An Englishman, and Irishman and a Frenchman climb up a mountain…and make some great wine! Domaine des Anges was established on the slopes of Mont Ventoux by English couple Malcolm and Janet Swan in 1973. At that point grapes were mainly being processed by the local cooperative, so it was a bold venture, but help and advice was surprisingly forthcoming from the famous but less-than-approachable Jacques Rayas of Châteauneuf-du-Pape.
The Swans had variable levels of success, and after 20 or so years they sold the estate to Irishman Gay McGuinness. He increased investment and hired professional winemakers – fellow Irishman Ciaran Rooney and after a decade Florent Chave. Quality has continually increased and Domaine des Anges has received a plethora of praise from critics and consumers.
I recently had the opportunity to taste through the Domaine des Anges range thanks to a kind invitation from Boutique Wines, their Irish representative. The wines were presented by historian and oenophile Giles MacDonogh – a close friend of the proprietors – and whose notes I have cribbed for background information. While I liked all the wines I tried, two in particular stood out for me: the white and red AOC Ventoux “Archange” wines:
Domaine des Anges Archange Ventoux Blanc 2016 (14.5%, RRP €21 at La Touche, Greystones; Sweeney’s D3, Fairview; Blackrock Cellar; Grape and Grain, Stillorgan; The Winehouse, Trim; Browns Vineyard, Portlaoise; Bakers Corner, Kill of the Grange; Mortons, Ranelagh)
Whereas the regular Domaine des Anges Ventoux Blanc is a third each of Grenache Blanc, Roussanne and Bourboulenc, the Archange is 100% Roussanne – a grape that rarely gets the limelight all to itself. In fact the winemaking is as much the star of the show here, with techniques very reminiscent of Burgundy. The wine is aged in small oak barrels, giving notes of toast, toffee and vanilla. Malolactic fermentation is blocked to preserve freshness, and regular lees stirring gives a wonderful creamy aspect. The varietal character does come through the middle of all of this as an intriguing peachy tanginess…it’s like Burgundy but with a bit more going on. The only downside to this wine is that it’s perhaps too good to drink every day – perhaps just save it for the weekend?
Domaine des Anges Archange Ventoux Rouge 2015 (14.5%, RRP €21 at La Touche, Greystones; Sweeney’s D3, Fairview; Blackrock Cellar; Grape and Grain, Stillorgan; The Winehouse, Trim; Browns Vineyard, Portlaoise; Bakers Corner, Kill of the Grange; Mortons, Ranelagh)
Although the Rhône Méridional is known for its Grenache-based blends, in the cooler heights of Mont Ventoux Syrah can play a much bigger role. In this blend it accounts for a full 90% with the balance being Grenache. As the 14.5% alcohol indicates this is a powerful wine, but it does not have the sweetness of a Barossa Shiraz, for example. There’s a distinct richness, but with smoky notes, black pepper, black fruits and leather, with an altogether savoury finish. My “go-to” Rhône appellation is Saint-Joseph with its savoury Syrahs, but this Ventoux presents a great alternative – and at a great price.
These two wines are an outstanding pair and really over-deliver for the price tag. They won’t fade in a hurry, either, so it would be well-worth putting a few (dozen) down to see how they evolve over time.
And for you film buffs out there, here’s a clip from the film which inspired part of the title of this post: