There are many attributes that go into a winery that would put it on the short list of Legendary Producers in France. Domaine de la Janasse has them all which is why they are one of the most recognized names in Chateauneuf du Pape.
Having one of the most influential people in all of French Wine on your team is one way to get to the top. Aime Sabon is a “Legend” in the Southern Rhone. After returning home from the military in 1967, he took over the family business, a vineyard that was selling grapes to local wineries. After 6 years, Aime took his family vineyard, built his own cellar, and Domaine de la Janasse was born. What was once a 15 hectare vineyard, is 90 hectares of what is considered some of the best vines in all of the Rhone Valley. Now years later, it is back to being a family affair with his son Christophe, and granddaughter Isabelle, now on the team.
The vineyards themselves are unbelievably diverse with what seems to be infinite combinations of soil types, elevations, and microclimates. All these combinations create opportunities to create different nuances in the wine. There are blocks where the soil is rocky and cool, and blocks that are sandy and warm. All the little differences from one site to the other is what allows Aime and Christophe to have such a wide range of styles in what most people would consider the same wine. This includes a 100% single vineyard Grenache Cotes du Rhone and Chateauneuf du Pape made from some of the oldest vines in the appellation.
Digging into the wines can be difficult and confusing at times, but it is all worth it in the end when the wine is in the glass. While Chateuneuf du Pape may be their bread and butter, we are going to start with the Cotes du Rhones which are some of the absolute best in the appellation. Most wines from this region are known to be great table wines, but when we talk about Janasse, they are as good as some wines in other premium appellations. This is one of the reasons why they fetch a much higher price point than almost all of the wine in the area. The trick is knowing that it is as good if not better than some wines in other regions that are going for twice the price!
To really understand Domaine de la Janasse, you have to understand their Chateauneuf du Papes, the premiere wines of the Southern Rhone. Aime and Christophe make a couple different versions of the wine. They make two whites and three reds, all different in their own ways, but all towards the top of the list of the best in the appellation.
When talking about the whites, they are as complex and elegant as a Grand Cru White Burgundy. All the grapes in the Tradition Blanc are sourced from the La Janasse Vineyard and La Crau Vineyard on sandy and clay soils. There are less than 350 cases made. The “Prestige” Chateauneuf du Pape is heavier on the Roussane grape and is all sourced from La Janasse. All the grapes that go into the Prestige are handpicked and hand sorted to make sure that nothing but the best goes into the wine. That, along with the fact that there are only 100 cases of this wine produced, is the reason why it is their most expensive and most collectible white wine they make.
Digging into the Chateauneuf du Pape Reds can be a little more difficult. While they are all labeled with the appellation, side by side, they are completely different. The “Tradition Rouge” is a blend of all their best vineyards to create the most approachable style. “Chaupin” is their 100% Grenache Chateauneuf, sourced from mainly sandy soils. This is the purest of the three bottlings, as it expresses the quality of Grenache, and as most know, Grenache is king in the Southern Rhone.
The last Chateauneuf du Pape is their best Chateauneuf du Pape the “Vieilles Vignes”, which translates to “Old Vines”. The vines that grow the grapes that go into this wine were planted as far back as 1920. Mostly Grenache and Mouvedre, this is the most complex of the three wines. Vieilles Vignes never gets a bad rating no matter what vintage it is, which is why it is the most collectible of the three.
Aime Sabon’s most important wines are made at the Domaine de la Janasse Winery. These bottlings are his way of translating what his father started in the vineyard and what Aime and his family are able to create now. Not only a leader in the Southern Rhone, but in the world when it comes to winemaking, Aime has solidified himself as one of the all time greats.