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Domaine Pierre Usseglio

One domaine that I have come to love over the past few years is Pierre Usseglio, whose three cuvees of Chateauneuf-du-Pape deliver everything that one could come to want.  Farming 22 hectares (mostly red) planted to Grenache,with lesser proportions of Syrah, Mourvedre and small quantities of Cinsault, Counoise and Muscardin over a wide variety of soil types across 15 distinct plots.

Quality here improved markedly, coinciding with the handover to brothers Thierry and Jean-Pierre in 1999 along with the acquisition at the same time of eight hectares of old vines.  The amount of production sold off in bulk decreased significantly from the same time, not uncoincidentally as quality improved.

The regular cuvee sees grapes 100% destemmed, fermentations taking place over three weeks in concrete tanks before 18-24 months' ageing in olf foudres - a very traditional process.  The Cuvee de Mon Aieul, first made in 1998, comes from a distinct 2 hectare lieu dit 'Les Serres' in the south of Chateauneuf, which is mostly Grenache (5% Syrah was added from 2006), entirely de-stemmed, and unusually for the region, both fermented and aged in concrete tanks with just a small proportion - about 10% - aged in second and third use oak barriques.

The 'tete de cuvee' is the 'Reserve des Deux Freres', entirely old vine Grenache completely de-stemmed and fermented for three weeks on skins in concrete tanks before ageing for 12-15 months - two thirds in new barriques and demi mouds and one-third in second use barrels.  

The estate wine is what I would term 'modern traditional' in that it is rich and bright, yet firmly structured with slightly chunky tannins and a lovely savoury mouthfeel, while the two special cuvees are powerful, rich and somewhat opulent, although they are certainly not over-the-top styles.  This is an excellent address offering lovely wines at very fair prices.

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