The Holy Grail of Vacqueyras

Decades Worth of Tastings led to This

As some of you are aware, in my previous life – ca the 1990s – I was an importer, travelling the backroads and highways of France and Italy in search of the finest wines to be brought back to America and peddled to an ever-increasing list of clients across the U.S. My favorite visits were those to the Department of Vaucluse, home to the most famous communes of the southern Rhone: Chateauneuf du Pape, Gigondas, Vacqueyras and more. This is the land of the famous Dentelle de Montmirail, those jagged mountains jutting out of the earth, meters high, visible from every village you visit. One village in particular where these limestone mountains have a direct impact on the wines is Vacqueyras. I made a point of visiting this tiny hamlet on every visit I made to Vaucluse, in search of that ever elusive “world’s greatest Vacqueyras.”

I have tasted my fair share of wine from Vacqueyras, a region with a perfect location for making excellent wines. With Chateauneuf du Pape just to its south-west and those jagged mountains buffering the vines from the north, Vacqueyras – with soils similar to Chateauneuf; with those rolled stones – was poised to take off back in the 90’s, back when I first visited. So, I’ve followed the wines ever since, tasting every sample I could get my hands on as the years went on. I became a retailer after those years as an importer, which afforded me even more opportunities to taste the now exponentially improving wines of my beloved Vacqueyras.

Then came a tasting hosted for me and Theresa here at the shop just a couple weeks back. Yep, you guessed it, the importer was pouring lots of great French wines – a real kindred spirit – to include a new name (for me) from Vacqueyras. Come to fine out this estate has been around for generations. First as a nursery, where they tended 100ha of vineyards to be sold to other producers, converting roughly 17ha in Vacqueyras in the 1990s for their own estate bottling. As luck would have it, I was too early to meet them when I was an importer, but in the perfect place to discover them today. And what a fantastic discovery indeed!

The estate is Domaine du Fontaine du Clos, and if the guys at Vinous are any measure, there are precious few others in the village who can compete with what this family is bottling! The list of 90+ point scores from that publication blew me away. I’ve seen such press for wines from Vacqueyras – never! Tasting the wine was all the proof I needed! This is a Vacqueyras for you lovers of Chateauneuf du Pape; yes, it’s that good. It’s deeply fruited, intense and structured, richly flavored, with all the dark fruits, spice and terroir notes you’d expect from a wine costing two, three times the tariff. One whiff and you’ll know – just like I did – this is some serious juice. I thank my lucky stars that this boutique importer came to us first.

2017 Fontaine du Clos Vacqueyras

Opaque purple color! Classic roasted nose smells like Chateauneuf du Pape, with those rolled stones and wild herbs, tons of minerals in the nose. Juicy, wild, herbal, full bodied, totally mimics Chateauneuf with all the smokey, gamey, truffle nuances. This is so complex, so well balanced, so delicious, Mouth filling flavors include plums, blackberries, truffle. The finish lasts for minutes. Amazing wine.