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Rhône 18 - A Châteauneuf Divinity

Château Sixtine - Châteauneuf du Pape

Winemaker: Jean-Marc Diffonty

Vineyard: 22ha including 14ha in Châteauneuf du Pape

Annual production: ~100,000 bottles

Key points:

  • Pope-blessed Châteauneuf du Pape with prestigious neighbours

  • Passionate does-it-all Châteauneuf winemaker from family first established in 1673 and now in the 4th generation

  • Highly praised, velvety reds and rich whites (Châteauneuf du Pape and Cotes du Rhône)

Top wine: Château Sixtine 2016

Syrah from Barbe d’Asne, right next to Chapoutier and Clos des Papes

The history of Châteauneuf du Pape and the Diffonty family have been closely intertwined for more than a hundred years. The family has been actively developing the town and its wine trade across four generations of winemakers. Take Jean-Marc, fourth generation and son of Félicien, mayor of Châteauneuf du Pape for 3o years. At only 18, he took over the reins of the family's domain, became President of the appellation young winemakers only two years later, increased the vineyard holding by 50%, introduced major quality innovations at his domain (parcel selection, stricter sorting, vinification in smaller tanks, etc.) whilst driving viticultural improvements within the appellation as President of one of the appellation trade union. After 27 years of hard graft, Jean-Marc, with only three employees on site, now runs a winery recognised as one of the flagship wineries in Châteauneuf du Pape. His wines are acclaimed by the likes of Jancis Robinson, Robert Parker and regularly strike Gold or 90+ in competitions.

As Jean-Marc overlooks the harvest on his Barbe d'Asne parcel (directly neighbouring famous Clos des Papes and Chapoutier), I ask him about his plans. 'It's Simple. We just continue.' Continue unifying the appellation trade unions, continue developing a more environmentally friendly viticulture whilst driving Château Sixtine's quality upwards and build to increase the cellaring space. I have no doubt he will succeed in doing so. And much more.

Jean-Marc Diffonty and new recruit Émilie ensure all the Syrah coming in are sorted thoroughly.

If 2002 is Jean-Marc 'nightmare' vintage (floods, rot and 40% of grapes thrown away), 2016 is, with 2001, his current favourite. 'It produced wines with great density, intensity and concentration'. The flagship Château Sixtine 2016 is a perfect illustration of it. With 50% Grenache, 25% Syrah and 25% Mourvèdre, it is as incredibly rich as well-balanced. Dark berries, cacao, oak and slight herby and savoury notes all combine in this complex velvety ensemble. The wine boasts an impressive 97 by Jeb Dunnuck, 95 by Wine Spectator and 17.5 by Jancis Robinson. 17.5/20




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