Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe 2016
Vieux Télégraphe is one of the most renowned estates of the Southern Rhône. The large Domain has about 45 hectares of red grapevines planted, with an average age of around 55 years. Blessed with one of the finest locations in the area, the particularly hot microclimate is such that the Brunier Family, owners of the estate for almost a century, are able to harvest as much as a week ahead of their neighbours. Notes by Daniel Brunier – October 2017 on the 2016 vintage:
"We have already forgotten that 2016 was also a dry vintage; from October 2015 to February 2016, we suffered a serious water deficit. Only October and February saw normal rainfall. One reason why we forgot this winter drought was the presence of surface moisture due to fog.
We therefore felt slightly anxious as we moved into spring. And we were not reassured by the coolness in March, the low rainfall in April, and the vines’ fairly slow growth.
Summer was fine, but dry also. From May to September, not one month had above-normal rain, and so the water deficit continued to deepen until harvest time.
Between spring and summer, flowering went well in the early areas, such as Châteauneuf-du-Pape; but much less well in the east of the valley, especially in Gigondas, where the weather in the latter half of June was unfavourable. This short period of poor weather explains the big gap in yields between the two appellations.
We had to wait for mid-September to have a decent spell of rain; the harvest had begun a good week earlier; and the summer heat also ended. It is noteworthy that the vineyards withstood this lengthy period of drought remarkably well, thanks largely to the old vines being deeply rooted in the subsoil.
The vintage is characterised by a superb balance of richness and freshness, and between high maturity and attractive acidity, which is fairly rare – very rare, even – in the southern Rhône Valley.
From Pigeoulet to Vieux Télégraphe, we have an array of terrifically fresh aromas, of vibrant juices, of balanced densities, of intense natural concentrations. For a Southern Rhône enthusiast, it’s simply magical.
We can say quite confidently that the 2016 Pigeoulet marks the peak of our output in this category since 1998. A nose of fruit that still feels very young, almost primary, after a year’s ageing; and on the palate, attractively elegant, fresh, creamy and lush; and the finish, despite the tension in the wine, is ample and almost sweet.
Mégaphone from Saint Hippolyte, in the Ventoux, is a more sober affair. The nose is deeper, slightly more austere; the tannic structure is also a touch more serious and prominent; a balanced wine, with the finesse characteristic of the place, and a nose of red berry fruit.
The Châteauneuf-du-Pape Whites have the balance typical of the vintage. Clos Roquète has appealing presence, freshness, harmony, finesse, and a faint grapefruity bitterness. Vieux Télégraphe, meanwhile, is still a little wild and disorderly; 2016 has accentuated its character, drawn from the Plateau de la Crau; it needs to age, of course, but its framework and handsome traits are reassuring.
The Pallières Reds, made from a very small crop, share the natural density of an outstanding vintage enhanced by very low yields. Terrasse du Diable is seriously dense, dark, and unreasonably spicy; it is aromatically fresh despite a fairly upfront tannic structure; but the finish is not heavy in the slightest. In short, a serious and complete wine.
Racines is surprisingly saline and very fresh, verging on citrussy aromas; it is rich, subtle, mouth-watering; the tannins are very well integrated; and its gorgeous finish never ends.
The 2016 Télégramme has such a pretty nose! It’s fresh and lush, with a bouquet of red berry fruits, raspberries to the fore. On the palate, a kind of airy freshness, a sort of natural niceness despite the serious edge that this vintage entails; the tannins are attractive and ripe.
With the 2016, Piedlong can rise a further rank in its specialist field, which is harmony and balance; the nose is vinous, complex, deep – an attractive introduction to a palate dominated by ultra-ripe Grenache flavours, bordering on “jammy”, but definitely not at all heavy; it is winningly elegant, an old-Grenache classic, straight through to a long finish that is borderline sweet.
In a fairly rare occurrence, Vieux Télégraphe has an open nose; it is fresh, a sign of the vintage, as well as creamy and beguiling; it has a faint aroma of fresh red roses – which is extremely rare. On the palate: lush and elegant despite its great richness and serious structure; the fruit is of an intensity that really demands two years’ ageing to attain the harmony one senses. It has the pedigree of the very greatest Vieux Télégraphe vintages.
In the light of such a pleasant surprise, and of such generosity from the natural world that dominates us, I have nothing more to add. "