Xavier Vignon | Mastering the Art of the Blend in the Rhone

Xavier Vignon | Mastering the Art of the Blend in the Rhone

When Xavier Vignon first moved to the Southern Rhone Valley in the mid-1990’s, he fell head over heels in love with the region. A stunning diversity of varietals, terroirs and wines that changed from vintage to vintage, the place had everything to capture the attention of this traveling wine maker and convince him to stay for good. Since then, Vignon has earned a reputation as one of the greatest specialist in the region, having served as consultant to over 250 wine producers. Rich in experience, innovative by nature, and boasting an intimate knowledge of the region’s terroirs, he built his own brand upon a signature style: a meticulous blend of 20+ varietals, purchased from several different producers, sourced from 100 parcels in appellations including the Cotes du Rhone, Ventoux, Vacqueyras, Gigondas and the prestigious Chateauneuf-du-Pape. The Xavier brand now offers a wide range of exceptional wines, known for their intensity, balance and perfect expression of appellation.

A Passion for the Art of Blending

There is something to say about the art of blending, a key element in the production of some of the world’s most beloved wines. Think of your favourite Bordeaux classified growths, for example, meticulous blends of the region’s signature varietals, vinified separately according to parcel, only to come together just before ageing. Or, consider Champagne, where non-vintage crus are born, time and again, from a melange of different wines, different varietals and different vintages, even. Why do winemakers invest so much time and painstaking effort into elaborating these blends, year after year? Because a wine built on a blend is greater than the sum of its parts. The careful combination of wines with different colours, aromas and flavours often results in a final product that is more balanced, more harmonious and more complex, with more to say about its varietals, its terroir and the know-how behind its creation.

Xavier Vignon has earned his reputation in the world of wine as both an expert consultant to over 250 wine producers and a talented oenologist with a passion for blending. After getting a diploma in Oenology in Montpellier, Vignon began his career in viticulture with a focus on white and sparkling wines in Alsace, then Champagne and Burgundy. Eventually, he became profoundly interested in the production of red wines and moved to Bordeaux to learn more, which he did through his work in Saint Emilion and Medoc. For six years after his stay in Bordeaux, Vignon worked 2 harvests per year, alternating between the Northern (Napa Valley and Pic Saint-Loup) and Southern (Domaine Chandon in Australia and Cloudy Bay in New Zealand) hemispheres. At one point, Vignon returned to Champagne for a harvest that would be especially formative in his career. He was deeply inspired during this time by the meticulous blending process of each House to create its signature range of wines. However, it wasn’t until Vignon moved to the Rhone in the 1990’s for a harvest that he truly fell in love with a region, deciding to make it his home, and playground. Vignon chose the Rhone for its wonderful diversity of grape varieties and terroirs, and the flexibility made possible by a long harvest season.

© Xavier

© Xavier

As a consultant for so many producers – among them Raymond Usseglio, Beaurenard, Jerome Quiot, La Nerthe, Mont Redon – Vignon got to know the terroirs and grapes of the Southern Rhone, and especially of the prestigious Chateauneuf-du-Pape, on an intimate level. Through his research in viticulture, he developed a passion for studying the various elements affecting the final character of the wine. He looked closely, for example, at the ways in which the mineral content of water (which, after all, makes up 85% of a wine) affects the wine’s salinity. These studies radically changed Vignon’s approach to viticulture and winemaking.

In exchange for his services, Vignon began to ask his producer clients for small quantities (a barrel or two) of grape juice from some of the parcels in which he was most interested. In 2002, Vignon became a negociant (merchant) and began to elaborate his own wine to share with friends. He did so by blending these wines that he purchased. This was the beginning of the Xavier brand, under which he produced his first wine with the 2007 vintage. He eventually expanded his offering to include a range of Rhone wines of different vintages and appellations. Xavier Vins are made from wines carefully selected from individual parcels belonging to several different estates in the Rhone. Vignon prefers mature vines, which yield less than a bottle in volume each. These wines undergo extensive laboratory analysis and careful tasting before a final blend and appropriate ageing technique are chosen. Vignon’s signature creations are known to be easy to understand, modern and powerful with a fantastic expression of the Rhone terroir. Breaking down the barriers of geography, grape variety and even vintage, Xavier wines offer a pure expression of their appellation, instead of focusing on a single producer, terroir or vintage.

© Xavier

© Xavier

A Word About the Wines of Xavier Vignon

The wines of Xavier result from a meticulous blend of very carefully selected wines. They tend to be dry, with no residual sugar, aged in oak and marked by an intense character, along with a signature minerality. Vignon sources a wide range of wines from the south of France and finishes them at Chateau Husson in Courthezon. Along with a single-varietal Grenache from Gigondas, an old vine Ventoux and a Syrah-rich Vacqueyras, his range includes several wines from the Cotes du Rhone and the prestigious Chateauneuf-du-Pape. The latter blend is created by combining wines from around 120 parcels in the appellation. His flagship cuvee, a Chateauneuf called “Anonyme” is sourced from several different parcels owned by Vignon’s top clients, scattered around the appellation. The exact varietal composition of the blend changes from year to year, but may include all 13 allowed by the appellation. The “Xavier Rouge” is another one of his powerful wines, aged in oak and featuring a blend of several top vintages.

Simply put, it is near impossible to describe the wines of Xavier Vignon without being star-struck by this winemaker’s extraordinary talent and undeniable passion. His wines invite the taster to see what he sees when admiring the scenic vineyards of the Rhone Valley: a dazzling diversity of varietals and terroirs just waiting to be mixed and matched.

Focus on 3 of our Favourites from Xavier Vignon

Cuvee_AnonymeXavier : Cuvee Anonyme 2016

Often referred to as one of the best wines in Chateauneuf-Du-Pape blind tastings, Xavier’s “Cuvee Anonyme” bears the signature of Xavier wines par excellence. The mythical blend of this Chateauneuf-du-Pape comes from 7 parcels, each with its own signature terroir. The nose is characterised by the intensity of its black fruit aromas, evolving towards roasted notes. The palate is powerful, showing great amplitude, with a beautiful expression of ripe tannins. The finish is marked by a wonderful salinity, a testament to the concentration of minerals in the terroirs. “Cuvee Anonyme” can be kept 10 to 15 years, and will benefit greatly from ageing.

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Arcane_Le_Pape_2010Xavier : Arcane V Le Pape 2010

Inspired by the Greek tradition of ageing wines in the sea, Xavier Vignon aimed to protect this wine from oxidation by vinifying them in oak barrels that were immersed in a tank of Chateauneuf-Du-Pape. A feat even Robert Parker had a hard time believing! The Cuvee Arcane V “Le Pape” 2010 is an extraordinary example of the winemaker’s atypical style. This year’s blend of wines sourced from 15 parcels of the Chateauneuf-du-Pape appellation highlights an incredible expression of Grenache and the true identity of the appellation. The nose offers a bouquet of crushed flowers, black fruits and sweet spices. The Arcane V “Le Pape” reveals on the palate a powerful richness, evolving on ripe and very present tannins. The exoticism and singularity of this wine are enough to arouse profound respect!

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Arcane_Le_Diable_15Xavier : Arcane XV Le Diable 2015

Diabolically haunting, it would be truly sacrilegious not to let oneself be seduced by this vintage Arcane XV “Le Diable” from Xavier Vignon. Through this wine produced under the Vin de France title, Xavier Vignon aimed to bring forth the exceptional quality of old vine Mourvedre, grown on 17 plots representative of the best terroirs of Vaucluse. On the nose, this wine is truly captivating, with aromas of garrigue and intensity black fruit. This wine reveals on the palate a beautiful structure, ample, fruity, with a long finish ending in notes of licorice. These features undoubtedly make the Arcane XV “Le Diable” a remarkable wine with strong ageing potential!

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