Wet star-fruit, spring orchard and touches of mint and
tropical citrus aromatics open this wine along with salty white flowers and melon
rind. There are bright chalky minerals, fennel, lemongrass and vetiver tones
before the wine warms into apricot, golden fig and tart yellow melon notes, becoming
woolen and richer. There is more weight on the palate, though all the while buoyed
with nice acidity and clean flavors. Waxy flavors of rich green apple, green
olive, honey, lemon skin and yellow floral tones are woven into the textural
and warm palate. There is power and freshness here in a lovely and forward wine
of 40% Clairette, 40% Bourboulenc, 10% Grenache blanc and 10% Roussanne that
will provide wonderful drinking and will develop well in the
Domaine Berthet-Rayne is a small, family run
operation located in Courthezon just down the road from the illustrious Chateau
de Beaucastel. Perhaps a bit more modern than traditionally styled, the wines
are issued from certified organic vineyards and are amazing values that
capture the spirit and character of small production Chateauneuf with charm
and ease. Relative newcomers to the region, the efforts of Berthet-Rayne date
back to a beautiful wedding present in 1978, though continue a family
tradition in the Rhone.
In the early 1920’s, Raoul Raymond took
notice as the first ever French controls over wine production were put forth
under the laws of Appellation Contrôlée in Chateauneuf-du-Pape. He saw more
of a future in grape vines than the old cherry trees on his newly inherited
family farm. He and his son Emil farmed Grenache, Mourvedre, Cinsault and
Syrah and began bottling wine as Domaine des Cigalons. When Emil’s daughter
Dany married Christian Berthet-Rayne, they received some of Cigalon vines as
a gift and Domaine Berthet-Rayne was born from old vines. Since 2003, Dany
and Christian’s daughter Laure and husband Martial are in charge of the daily
operations as well as are both acquiring more land and developing another
domaine, Berthet Capeau.
Situated between Orange and Avignon on the
west side of the Rhone River, Berthet-Rayne farms 15-20 hectares in
Chateauneuf-du-Pape as well as 5-10 hectares in Cotes-du-Rhone Villages. The
majority of their Chateauneuf-du-Pape vines are in the lieu-dits of Chapouin,
Coudoulet and Gardiole, where the quintessential soils of calcareous
clay overlaid with a thick carpet of rounded stones known as ‘galets’.
The cool limestone and chalky soils aid with water retention in a hot, dry
environment and somewhat delay ripening while the stones at the surface capture
the heat during and radiate it each night.
Since 2002, the farming has been organic and was
certified in 2007. The soils and vines are fully cultivated and ploughed with
no chemicals or fertilizers. The vineyards are planted to Grenache, Syrah,
Mourvedre, Cinsault, Clairette, Bourboulenc, Grenache blanc and Roussane that
are 40 years old on average and range up to 70 years old. Harvest is all done by hand and ripe fruit
is sorted in the vineyard into small picking bins.
Clairette and Bourboulenc are oftentimes
blended in smaller proportions to the weighter and oily Grenache Blanc and
Roussane in the region, though the inverse is true at Berthet-Rayne. The high
proportion of Clairette and Bourboulenc here lends itself to a unique wine,
showing more bright, mineral and fruit-driven than many others of the region.
This character is aided as the wine is fermented and aged in stainless steel
for 6 months before release. The 2014 Chateauneuf-du-Pape Blanc shows
wonderfully and lean upon opening though quickly finds depth and richness
with aromatics and flavors of star fruit, olive and fennel, sage, honeysuckle,
almond flour and nectarine. Less oily and rich than many, this wine shows lovely
texture along with tropical and vibrant aromas and flavors.