In September 1986, René Laugier wanted to retire but had no successors to take over La Roquette (as it was then known), his domaine in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. When Daniel and Frédéric Brunier bought the domaine, it was a logical choice. The Brunier brothers had been proving their worth as rising young stars of the appellation. The Bruniers had a long history of working tough soils—they farm the La Crau plateau, which boasts some of the most challenging vineyard terrain and most pedigreed soils of Châteauneuf. ( Click here for the family’s history.) Daniel and Frédéric farm twenty-nine hectares of vineyards at La Roquète, each parcel with its own distinct identity.
At Châteauneuf, for many the greatest appellation of the Southern Rhône, vineyard specificity plays a role almost as critical as it does in Burgundy. Geography here is as important as geology. La Roquète’s three largest vineyards are all situated on prime real estate along the Piélong plateau, a high altitude location north of the village of Châteauneuf-du-Pape with similar soil and weather patterns as La Crau ( click here for more information). Adjoining vineyards La Roquète and Pignan are situated to the east, at the foot of the Piélong, adjacent to the western end of the famous Le Rayas vineyard. Galets roulés scatter the vineyard floor, but the elegance of the wines is most attributed to the sand in the soil. To the southwest of the village is the vineyard Colombis, where a thin topsoil of clay gently covers a bedrock of hard limestone.
The combination of these three vineyards imparts a surprising finesse—only surprising in contrast to the earthy, deeply structured style of Vieux Télégraphe. John Livingstone-Learmonth quotes Frédéric Brunier in his classic The Wines of the Rhône, “ ‘Daniel and I can make wines of similar aromas, but here there is less tannin, less alcohol and less general power – that’s the nature of the domaine.’ ” The Brunier brothers have made great strides since taking over in 1986. The elegance and velvety texture in these wines make them easy to appreciate in their youth, with generous, rich, red fruit, uncharacteristic freshness, and beautifully integrated tannins. Their impeccable balance is extraordinary in such a warm climate. Its finesse and drinkability make it the Châteauneuf-du-Pape for restaurant lists and for those wine lovers who do not have a cellar for aging.