This rare wine hails from the village of Sablet, which takes its name from the distinct sandstone soils. Just outside of Châteauneuf-du-Pape and sharing sandy terroir similar to the famed Château Rayas, the vines are perched at the picturesque base of the Dentelles de Montmirail, which dominates the landscape from many vantage points in the Southern Rhône. First cultivated under the Counts of Toulouse then controlled by the Popes of Avignon, the land’s storied history continued on through Domaine de Piaugier. Alphonse Vautour first built the current Domaine de Piaugier winery and cellars in 1947 when he inevitably tired of dragging his mule, laden with barrels, to and from the top of the hill where the original Ténébi cellar was nestled. Jean-Marc Autran crafted his first wine in his great-grandfather’s cellars in 1985. Under Jean-Marc’s guidance, the family business began bottling in the domaine and has expanded their holdings to thirty hectares of vines.
Their 55-year-old Counoise vines from this single vineyard are perched atop sandy clay, limestone and sandstone and are manually harvested then fermented in whole clusters. The wine spends one month in climate-controlled cement tank for fermentation then is aged for two winters in demi-muids (600-litre barrels) and large wooden vats before being bottled without fining or filtration. Jean-Marc’s traditional winemaking techniques allow the incredibly beautiful perfume of this unique varietal to fully express its personality. Extremely rare as a stand alone, this bottling is about the best example I have ever encountered of pure Counoise. An absolute Southern Rhône standout, I will be drinking copious amounts of this all summer long. The perfect BBQ wine and an ideal cross between a lush Châteauneuf-du-Pape and an elegant Burgundy, this is a wine to buy by the case. At this price you should not think twice.
This wine exhibits a beautiful dark ruby purple core with pink reflections on the meniscus. The perfumed nose first reveals myriad fresh flowers of violets, lilac, lilies and lavender alongside wild herbs. A secondary bounty of generously ripe but not overly sweet fruit delivers blackcurrants, ripe boysenberry, blueberries, wild black raspberries and a touch of strawberry. The palate is rich and round with soft tannins, fine minerality and boasts floral aromatics from the nose laced with just about every wild, freshly-picked berry you can imagine before it evolves to include fennel bulb, nuanced spice and crushed earth. Decant this wine for twenty minutes prior to serving in Burgundy stems at just above cellar temperature (60F). If the wine is room temperature (72F), cool it down for exactly ten minutes in the freezer; it will quickly come down to cellar temperature and keep the alcohol in check while the exquisite floral aromatics stay alive. This is the perfect BBQ wine, but it should definitely be kept slightly cool if drinking in warm weather to allow the aromatics to fully express themselves without alcohol dominating the nose. For an unforgettable summer evening, pair this unique beauty with braised short ribs and chipotle cherries.