Jean-Paul Daumen, the 5th generation owner and winemaker of Vieille Julienne, is one of the most intriguing and influential winemakers in France. Despite being at the top of his field, he remains a committed student of wine; he is curious to no end and completely open to new ideas. Being around him is a pleasure as he speaks of what he is doing through questions and conversations rather than a dictation of his philosophies. He is in a rarified group of winemakers who have a vision and achieve it to the slightest detail every vintage. These are a must if you are serious about southern French wine.
Jean-Paul embraced biodynamics when he took over the family estate in 1990. He is not evangelical about his beliefs but it is clear that his farming method abandons all herbicides, fungicides, fertilizers and chemical products used in the vineyard and avoids all unnatural additions (including cultured yeasts) in the cellar, save SO2 which is only added before bottling. It best said on Jean Paul’s website, “the climatic conditions, the sun, atmospheric pressure, the effects of the moon and the planets, are as many parameters that seems obvious to take into consideration.” Biodynamic farming method is a couple of steps beyond an organic practice and is often called a holistic approach to grape growing and winemaking.
Lay of the Land
The soils that remain in Châteauneuf-du-Pape were brought in by the Rhône when it was a torrential river that covered the entire river delta of Provence. There is a large amount of calcium in the soil that seems to be overlooked when you see pictures of the alluvial quartzite galets in the vineyards from this very famous region. Underneath these rocks are more layers of strata of rocks that are separated by rich clays and sand.
There are five distinguished regions, Avignon, Bédarrides, Courthézon, Orange and Sorgues, that have many different soil structures and microclimates. This diversity offers an array of complex and different styles of wine. This sunny and windy area of France gives some of the most endowed and fully expressive wines. They can be unapologetically masculine wines that, with age, can carry very fine table manners.