2017 Domaine du Vieux Telegraphe Chateauneuf-du-Pape La Crau Blanc

Year: 2017
Appellation: Rhone
Country: France
Wine Advocate: 93-95
Vinous Media: 94-95
James Suckling: 96
Jeb Dunnuck: 93-95
White Wine
Alcohol by Volume: 13.5%
Price :
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45% Clairette, 30% Grenache Blanc, 10% Bourboulenc, 15% Roussanne

"VT's 2017 Chateauneuf du Pape Blanc is a blend of 45% Clairette, 30% Grenache Blanc, 15% Roussanne and 10% Bourboulenc, fermented in a mix of foudres, demi-muids and barriques. It's medium to full-bodied but tight, with crisp lime, lemon and pear notes carried on a silky-textured palate. You could drink this on release and enjoy it for its focus and delineation, or you could give the inner richness the time it needs (2-3 years) to emerge and soften the subtle citrus zest notes on the finish.

Early on a Saturday morning, the gracious and reflective Daniel Brunier received me at his family's historic estate to taste through a cross section of the wines that Famille Brunier is now producing. In addition to the wines of Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe (VT), the group includes wines from Le Pigeoulet, Mégaphone in Ventoux, Domaine Les Pallières in Gigondas and Clos La Roquète in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Brunier took the time during my brief visit to carefully explain why he doesn't like to call the 2017 Chateauneuf du Pape Télégramme a "second wine." This wine now includes much of the red plantings from Clos La Roquète, so maybe he has a point. But it also includes the young-vine material from VT plots, and it's clearly not of the caliber of the main VT bottling, so draw your own conclusions. The family philosophy is to avoid selected yeasts and bacteria for malolactic fermentation, allowing the naturally occurring bugs to do their work. Proportions of stems/whole clusters varies considerably, depending on the wine, as does the élevage, although most of the wines mature in foudres. While the greatness of 2016 goes unquestioned here, Brunier called 2017, "At minimum, a very, very good vintage. We were surprised it's so fresh and balanced." Yields were down by about 50% from the previous year. The emphasis here is on elegance and complexity. "Grenache is fantastic when it's not fruity. It's easy to do extraction and big wines. It takes humbleness to do less, a confidence in the land," Brunier said. More controversially, he concluded, "Extraction has been invented to replace terroir."" (WA)

"Bright straw-yellow. Powerful aromas of fresh pear and white peach are complicated by suggestions of orange zest, iodine and succulent flowers. Sappy and impressively delineated on the palate, offering intense pear skin, Meyer lemon and honeysuckle flavors that deepen and spread out steadily on the back half. Hints of marzipan and candied ginger emerge on an impressively long, mineral-tinged finish that echoes the floral and citrus fruit notes." (VM)

"A stonier, more mineral expression of white Châteauneuf with impressive body and concentration. Super-fresh, white flowers, flint and delicate pears here. The palate has a strong, mineral edge, smooth phenolics, fleshy stone fruit and a neat, fine, chalky finish. Clairette, grenache blanc, roussanne and bourboulenc. Drink in 2020." (JS)

"Brought up all in wood, one-third in foudre and the rest in demi-muid and barrels, the 2017 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc is mostly Clairette with the balance Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, and Bourboulenc. It offers lots of lemon and melon fruits, white flowers, toasted brioche, and honeysuckle aromas, medium to full body, beautiful purity of fruit, moderate acidity, and a layered, rich, textured style. It's going to flesh out beautifully with time in the cellar and keep for two decades." (JD)

Winery Notes:
• Grapes sourced from La Crau, the lieu-dit that is known for the galet roulés, or rounded stones, that cover the vineyard as far as the eye can see
• Fermentation begins in cement tank. Halfway through fermentation, the wine is transferred to oak (barriques, demi-muids, and foudres)
• Aged in wood (barriques, demi-muids, and foudres); 10-15% new oak
• 70% of wine undergoes malolactic fermentation
• Bottled after one year