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The wines of Isabel Ferrando, Domaine St Préfert, Châteauneuf du Pape

Website: http://www.st-prefert.fr/index_1280_e.htm 

I was excited to taste this line-up from Châteauneuf du Pape newcomer Isabel Ferrando. I don’t think I’ve ever tasted such an exciting set of wines from the Southern Rhône: these show wonderful elegance and purity, alongside remarkable complexity.

Isabel was previously a banker with Credit Agricole, and only purchased her 15 hectares of vineyard in 2003 (initially 13.2 hectares, but subsequently two more have been added), which was her first vintage. Prior to becoming a winegrower she gained experience with a number of winemakers, citing Henri Bonneau as her biggest influence. ‘Prefer my wines to be elegant and feminine, like those of Bonneau’, she reveals. ‘He’s the most intelligent in the vineyards and the cellar: he doesn’t interfere much, but he understands’.

Taking on the domaine in 2003, Isabel didn’t have time to do anything differently in the vineyards with this vintages, but in subsequent vintages she has worked organically and even biodynamically, although she isn’t certified. In terms of wine quality, she’s hit the ground running. I’ll stick my neck out: these wines are right at the top of the appellation, and can sit with the best.  

Just a comment with respect to scores: I've noticed this with the Douro wines I've reviewed, but it applies to all new domaines - without a 'history', it's as if reviewers sit on the fence a bit, and are afraid to give high ratings from the outset. But if the wines merit it, they should be awarded top ratings irrespective of the reputation of the producer. Critics need to trust their own judgment and listen less to others, and take less account of reputations. I think these are stunningly good wines.

Domaine St Préfert Châteauneuf du Pape Blanc 2006 (cask sample)
Hard to assess now, but this concentrated white is tight, spicy and aromatic with real richness to the palate.

Domaine St Préfert Châteauneuf du Pape Blanc 2005
Rich, spicy, toasty and aromatic. The full, smooth palate has a really nice texture and weight. Quite complex. Very good/excellent 91/100

Domaine St Préfert Réserve August Favier 2004 Châteauneuf du Pape
A blend of Grenache and Cinsault.
Wonderfully sweet, smooth elegant nose of ripe, pure red fruits. The palate shows lovely richness and elegance with smooth, sweet fruit and nice savoury structure. Excellent 95/100

Domaine St Préfert Colombis 2004 Châteauneuf du Pape
Grenache only, from sandy soil. Sweet, smooth ripe nose is really elegant. The palate has really lovely soft, balanced sweet fruit with a bit of spicy tannin. It’s a really smart, expressive Grenache. Very good/excellent 92/100

Domaine St Préfert Collection Charles Giraud 2004 Châteauneuf du Pape
Grenache and 40% Mourvèdre.
Beautifully sweet, perfumed nose with aromatic, liqueur-like fruit and a smooth, dusty, spicy twist. The palate is concentrated but elegant with lovely sweet fruit backed up by smooth spicy tannin. Very good/excellent 93/100

Domaine St Préfert Réserve August Favier 2003 Châteauneuf du Pape
Hmmm, this is interesting. Tea-like, earthy expressive nose is complex and thrilling. The palate is smooth, elegant and expressive with a lovely earthy, spicy character. Profound. Very good/excellent 94/100

Domaine St Préfert Collection Charles Giraud 2003 Châteauneuf du Pape 
Sweet, ripe, complex and earthy: beautifully aromatic. The palate is sweet and expressive with wonderful complexity and a lovely earthy character. Excellent 95/100

Availability in the UK: Richards Walford (UK agents)  

Wines tasted 01/07
Find these wines with wine-searcher.com

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