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stirring the lees with james molesworth

Cha-Cha-Cha-Changes at Domaine de la Vieille Julienne

This longtime Châteauneuf-du-Pape star is growing
Photo by: David Yellen

Posted: Jul 5, 2017 3:10pm ET

After a period of being seemingly locked in at Domaine de la Vielle Julienne, Jean-Paul Daumen, one of Châteauneuf-du-Pape's elder statesmen, quietly changed. A lot.

Like his fellow vintners at Domaine Giraud, Daumen works a bit out of the spotlight, but the wines are clearly among the appellation's elite. These are also some of the most ageworthy wines in the AOC, always showing considerably younger than many of their peers when I taste retrospectives of older vintages.

But change is afoot. Daumen is extremely happy to have just secured an additional 10 acres of vines in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, located directly across the road from his cellar and on the same terroir he currently works. Now Daumen has a nearly contiguous set of 54 acres of vines, a rarity in the area, where numerous spread-out parcels are the norm.

"It was a rare opportunity," says Daumen, a soft-spoken and introspective vigneron. "First thing I will do is convert to organics, which will takes three years of farming. Then, from there, another year or two of vinifications to see how the vines work with the blends. So, up to five years of farming Châteauneuf parcels that will not go into my wines. It is going to be a little difficult, economically, but the potential for the future was too much to pass up."

The future now includes Daumen's son Antoine, just 24 and coming out of business school. The plan is for Antoine to eventually take the reins at the domaine.

"I can teach him winemaking," says Daumen. "Most of the work is done in the vineyard anyway. What you really need today is management skills. A domaine to survive and grow needs to manage people, logistics at harvest and so on. These are things I did not have to deal with when I first started [in 1992]. I'm not saying winemaking isn't important, of course it is. But you don't need to go to school for it. If you need an analysis, you can use a lab. If you need technical assistance, you can use an enologist. And all these things can be managed. So what you really need is management skills."

As Daumen releases late, we did not taste through the 2016s, which are still aging. We tasted through the 2015s, which are bottled, but won't be released in the U.S. until early next year.

"2015 and 2016 are very welcome," says Daumen with a light sigh. "2012 was good, but lower yields. 2013 more difficult and with very low yields. In 2014 we selected out 50 percent. Over those three years, we lost the equivalent of one vintage in volume. So 2015 and 2016 are very very welcome here."

"2015 was not a complicated vintage to manage. Some areas had longer maturation, and I actually like that, because the wine is deeper. 2015 was not hot, not cold. It's difficult to say 'normal' today, as the climate is changing, but it was not abnormal for sure. We often get extreme conditions at some point, but we didn't get that in 2015. Just some very small rains in the middle of harvest, which helped the later-ripening areas, such as Les Hauts-Lieux."

Check back tomorrow for my notes on the 2015 vintage at this exciting domaine.

Follow James Molesworth on Twitter, at twitter.com/jmolesworth1, and Instagram, at instagram.com/jmolesworth1.

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