Currently run by two young brothers, this fairly historic estate is now amongst the movers and shakers, and see themselves as increasingly Pfifferling-inspired in their vinification. The wines are lovely, and they are not afraid of experimenting and playing with terroir – going so far as to carve a fermentation tank out of local Tavel limestone. Although beautiful in the cellar, they are still struggling to keep it airtight.
Third-generation viticultrice Séverine runs the estate organically and, for the most part, biodynamically. The single rosé is from parcels spread across the appellation, including all three terroirs.
Tavel’s cooperative single-handedly defines the appellation – its members produce about half of all the wine made here, especially after a recent merger with the cooperative in Lirac.
Similarly to Bandol’s Moulin de la Roque, they produce a range of single-terroir Tavels, with the three cuvées (Les Lauzeraies, Trésors des Sables, and the Cuvée Royale) from the limestone, sand and galets terroirs respectively. They are all modern, paler and lightweight interpretations of Tavel. All three ably demonstrate the three soils’ typicity, and combined are an excellent educational tool for understanding Tavel.
The Domaine des Carabiniers is one of Tavel’s most outspokenly biodynamic producers, with an awareness for the ecosystem permeating their winemaking philosophy. They are amongst the earliest to harvest, with wines that are accordingly fresh and with good acidity. As a result they are best left to soften for a few years – the wines age remarkably well.
Mordorée are one of Tavel’s more recognised brands, partly due to their having one foot firmly in Châteauneuf, as well as producing Côtes du Rhône rosés. Their house style of Tavel is decidedly on the lighter, paler side – although the top Reine des Bois packs a punch and has lovely extraction.
Run by fourth-generation Dominique, Domaine Amido produces some of the darkest mainstream Tavels on the market. Dominique is adamant however that Tavel is a rosé first and foremost and should continue to embrace this identity. She harvests amongst the first in Tavel, leaving wines with 13-13.5abv, and usually blocks malo. Like most of Tavel, the favoured grape variety here is Cinsault.
Anglore is at the heart of the modern, natural Tavel renaissance. A member of the cooperative for a long time, he realised that he didn’t really care for the wines his grapes were going towards, and broke away, starting his own garagiste estate. His rosés are the darkest of the appellation, and at one point caused tremendous grief and soul-searching for him and the rest of Tavel – what direction did they want to go in? Were his wines atypical, or were they the past and future of the appellation?
One of the few Tavel estates under outside ownership, the rather gorgeous Priory is one of the big-four old estates. Although the quality is thoroughly respectable, the wines are undoubtedly the lightest and palest of the appellation, and struggle to carve out their own identity or personality. For such a historic Chateau, mentioned in papal documents going back to the middle ages, this is all the more disappointing as it has the potential to be the appellation’s flagship traditionalist.
Richard Maby of Domaine Maby’s single vineyard Prima Donna, planted on the galets with old vine Grenache and Cinsault, illustrates the distinctive character of this terroir. The natural extra ripeness of the terroir is balanced by fractionally longer maceration for greater structure. The wine has opulent ripe raspberry, blackberry and black cherry and hints of silky tannins. He has also tried an oak-aged version with grapes from this terroir.
Manissy is one of Tavel’s big four historic estates, on sandy soils. It has been run by a small brotherhood of rather discreet monks for most of its recent history. All of their wines are excellent. Their two most noteworthy cuvées are the Langoustière, a single-parcel wine from the Vallon du Juge, an excellent, classic sandy Tavel, and Tête de Cuvée, their ‘traditional’ cuvée, which has been using the same label and dark Burgundy bottle for as long as they know. Undergoing malolactic fermentation and a brief élevage in oak, the wine is the archetypal olde-worlde Tavel: ageworthy, versatile, inspirational. In 2022, we tasted back to 1976, and can happily report that it ages superbly.