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Looking in on Mont-Redon

A late October visit to Château Mont-Redon with some friends gave us the opportunity to drink some excellent wines, have an insider tour and leave with a few thoughts to mull over:

• Being big can mean that a winery focuses only on volume, but it also can mean it has the resources to consistency make superior wines.

• The best producers are often early adaptors of new technology while nevertheless embracing sensible traditional techniques.

• Rhone producers love to diversify, making wine from grapes grown in different regions.

• Rhone blends, especially the reds, are a lot like classic French cooking – you may not always know what’s in there, but it tastes damn good!

Director Jean Abeille greeted us on the winery’s reception pad, giving and update us on the 2014 harvest, a difficult one finished three weeks earlier.  Then he provided an overview of the estate’s terroir, with main segments being one with limestone soil, good for the whites, which are about 15% of production, and one being the famous, iron-rich “soil” of “pebbles” or large, rounded stones for which Châteauneuf is famous.

Today, Mont-Redon is the largest estate in the area, with about 100 hectares of vines.  Although the site dates back to Roman times (and known as far ago as 1344 as “Mourredon”), it was only about 100 years ago that it was replanted to vines, one of the first to actually occupy Chateauneuf’s broad plateau.

But what Abeille really wanted to show us was his optical sorting equipment.  While optical sorting, which automatically rejects everything from bad berries to over-sized berries to all sorts of junk, are becoming more common in top wineries, I’ve not yet seen an operation as complex or as efficient as Mont-Redon’s. At the same time, Abeille has maintained the simple, now-traditional technology of fermentation in concrete vats for a portion of his Châteauneuf – whatever works best.

“The most important grape for the red is of course Grenache,” Abeille says, “which makes us 60-65% of the blend.  But we are planting more Syrah and Mourvere,” the latter becoming increasingly more across the region.  That said, Mont-Redon also uses other red varieties, most obscure outside the area – Cinsault, Cunoise, Muscardin, Vaccarèse and Terret Noir.

In the tasting room, Abeille served us reds and whites from Châteauneuf, Côtes du Rhone (22 hectares in production purchased in 1980) and Lirac (32 hectares purchased in 1997).  All are marked by good structure – acid and fruit in balance – freshness and length on the palate.  Not surprisingly, Abeille likes 2010, 2005 and 2000 as great recent vintages of Châteauneuf.

When we were finished, I had a few minutes to enjoy the late-afternoon sun reflecting of the coloring grape leaves as my friends ordered cases of Mont-Redon for shipment back home.

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