise in the cellar, 94 points.

Barroche, Fiancee 2005
In relationship to the Reserve, this is lusty, aromatic and extremely suave, pumping out melted chocolate, date bread, pencil shavings and warm ganache notes along a silky, rich frame. As the wine sits in the glass, nuances of grilled herbs appear and the wine fleshes out a bit more on the top notch finish, 95 points.

Barroche, Chateauneuf du Pape Reserve 2006
While the Reserve was initially closed, a bit of coaxing brought out some vivid scents of linzer torte, boysenberry and raspberry pudding that actually made my knees buckle a bit. In the mouth, the wine is crammed w/ layers of glycerin that coat the deliciously round textures from head to toe. Although the profile is a tad exotic and markedly ripe, once the wine stretches its legs on the finish some underbrush and garrigue checks in, suggesting at what’s bound to blossom in the cellar, 93+ points.

Barroche, Fiancee 2006
Even though this blend may be a lightning rod for controversy, it’s an outstanding wine and as seductive as can be. Brooding, yet sweet aromatically, there’s a firework display of kirsch liqueur, chocolaty cedar, blackberry sauce and violets that strike an inviting balance between the two grape varietals. The palate is a showcase of massive and primal structure, but it’s oh so plush and tantalizing to taste, thanks to the piles of decadent flavors which woo you along the way to the sensual finish, 93 points.

Barroche, Pure 2006
While she may be a bit shy and tempting on the nose, don’t let those whispers fool you, there’s a blockbuster lurking underneath. Scents of strawberries ‘n cream, cocoa powder, kirsch and clove gets the fire started, but the explosion that follows in the mouth is a sheer tour de force in old vine Grenache. The palate is crammed w/ monstrous layers of ultra sappy, decadent, liqueur-like fruits that cascade over a bed of atypically powerful tannins which frame this indulgence remarkably. While it’s as primal as a barrel sample, all the elements are there to create an authentic masterpiece, 96+ points.

Barroche 2007
We tasted through various lots of Julien’s luxurious, ’07 fruit. His Syrah barrels (likely headed to the Fiancee cuvee) showed a great deal of promise, w/ dark, tar-laced fruits and firm backbones. While the Mourvedre was tougher to gauge (it had just been put in smaller barrels and was obscured by toast), the Grenache in tank was hands down, the most riveting young fruit that I tasted during my trip. The samples were so explosive, w/ palate numbing levels of extract and decadent layers of uncannily ripe, liqueur-toned fruits. I’d never experienced such blockbuster, hedonistic barrel infant wine before, and I can’t imagine I will again anytime soon. The pure Grenache lots all merited 98-100 point ratings, easily.

Served blind, Barroche 1980
Julien and I share a birth year, so I suppose popping his family’s ’80 was in order. While a bit past its prime and not exactly a product of the most memorable weather conditions, this 1980 stood firm w/ sweet balsamic, crushed flower, sandalwood and green olive notes. The palate was still holding on to some dried plum fruit, but the bright acidity began to hold center court, weaving in shades of volatile acidity along the wine’s attenuated frame, 74 points.

There is a very fruity, straight forward white Chateauneuf made at Barroche as well. Perfect as an aperitif, the white shows crisp golden delicious, ginger and melon rind flavors in an uncomplicated yet well balanced package. It is a solid, mid to high 80’s point wine and I am uncertain if this bottling is imported to the United States.

Julien also toys w/ some late harvest Clairette and, to my palate, has been extremely successful w/ it. To this point, the production is a miniscule 450 half bottles or so per year and I don’t believe he has the intention of selling them (he enjoys drinking them too much!). Considering that they were my first interaction w/ a dessert wine of their type, I figured my impressions would provide a bit of intrigue.

The bouquet as is esoteric as they come, full of jellied quince, lanolin, golden raisin and wild flower notes that seem to remind me a bit of a junior Quarts de Chaume. The mouthfeel paints w/ an exotic brush, weaving in flavors of pure honeycomb and pine resin that are well defined and full of lip-smacking acidity, giving it great drive and verve, 92 points.

Surprisingly, the older vintage seemed much more austere and shy aromatically, only hinting at bee pollen, candle wax, lilac and lemon zest scents. Upon entry though, the wine absolutely comes alive as if it were a sleeping giant, erupting with fantastic richness, wondrous depth and exquisite length. While the ’05 is certainly a showier, more powerful wine, and I imagine it will really stretch its legs in the cellar, it does share a commonality w/ the ’06 in terms of character and profile. Great job Julien, 93+ points!


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