Let’s start this session with history. The reason why is that family history is important in relating to knowledgeable vineyard care and savvy winemaking practices. The Sabon family can trace their roots in the Rhône Valley to 1547. Generations have lived in the region and experienced the nuances of the seasons, funneling that knowledge into each decision made throughout a growing season. Clos du Mont Olivet was officially formed in 1932 at a time when most vineyard owners sold their harvest to négociants. Finally, at the close of World War II, Seraphin Sabon started bottling and selling their family wines all from within the walls.
Now standing at 27 hectares (66 acres) under domaine ownership, their production is geared towards red wines, having only 2 hectares planted to white varieties. Those red vines are something to be revered as well, with most having 90 years of age in the ground and another parcel living for over 100 years located in the famous large stone vineyard of ‘La Crau’.
A traditional farming family relying heavily on horse drawn power, they finally bought a tractor in 1972, and started experimenting with destemming in 1997, which they now run with at about 60%. Fermentation happens in cement vats and the wines are aged in large foudres and old barrels.
The Cuvée Unique is a special blend arranged just for North Berkeley Imports of California at a ratio of 85% Grenache, 10% Syrah, and 5% Mourvèdre. Winemaker Thierry Sabon pulls the grapes from eleven vineyards including the famous ‘La Crau’ which are in the north and northeast portions of the Châteauneuf appellation. Soils range from clay and sand to alluvial gravel and ‘galets roulés’ which are the iconic large quartz stones found across many vineyards in the area (photo below).
Even though the family appreciates that tractor, all the grapes are hand harvested, fermentation kicks in naturally via indigenous yeasts, the blend is aged exclusively in those large foudres, and it is bottle unfined and unfiltered.
Expect a terrific wide range of blackberry, pepper, and spice, plus a touch of licorice. For pairing, aim towards pork tender, lamb, duck, game, roast chicken, roasted, braised, or stewed dishes, sausage and cassoulet. Word is that Clos du Mont Olivet is also good with Asian dishes, hearty fish courses like tuna, mushrooms, pasta, eggplant and tomatoes.