Interview: In the cellar with Jerome from Chateau Mont-Redon
Justerini & Brooks - 26 May 2016
Last week Justerinis welcomed Jerome Abeille from the famed
Chateauneuf du Pape estate, Mont Redon to St James’s Street.
After a typically French breakfast of coffee and croissant, we
tasted a mouth-watering selection of Mont Redon wines. Jerome explained his
wines to our team and described the enormous effort that goes into producing
the highest quality Chateauneuf du Papes.
Mont Redon has been in the Abeille family since 1923. Four
generations later and the winery remains in the capable hands of Jerome’s
father, Jean, and his uncle, Didier Fabre. This striking domaine is very much a family
affair; sons and cousins are charged with all aspects of the winery’s upkeep,
from harvesting to export and sales; there is no let up for an estate that boasts
close to 200 hectares. It’s hard to
image that Mont Redon once started out with a relatively tiny 2.5 hectare plot.
Back in 1923 the Cote du Rhone was not the appellation it is
today. “This system started only in 1935, with our first Mont Redon bottling
being the 1950 vintage.” (Of which there are still a few bottles in Jerome’s
cellar, although he assures us he is yet to taste it!)
“We are now the largest wine estate in the appellation.”
Jerome informs us, “with 100ha in Chateauneuf du Pape, 28ha in the Cote du
Rhone, 35ha in Cru du Lirac and 48ha in Cote de Provence.” Yet, expansion is
still very much an ambition, “if the right opportunity comes along – of course.
We hope to continue to develop across the appellations.”
Making the best quality wine is very much the Mont Redon
ethos. At all stages of production, the best of cutting edge technology and traditional
wine-making methods are utilized.
Jerome explains that before the harvest all the family taste
the berries, but they do not taste the juice or pulp, “there is always enough
sugar,” Jerome maintains, instead “we press the berry and remove the juice,
tasting only the skin. This allows us to see the quality of the fruit and the
tannins.” This is the same process for each plot, allowing an assessment on the
maturity of the vintage, preserving the expression of terroir, balance and
fruit. “We hand harvest everything - we have to by law - for six weeks 90
people join us at Mont Redon for the duration of the harvest. We completely
de-stem by machine - by hand is painstaking. Then, we use the optical sorting
machine. This system uses three cameras, the first removes anything green,
leaves, stems etc., the second assess the size and colour of the grapes, and
the third removes anything bad.”
Whilst the team always pick by hand, the use of the optical
sorting system allows for much greater degree of efficiency and far less waste.
“It only improves the wine,” Jerome enthuses, “we have noticed a big change
since using the machine - the wines keep much more of the purity of the fruit
and the colour. We have worked with a lab and conducted chemical analysis, so
we know it is working.”
Terroir plays a vital role in the production of Mont Redon
wines. Comprising: the round pebbles, or Galets Roulés, sand and clay, and limestone. Each terroir
serves its own unique purpose, as Jerome explains, “Sand and clay is best for
the aromatic Syrah’s, Limestone for the white grapes and a small amount of
Syrah, and the Galets - all Grenache.” Jerome continues, “Having three different
soils is a brilliant opportunity to make three distinct types of wines, unlike
other producers who have only one terroir.”
And what of the 2016 vintage? “Everything is going well – we
had a mild winter – very dry and no mistral. No frost. All very good for the
moment – the light is green!”
J&B: What Mont
Redon wines do you enjoy drinking?
JA: I would say the 2000 in magnum. It is a perfect example that
is at maturity. The 2005, 2006 and 2007 are also excellent. They have the fruit
and the freshness, but also the beginnings of aromas. They are a great mix, not
too old, not too young. But Magnums are certainly best.
J&B: What are you
favourite food and Mont Redon combinations?
JA: I really enjoying hunting, so I find Woodcock and game
go particularly well. Also, cheese, charcuterie and in Provence the lamb is
J&B: When not
drinking your own wines, what do you enjoy?
JA: I like Bordeaux and Burgundy, but prices are a little
out of my reach! I drink wines from the North of the Rhone. I have a lot of
that. I really like a very good Syrah. I used to drink German wines and
Austrian wines, but now I would say 90% of what I drink is French. A little bit
of Champagne, of course, and nice wines from the Loire.
J&B: What are you
desert island wines:
JA: Champagne: Pol Roger, Winston Churchill, 2002. It is
just excellent, a super Champagne. Red: Coche Dury from Burgundy. These wines
are the best, exceptional. Of course the top Bordeaux (Haut Brion in particular),
and for White: Burgundy – again Coche Dury.
Thank you so much to Jerome. You can discover more about the
wines of Mont Redon, here.