Domaine de Marcoux

Artisanal Châteauneuf from a Biodynamic Pioneer

One of the French pioneers of biodynamic viticulture—this tiny, artisanal Domaine was the first in Châteauneuf to convert to biodynamics some 30 years ago. Since this time (and especially since 1996 when the Armenier sisters took full control), Domaine de Marcoux has been on a steady path to becoming one of the true greats of the region. Despite this, it remains small, only producing between two to four thousand cases for the world (roughly half the production of DRC and a tenth of Beaucastel to put things in perspective). So, for many, Marcoux remains a hidden treasure.

While the prime focus is given to the vineyards, in the cellar Sophie Estevenin’s subtle hand must also take some credit: natural fermentation; gentle extractions; concrete fermentation; and the absence of any new oak all play a vital role in quality and balance. Sophie’s son, Vincent Estevenin, officially joined the Domaine in 2015 and is intent on increasing his vineyard’s biodiversity, planting many trees on the property, and working the soil less to encourage grass and plants to grow between the rows. A seasonal flock of sheep help with the mowing, and young vines of Muscardin, Counoise and Vaccarèse (varieties that mature at a slower degree) are being introduced. “He has brought a breath of fresh air to the Domaine”, says his mother, while noting that she feels reinvigorated by her son’s involvement.

In a region renowned for ‘funk’, Marcoux firmly subscribes to the fruit-equals-terroir school of thought. They love wines of purity, clarity, perfume, seduction and balance

One exchange at a Domaine de Marcoux dinner seems to sum up the style here. A well-heeled attendee said to Sophie Armenier, “When I drink these wines, I can’t help but think of Burgundy,” to which Sophie replied, “Well, let’s not forget that there was once a time when the producers of Burgundy blended their wines with Châteauneuf!” It was not the first time the association had been made between the wines of Marcoux and those of the Cote d’Or. The remarkable elegance and purity that the Armenier sisters (Sophie & Catherine) can coax from their terroir easily remind us of the finest wines grown further North. Even in the more powerful years, the wines manage to retain an uncommon equilibrium where not one element detracts from the whole. Biodynamics, with its fresher acidities, helps in this cause as does the stringent fruit selection, gentle handling and large format maturation vessels.

In a region renowned for ‘funk’, Marcoux firmly subscribes to the fruit-equals-terroir school of thought. They love wines of purity, clarity, perfume, seduction and balance—a manifesto that can be tasted across the Domaine’s current releases. This is a timeless Estate whose delectable wines capture in Stephen Tanzer’s words, “…the essence of Châteauneuf-du Pape”.

The Range

Domaine de Marcoux Châteauneuf-du-Pape Rouge 2021
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Domaine de Marcoux Châteauneuf-du-Pape Rouge 2021

This year’s blend is 80% Grenache, 10% Mourvèdre, 7% Syrah and 3% Cinsault. Marcoux’s Châteauneuf is drawn from 13 parcels of vines, biodynamically farmed and dotted across the appellation. With a concentration on the famous Crau plateau, the parcels encompass a wide range of soil types, from the sandy soils of Charbonnières to the red clay and galets in L’Arnesque and Les Bosquets, to the limestone and white clay in Les Esqueirons and Beaurenard, and finally the red clay and gravels of Les Galimardes, Les Serres and Les Plagnes in the south. This means Marcoux can produce a wine that genuinely reflects the Châteauneuf terroir as a whole. It also allows the domaine to craft balanced wines year in, year out, as each parcel is vinified separately before blending (and any parcels that do not fit the bill are typically declassified to Côtes du Rhône or sold to the négoces). As is customary, the wines were naturally fermented and raised in concrete vat (up to 90%) and large oak, without any new oak. The aging spanned 18 months, and the wine was bottled unfiltered. After a run of broader-shouldered wines, this year’s release tastes positively airborne! The shape, sculpted by finely woven tannins and refreshing tension, is impeccable, and the finish pure and focused. “It's a nice vintage, very different from past years, but good. I like the tannins—you can drink the wine young and enjoy it later,” says Vincent Estevenin. In short, it’s a long, intense and classy offering from one of the region’s great artisans.

“It is medium to full-bodied, displaying lovely aromas of raspberry, strawberry, blueberry, roasted herbs and a pinch of licorice. The fruit has a beautiful, jewel-like quality to it and shines brightly. What a beautifully refined offering from Sophie Armenier and her son Vincent.”
91-93 points, Nicolas Greinacher, Vinous
“Classic Marcoux notes of raspberries, kirsch, sappy garrigue, and spicy flowers emerge from the 2021 Châteauneuf Du Pape, a pretty, medium-bodied, elegant, finesse-driven beauty that offers silky tannins, no hard edges, and a wonderful sense of both complexity and freshness. This classic, nuanced 2021 shows both the estate and the vintage beautifully.”
91-93 points, Jeb Dunnuck, jebdunnuk.com
Domaine de Marcoux Châteauneuf-du-Pape Rouge 2021
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Domaine de Marcoux Lirac La Lorentine 2021
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Domaine de Marcoux Lirac La Lorentine 2021

Marcoux’s biodynamically farmed Lorentine vineyard lies in the heart of the Lirac appellation on the red clay, limestone and galet soils of Saint-Laurent-des-Arbres (in the valley of Balouvière). Over many years, the Armeniers have slowly peeled back the layers of Lirac’s neglected terroir. They have restored life to the soils through cultivation and organic/biodynamic practice and are producing wines worthy of this excellent terroir. The 2021 is a blend of Grenache (50%) and equal parts Syrah and Mourvèdre, fermented with indigenous yeasts and raised for 15 months in concrete and old wooden barrels. Very Marcoux in style, full of the Ameniers’ trademark purity and balance. Bright, blueberry fruits on the nose with garrigue, black olive and pepper and some savoury wet-stone minerality.  It’s generous and textured on the palate but light on its feet, full of bright fruit, violets, anise and subtle minerality. It finishes long and fresh with fine, powdery tannins. A real pleasure, and effortless to drink despite its impressive depth of flavour.

“There was no frost in Lirac, so yields were healthy as well. Ripe darker, almost blue fruits, garrigue, and pepper, as well as a touch of flowers, all define the nose, and it's medium-bodied, has good concentration, and a great finish. This cuvée also offers pleasure, and the 2021 will be no exception.”
Jeb Dunnuck, jebdunnuk.com
“The nose has a careful air of mixed fruits, dark berries. The attack is crystalline, with free run, still cautious fruits, neat juice late on. It’s upright and cool, outside the main group of wines, carries interest.”
John Livingstone-Learmonth, Drink Rhône
Domaine de Marcoux Lirac La Lorentine 2021
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Domaine de Marcoux Châteauneuf-du-Pape Rouge Vieilles Vignes 2021
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Domaine de Marcoux Châteauneuf-du-Pape Rouge Vieilles Vignes 2021

Christened by Robert Parker as “one of the world’s truly magnificent wines”, this rarity is one of the most limited and sought-after wines of Châteauneuf. The fruit comes from three crown-jewel parcels of exceptionally old vines in Charbonnières and Les Esqueirons. Charbonnières (planted in 1900) lies on the northern side of the Crau plateau, mostly on sandy soils with molasse sandstone. The vines are nearly all Grenache with a few rows of Mourvèdre. The plot in Les Esqueirons lies behind the famous château ruins on the hill's western side. Here, the Grenache vines (and some Roussanne) are rooted in limestone and white clay. Some were planted in 1900, and the rest in 1949. The fruit is treated in the same minimalist fashion as the classic bottling. Thus, what you taste over and above that wine simply reflects the fruit of these ancient vines and their terroirs. No new oak is used throughout the maturation; the wines ferment naturally and are raised for 18 months in concrete and large oak foudre before being bottled unfiltered. The Vieilles Vignes is only bottled in great vintages—which, in a way, says it all. The reviews below describe the wine nicely. 2021 has delivered an outstanding Châteauneuf-du-Pape; few in the region will have made a finer wine this vintage than the Armenier family.

“The 2021 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Vieilles Vignes is showing beautifully, displaying lively crushed violet, cranberry, red cherry, licorice and dried herb aromas. Full-bodied, elegant and fitted with velvety tannins, it is well-balanced by fresh acidity, closing with a long-lasting finish. As usual, it's a blend of very old vines from two parcels in Charbonnières and Les Esquirons. Only 4,000 bottles produced.”
93-95 points, Nicolas Greinacher, Vinous
“The 2021 Châteauneuf Du Pape Vieilles Vignes is a bigger, richer effort that shows the pure, vibrant style of the vintage beautifully. Black raspberries, spring flowers, sandalwood, and spicy Provençal notes all define the nose, and it's medium to full-bodied on the palate, with an ultra-fine, seamless mouthfeel, velvety tannins, and a great finish. Count me impressed. It's going to drink nicely in its youth yet also evolve for 15-20 years.”
93-95 points, Jeb Dunnuck, jebdunnuk.com
Domaine de Marcoux Châteauneuf-du-Pape Rouge Vieilles Vignes 2021
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Domaine de Marcoux Châteauneuf-du-Pape Rouge 2021 (1500ml)
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Domaine de Marcoux Châteauneuf-du-Pape Rouge 2021 (1500ml)

This year’s blend is 80% Grenache, 10% Mourvèdre, 7% Syrah and 3% Cinsault. Marcoux’s Châteauneuf is drawn from 13 parcels of vines, biodynamically farmed and dotted across the appellation. With a concentration on the famous Crau plateau, the parcels encompass a wide range of soil types, from the sandy soils of Charbonnières to the red clay and galets in L’Arnesque and Les Bosquets, to the limestone and white clay in Les Esqueirons and Beaurenard, and finally the red clay and gravels of Les Galimardes, Les Serres and Les Plagnes in the south. This means Marcoux can produce a wine that genuinely reflects the Châteauneuf terroir as a whole. It also allows the domaine to craft balanced wines year in, year out, as each parcel is vinified separately before blending (and any parcels that do not fit the bill are typically declassified to Côtes du Rhône or sold to the négoces). As is customary, the wines were naturally fermented and raised in concrete vat (up to 90%) and large oak, without any new oak. The aging spanned 18 months, and the wine was bottled unfiltered. After a run of broader-shouldered wines, this year’s release tastes positively airborne! The shape, sculpted by finely woven tannins and refreshing tension, is impeccable, and the finish pure and focused. “It's a nice vintage, very different from past years, but good. I like the tannins—you can drink the wine young and enjoy it later,” says Vincent Estevenin. In short, it’s a long, intense and classy offering from one of the region’s great artisans.

“It is medium to full-bodied, displaying lovely aromas of raspberry, strawberry, blueberry, roasted herbs and a pinch of licorice. The fruit has a beautiful, jewel-like quality to it and shines brightly. What a beautifully refined offering from Sophie Armenier and her son Vincent.”
91-93 points, Nicolas Greinacher, Vinous
“Classic Marcoux notes of raspberries, kirsch, sappy garrigue, and spicy flowers emerge from the 2021 Châteauneuf Du Pape, a pretty, medium-bodied, elegant, finesse-driven beauty that offers silky tannins, no hard edges, and a wonderful sense of both complexity and freshness. This classic, nuanced 2021 shows both the estate and the vintage beautifully.”
91-93 points, Jeb Dunnuck, jebdunnuk.com
Domaine de Marcoux Châteauneuf-du-Pape Rouge 2021 (1500ml)
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Domaine de Marcoux Côtes du Rhône Rouge 2022
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Domaine de Marcoux Côtes du Rhône Rouge 2022

Marcoux’s silky and perfumed Côtes-du-Rhône is drawn from two small, biodynamically farmed parcels of old vines on the edge of the Châteauneuf vineyards in the northern sector near Orange. There’s one hectare at Maucoil (planted in the 1930s) and another at Boislauzon (planted in 1965). The grapes are sorted both in the vineyard and cellar—not all Côtes du Rhône is created equal. This year's blend is the traditional mix of 80% Grenache with a balance of Syrah, Mourvèdre and a little Cinsault. The harvesting is always done by hand, and fermentation takes place in cement tanks with wild yeast. It has more power and texture than last year’s wine, alongside plenty of perfume, pretty, ripe red and fruits and fine length. In other words, it is a cut above and a delicious introduction to the domaine’s wines.

“All destemmed and made in concrete tanks, the 2022 Cotes du Rhone comes from two small parcels of vines. Mainly Grenache, with smaller amounts of Mourvèdre and Syrah, it's a terrific value this vintage, offering up loads of black cherries and blackberries, garnished with an appealing waft of garrigue. Full-bodied and soft, it's awfully easy to drink and enjoy.”
90 points, Joe Czerwinski, The Wine Advocate
Domaine de Marcoux Côtes du Rhône Rouge 2022
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Domaine de Marcoux Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc 2022
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Domaine de Marcoux Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc 2022

Frankly, Marcoux’s white is one of Châteauneuf’s best. La Revue du Vin de France agrees with us, writing: “[The domaine’s white wines] regularly establish themselves among the most beautiful of the appellation; cultivation has a lot to do with it.” The first thing to say is that it’s atypically Roussanne-dominant (up to 70%), blended with Bourboulenc, Grenache Blanc and Clairette. Most of the Roussanne and Bourboulenc hails from two parcels: Les Esqueirons, where the cool, limestone-based soils are perfect for white grapes; and Les Bosquets, where the Bourboulenc brings citric freshness and drive to the layered Roussanne. The rest of the grapes come from parcels of Grenache Blanc and Clairette, which are co-planted in predominantly red sites. Marcoux currently farms only one hectare of white grapes, although another fifth of a hectare of Clairette will come on stream soon. In the cellar, the grapes are pressed as whole bunches and ferment naturally in mostly steel tanks. An ever-increasing portion of the wine is now raised in low-impact Stockinger cask, and Sophie Armenier’s son Vincent Estevenin has also introduced some sandstone amphora into the mix. As always, there is no bâtonnage or malolactic conversion and even in warmer-than-average years, the wine always retains an outstanding balance between volume and freshness. Very aromatic this year (think spring meadows and citrus fruits), it offers a fabulous balance of textural fruits countered by chalky structure, stony depth and terrific zesty length. Great class and crazy delicious. It should live magnificently, developing more complexity, but it's just a wonderfully delicious drink now.

“Mainly Roussanne but with a fair bit of Bourboulenc and Clairette, the 2022 Chateauneuf du Pape Blanc went into demi-muids and amphora this year and did not go through malolactic fermentation. It's a full-bodied, richer example of white CdP despite that, with honeyed notes of ripe pear and pineapple, a broad, expansive feel on the palate and a long, harmonious finish.”
95 points, Joe Czerwinski, The Wine Advocate
Domaine de Marcoux Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc 2022
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"Marcoux’s are amongst the top wines of the Châteauneuf- du-Pape appellation. They were one of the first adopters of biodynamics. Here, the wines have a natural and a rare depth, an energy and power that does not rely on artificial breeding.” La Revue du Vin de France

“Over the last 12 years, the biodynamically farmed vineyard has risen to the top of Châteauneuf-du-Pape’s quality hierarchy. The two red wines produced have been stunning, with the regular cuvée of Châteauneuf-du-Pape one of the finest in the appellation, and the limited production Cuvée Vieilles Vignes one of the world’s truly magnificent wines.” Robert Parker, The Wine Advocate

“The Vieilles Vignes is one of the great Châteauneuf-du-Papes.” John Livingstone-Learmonth, Drink Rhône

Country

France

Primary Region

Southern Rhône

People

Winemakers: Sophie & Vincent Estevenin

Availability

National

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