Monday, 14 May 2007

TN : Chateau d'Aqueria. Rose, 2006, Tavel, France

Tavel is situated in the southern end of the Côtes-du-Rhône across the river from and roughly five miles west of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Its name is thought to be derived either from the word "taveau," meaning "ridge," or from the River Tave, a tributary of the Rhône. The Romans first introduced the vine to this very old viticultural area by way of the Rhône River, from where it gradually spread northward. Grape seeds dating from approximately 200 AD indicate some sort of pressing operation, suggesting that wine was produced in the area in that period. Tavel later claims a mention in history in a 13th century reference to King Philippe le Bel, who on a journey through his territories passed through Tavel. Without dismounting his horse, he downed a goblet of the local wine and exclaimed, "There is no good wine but that of Tavel!" Various brief historical references are made to Tavel thereafter, and the notoriety of the wine was doubtless spread as a result of the relocation of the papal seat to Avignon in the 14th century.

While it is clear that the wines of Tavel were over time increasingly widely consumed, it is likely that they were frequently blended and shipped northward with other wines of the region. Documentation prior to and during this period citing wines named for villages a few miles distant supports the conclusion that the wines of Tavel were for some time confused with those of surrounding villages and specifically with wines produced around the river port of Roquemaure from which they were shipped, a point which from the 17th to 19th centuries was an important port of embarkation to Lyons, Paris, Great Britain and Holland. Tavel's recognition as a wine from a specific area only became established in the first quarter of the 1800s.

The Tavel appellation covers 2,000 acres defined by law in 1936, of which a tiny part lies in the adjoining commune of Roquemaure to the east. The distinguishing feature of the area's soils is that, in contrast to the red, stony soils on the left river bank, Tavel's soils are characterized by hillocks of sand over a chalky clay subsoil, very well-drained, arid and without limestone content. The long growing season and intense, sunny summers yield fruit of extraordinary ripeness, concentration and richness in sugar.

The Tavel appellation designates rosé wines only, which are produced from a blend of red and white grape varieties in varying proportions. In 1968 the percentages of permitted varieties were modified to allow at most sixty percent Grenache and at least fifteen percent Cinsault with Syrah, Bourboulenc, Mourvèdre, Clairette, and Picpoult in various proportions at the producer's discretion. Syrah and Mourvèdre had not previously been included among the permitted varieties.

In 1595, the monks of the Abbey of Villeneuve-les-Avignon transferred a large portion of their landholding northeast of Avignon, on the right bank of the Rhône River, to a citizen and aristocrat of Avignon, Louis Joseph d'Aquéria. This district, known as the "puy sablonnier," or "sandy hill," covered the east-central quarter of what was then and is now Tavel. Aquéria planted vines there and built a residence at the beginning of the 1600s, and the area became known by his name. Over the next two centuries the vineyard remained productive, but was sold and subdivided many times; at the beginning of the 18th century the present château was constructed. Sometime in the vicinity of 1830 the wines from the vineyard of Aquéria became recognized in their own right and under their own name.

Jean Olivier purchased Château d'Aquéria in 1920 and began to reassemble the original vineyard parcels surrounding the château. It is one of 45 estates in the appellation, but one of only four properties in Tavel which is a domaine in the sense that its vineyards are contiguous as opposed to lying on holdings scattered throughout the appellation. It is also the largest of the four, covering 244 acres of which 161 are planted in vines. Of these, 120 acres are under production in Tavel and the balance under production in red and white Lirac. Production in Tavel averages 24,500 cases annually, with that in Lirac Rouge and Blanc at 4,500 and 1,000 cases, respectively. Château d'Aquéria is now owned by the son of Jean Olivier, Paul de Bez, and his sons Vincent and Bruno, who over the end of the 1980s renovated the vinification facilities and cellars with the addition of stainless steel fermentation tanks and exact temperature control over wines in storage.

Colour : Strawberry

Aroma : Black Cherry, raspberry

Taste : Dry, fruity, hot finish, slightly herby

Alcohol : 13.5 %

Price : 125 SEK

Mark : C+

Website : Chateau d'Aqueria

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