Wines of the Week: Le Vieux Donjon & Rathfinny

Le Vieux Donjon 2009 Châteauneuf-du-Pape  94
Rathfinny 2018 Classic Cuvée Traditional Method Sussex United Kingdom 92
by Robert Millman & Ian D’Agata

Le Vieux Donjon 2009 Châteauneuf-du-Pape             94

by Robert Millman

I have been drinking the CDPs from this marvelous estate since the early 1990s. In fact, Vieux Donjon is of quite recent formation having been brought into existence in 1979 through the marriage of Lucien and Marie-José Michel, whose parents each owned vineyards in the region prior to their marriage. Upon the marriage of Lucien and Marie-José, those within the families combined to form what is now known as Le Vieux Donjon. The estate owns fourteen hectares of which thirteen are devoted to red wine. In a typical vintage, the wine is made up of 75% Grenache, 10% Syrah 10% Mourvedre and 5% of other local varieties. Le Vieux Donjon makes but one Châteauneuf wine. In other words, there are no special cuvées which often results in the “regular” bottling being made from secondary sites and younger vines. All the old vines and only the old vines -between 80 and 100 years old in fact- go into the making of Le Vieux Donjon. I have never tasted a wine from the winery I would not want to taste again.

Quite recently I brought my last bottle of the 2009 to friends for a late lunch. No one there aside from me had ever tasted a LeVieux Donjon wine before. One of the people turned to me and said “This is wonderful”. He was correct. What a gorgeous bouquet redolent of dark berries, sweet spices, leather with a firm tannic underpinning on the palate and quite acceptable acidity for a southern Rhone from such a warm vintage. Le Vieux Donjon is never a showy wine. It invites contemplation and repeated tasting. The 2009 is ready to go but will surely age another decade if properly stored. Drinking Window: 2024-2034.

Rathfinny 2018 Classic Cuvée Traditional Method Sussex United Kingdom                   92

by Ian D’Agata

Bright pale straw-yellow with some gold and a steady stream of medium-small bubbles. Red apple, pear, chamomile and just the faintest hint of brioche on the ample but elegant nose. Then nicely glyceral and rich, but with lively acidity leaving an impression of elegant austerity behind, this has flavours that are very similar to its aromas, perhaps enlivened by a long finishing note of fresh, ripe citrus fruits. The very nice acid/sugar balance make for a fairly dry, taut, balanced sparkling wine that’s showcases yet again just how good British sparklers can be. Founded in 2010 in east Sussex by husband-and-wife team of Mark and Sarah Driver, this is only the third vintage of Rathfinny’s Classic Cuvée. A blend of 50% Pinot Noir, 35% Chardonnay and 15% Pinot Meunier (by contrast, the 2019’s blend is 44% Pinot Noir, 41% Chardonnay and 15% Pinot Meunier), this spent thirty months on the lees. Note that I have seen others report the 2018’s grape composition as 57% Pinot Noir, 22% Chardonnay and 21% Pinot Meunier, but that is not the information I was given. Drinking window: 2023-2028.


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