Who: Laurent Charvin.
What: Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Côtes du Rhône, Rhône.
Where: Orange, Vaucluse.
When: Since 1850.

The Story

This small Domaine of 8ha of Châteauneuf and 15ha of Côtes du Rhône produces some of the finest and most elegant wines in the south of France.

It’s one of the few estates in the Rhône valley that is consistently praised by both the conventional media like Wine Advocate or Wine Spectator as well as by lovers of natural and organic artisan wine. It’s a little bit like Rayas – but affordable.

Like Rayas, Charvin produces only one Cuvée of red Châteauneuf-du-Pape and one Côtes du Rhône. (Minute quantities of white and rosé do exist). In contrast to most producers who, since around 1998, have created numerous special Cuvées, of old vines or parcel selections, or barrel selections, usually powerful and expensive (and in few cases more interesting than the “Tradition” Cuvée).

The Domaine is run by Laurent Charvin who took over and started to produce bottles in 1990. The Domaine has been in the family since 1850 but up to the time of Laurent’s father Gerard the passion was to cultivate the vines. We’re grateful to Laurent for embracing fine wine production. He’s also a rare vigneron who pushes himself relentlessly to produce better and finer wine every year and produces particularly fine wines in what are considered weak years, such as the fabulous 2013 and 2014.

As usual, there’s no single factor that defines Laurent’s work for it’s a combination of many small details that account for the quality and style. Above all his tireless and uncompromising approach to working organically in the vineyard and his traditional and back-to-basics approach in the cellar notably using whole bunch fermentation and long ageing in concrete tank.

The 8 hectares of Châteauneuf-du-Pape vines are situated over 14 parcels in the north-west of the Appellation in the Cabrieres, Maucoil, and Mont Redon sectors on a mosaic of soils, including sandy, limestone and some galets, much on north-facing slopes, which therefore benefit from some relief from the Mediterranean sun. It’s all farmed organically with near obsessive compulsion by Laurent himself, who rarely leaves the Domaine even for a holiday. He works the soils to keep the natural humidity and freshness. Rarely have we visited over the last 20 years to not find Laurent coming in from the vines!

In the cellar, the process is simple. Laurent practises whole bunch fermentation and long ageing in concrete tank, using natural yeasts, and no additives other than a minimal dose of sulfites, bottled with no fining, no filtration.

Quite a few producers are now returning to whole bunch fermentation outside of the carbonic maceration practice. But using whole bunches successfully is the result of years of work in the vines to ensure ripe stems as well as grapes so it’s not easy to achieve the kind of finesse that Laurent does.

Laurent is a regular at the Vin de Mes Amis natural and organic Salon at the start of the year in Montpellier and sometimes La Dive in Saumur. He has many fans, not least Yves Camdeborde, pioneering chef of the bistro revolution in Paris, and at the helm of Le Comptoir and Le Relais.

We met Laurent 20 years ago when touring the Rhône valley for the best producers when his wines (along with those of Bois de Boursan) re-defined Rhône wine and Grenache Noir for us.










Charvin Location