Rhone Master Blender Xavier Vignon
Friday, November 02, 2018 in News
Xavier Vignon – A Rhône Grenache and Syrah wine masterclass.
Selecting barrels from some of the best sites he can access (and he can access a lot), Vignon takes a science as an art form approach to making his blends from the Côtes-du-Rhône and Châteauneuf-du-Pape. See the Xavier Vignon portfolio here.
Xavier Vignon began his career in wine with a degree in Oenology from Montpellier. From there, he took his knowledge and skills through Alsace, Champagne, Burgundy and Bordeaux. Chasing harvests, he began splitting his year between the northern and southern hemispheres. Working in the Napa Valley and with the much-underrated wines of Pic Saint Loup in Languedoc before moving to this part of the world to work in the Yarra Valley and across the water in Marlborough. Returning to Champagne helped Vignon to gain a deeper understanding of the mastery of blending required to make a house style. But it wasn’t until the 1990s that he made his way to the Rhône and it was there he fell in love with the region.
Le Pape Label
In his twenty or so years in the Rhône, he has been busy. Working as a consultant oenologist, Vignon has helped guide, identify and classify wines for more than 250 of the region's producers. Building a formidable network of contacts, he has exchanged for his services the odd single barrel from select terroirs. The single-barrel trades often come from growers and makers who only sell their wines in bottle. This when he began to make his own wines and initially just for his friends. Known as something of a wine whisperer in the Rhône, Vignon became poacher turned game-keeper (or is that the other way around?) in 2002 by adding negociant to his list of job titles. Five years later, he released the first wines under his own label.
His talent for blending varietals as well as terroirs is considerable and is matched only by his fastidiousness. Preferring older, low-yielding vines – some producing less than a bottle each – Vignon interrogates the wines with extensive work in a laboratory. The wines are also tasted very carefully before he determines not just the best blending combinations but the manner in which the wines can best be aged. There is more than a hint of obsession in Vignon's approach, just like all of the best winemakers.
Discovering Vignon’s wines this year will not get you in on the ground floor – the word is already out – but his wines are more accessible now than they will be. More tastings, more restaurant wine lists and more acclaim have led to greater demand for his wines (at all levels) that won’t abate any time soon.