Perfectly Balanced Châteauneuf-du-Pape and a Bizarre Backstory

Today’s Story: Xavier Vignon

Xavier Vignon is a well-known wine consultant and négociant, specializing in the wines of the Rhône Valley and in particular Châteauneuf-du-Pape. The son of an agriculturalist and stone mason, Xavier grew up with the mentality that hard work and determination is necessary in everything one does. With a mind for science and music, Xavier joined a paleontology club that took him to Reims, Champagne and he just so happened to launch a passion for wine while there. While he waited for admission to study France’s National Diploma of Oenology, Xavier worked harvests in Champagne for multiple houses and built up experiences with wine along the way. When he was finally admitted, he took a spot in Montpellier and received a dual degree in oenology and agronomy. Before settling down in the Rhône Valley, however, Xavier traveled to and worked in Alsace, Bordeaux, Napa, and Australia to perfect his craft. In 1996, Xavier started working as a wine consultant for a few dozen estates and he was centered in the region of Vaucluse.

Around the early 2000s, Xavier started putting some focus on a brand of his own through a négociant model. He began bottling his wines under Xavier Vins, and this small production endeavor was largely for himself and friends in an anonymous fashion. Xavier Vins released its first Châteauneuf-du-Pape in 2007, and soon fell onto the radar of Robert Parker. Parker praised Xavier’s wines, giving all scores over 90 points, and in 2012 Xavier left the Oenological Institute of Champagne to devote more time on his own wines. Though Xavier continues to consult for a number of wineries to this day, his namesake wines are his bread and butter and he crafts them at Château Husson since he does not have his own domaine.

Today’s Wine: 2001 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée Ange

Unknown blend of 13 AOP Châteauneuf-du-Pape varieties; 14.5% ABV

The 2001 Cuvée Ange is a very special wine in the Xavier Vignon portfolio, as it is named after his son Ange who was born in the year 2001. What’s more, this is also a highly unusual wine in that Xavier sought out some of the best 2001 Châteauneuf-du-Pape wines from his partner winemakers over the course of nearly a decade and he did not blend them until 2010. Not stopping there, the blended wine went into barrels for further aging, and these barrels were submerged in tanks of wine to preserve the freshness of fruit. This wine was not bottled until 2019 (!!) to coincide with Ange’s 18th birthday, and the result is an unbelievably balanced, complex, and deep beauty of a wine.

In the glass, the 2001 Cuvée Ange is deep garnet in color and almost opaque. I decanted this for 3 hours, but it really started showing its best after about 4.5 hours as I was drinking it. The gorgeous, complex nose showcases aromas of blackberry, plum, black cherry, anise, violet, cigar box, cured game, truffle, forest floor, crushed rock, thyme, clove, and bright mineral. The palate is equally complex, displaying notes of black plum, cassis, inky blackberry, sweet tobacco, smoked red meat, freshly tilled soil, smoke, coffee grounds, cracked black pepper, dark chocolate, baking spice, and stony minerality. Still incredibly youthful and beautifully balanced, this is full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium (+) velvety tannins, and a medium (+) length finish.

Price: $90. I think this is very appropriately priced, as it is beautifully deep, complex, and full of life. It is also an incredibly unique and fun wine that honestly beat any expectation I had set for it.