Back in 2016 a discussion between Florent Lancon, of Domaine de la Solitude, and the French wine critic Michael Bettane was the catalyst for an incredible wine cuvee.
Domaine de la Solitude is one of the oldest estates in Chateauneuf du Pape, tracing its history back to the 13th century with no less than a Pope in the family tree! It has been run by the Lancon family for many decades and was one of the first domaines to estate-bottle.
The idea was to produce a wine as a tribute to their ancestor Paul Martin, who was one of the first French vignerons to sell his wine in bottle in the 18th century under the name "Vin de la Solitude".
Records at the domaine showed that blends at that time were very different. Whilst Grenache is the workhorse of Chateauneuf-du-Pape in the 21st century, hundreds of years ago, things were very different.
Jeb Dunnuck said of the 2018 red "It’s a singular, gorgeously complex wine that tastes like a Grand Cru Burgundy made in the South of France."
Matt Walls, Decanter
Beautifully detailed nose with peppery freshness. Intense, with fine tannins, gently saline and not overly marked by wood this year - lovely drinkability. This is excellent and based on a recipe belonging to an ancestor of the Lançon family. It's unusual in its proportion of Counoise; with it are co-fermented Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Clairette, Bourboulenc, Roussanne, Clairette Rose and Grenache Blanc. Aged in three-year-old barriques. No filtration or fining. 2,600 bottles made. 95 Points
Florent modelled the new wine on the old blend of 30% Counoise, 25% hundred year-old Grenache noir, 15% Syrah, 15% Mourvèdre, 5% Clairette, 5% Bourboulenc, 5% Roussanne, Clairette rose and Grenache blanc. Two things are immediately obvious - the wine contains a huge amount of the rare Counoise grape (less than 0.5% of Chateauneuf is planted to this variety) and quite a portion of white grapes, still allowed in Chateauneuf but only used by a few producers.
Counoise is a dark-skinned grape that does not produce a lot of colour or tannin. It is used by domaines, including Chateau Beaucastel, to add spiciness and acidity. The presence of white grapes add a lightness and freshness.