Jean-Paul Daumen, who Jeb Dunnuck describes as “unquestionably one of the most talented winemakers in all of France” has been expertly steering La Vieille Julienne to thrilling new heights in the last decade. The Daumen’s wines possess both richness and depth, alongside notable elegance and freshness.
The domaine owns around 20 hectares of vineyards, most of them located on the cooler, sandy terroir to the North of Châteauneuf du Pape, with some plots falling under the Côtes du Rhône appellation. Formed in 1905, this estate has been owned and run by the Daumen family ever since. As with many small properties in the Rhone region, in the beginning the grapes were sold to negociants, and it was not until the 1960s that the first estate bottled wines were released. However, the international recognition of La Vieille Julienne came much later, after Jean-Paul Daumen took charge of the family business in 1990.
Jean-Paul focused on reducing the yields and working to achieve the best expressions of the unique terroir. Their traditional Châteauneuf has been divided into two cuvées, Les Trois Sources and Les Hauts Lieux while a tiny, single plot of 100+ year old vines produces a Reserve bottling only in their best vintages.
Les Trois Sources, a blend of Grenache, Cinsault, Syrah, Counoise and a few other permitted varieties, comes from 75-year-old vines growing in a small vineyard with a mosaic of safres sand, pebbles, and red clay. The Grenache is perfectly at home here showing an outstanding balance of power and finesse.
Les Hauts Lieux is predominantly Grenache and Mourvedre, with some Cinsault and Counoise, and originates from the highest elevation and the most sheltered part of the terroir of slopes. Marlstone soils and shallow safres covered with quartzite pebbles are particularly favourable for Mourvedre. This vigorous wine possesses tense tannins yet shows impeccable balance and elegance.
Finally, the Vieille Julienne Reserve is a modern-day legend, having scored 100 points from RP Wine Advocate multiple times since its first release in 1994. The cuvee is 90-95% Grenache with some Cinsault and Syrah, all sourced from vines which are more than 100 years old and grow in the unique microclimate of the north facing terroir of slopes. With tiny amounts produced only in the best vintages, this is a rare gem which is almost impossible to find.
At the vineyards Jean-Paul Daumen chooses to the biodynamic approach, treasuring the land and the biodiversity if offers. The grapes are hand-harvested and manually selected in the vineyard and then at the winery. The vinification continues to be traditional and the fermentation is natural, without any addition. Jean-Paul believes that the indigenous yeasts reveal both singularity of each terroir and a single expression for each vintage. After a long and slow fermentation, wines are drained away in foudres and aged for about 18 months. The bottling is done without fining or filtering.
“The list of truly extraordinary wines from this small terroir located on the northern edge of Châteauneuf-du-Pape is mind-boggling. And there are no secrets; Jean-Paul focuses first and foremost on his vineyards, which are all farmed organically and sustainably, minuscule yields, no SO2 during vinification, aging in neutral foudres and tank, and bottling unfined and unfiltered. The result is a naked, raw expression of this magical terroir and old vines” (Jeb Dunnuck).