Domaine de Saje, Châteauneuf-du-Pape

Domaine de Saje label

Country & RegionFrance, Rhône Valley
Appellation(s)Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Côtes du Rhône
ProducerJérôme Mathieu
FoundedThe Mathieu family is one of the oldest in the village, going back to the 16th century. Domaine de Saje was founded in 2015.

For many years, Jérôme Mathieu worked alongside his brother André at Domaine Mathieu, managing the estate passed down from their parents. In 2015, André’s eldest son came of age, and the brothers amicably agreed to split the domain to have clear lines of inheritance. Jérôme, who lives in his grandfather’s house in the center of the village, subsequently spent 2015-16 revamping his grandfather’s old cellar to prepare to make wine under his own roof as of 2016. He created Saje, an abbreviation of two names, and began to use this label with the 2013 vintage – a vintage he made with his brother and, as with the 2014 and 2015 vintages, divided along agreed partitions.

Domaine de Saje's Jerome Mathieu

Jérôme’s inheritance amounted to 7.3 hectares (18 acres divided into 25 parcels) in Châteauneuf-du-Pape plus 2 hectares (5 acres divided into 2 parcels) in appellation Côtes du Rhône. In addition, he rents 0.8 hectares (2 acres divided into 2 parcels) in Châteauneuf from his parents. The Châteauneuf holdings are spread all over the appellation in various exposures, elevations, and soils. In the traditional manner, most are based on Grenache but are co-planted with as many as 8 of the 13 permitted appellation varieties, and each parcel is harvested en masse and fermented. Thus Jérôme enjoys a great deal of diversity with terroir and grape variety, arguably giving his wines an additional measure of complexity. It’s worth noting as well that such diversity mitigates against high levels of alcohol in the wine (field blends need to be harvested at an average level of ripeness, whereas single-varietal parcels can easily be picked at an advanced level of ripeness tailored to a given varietal if so chosen).

Domaine de Saje's CNDP vineyard

The Côtes du Rhône parcels of Domaine de Saje grow immediately outside of the Châteauneuf appellation to the northwest.

The style here is mostly traditional. The reds ferment spontaneously, are aged in large concrete vats over the winter, and then are racked into old foudre. The Syrah is typically de-stemmed except in good, ripe years; the Grenache and other reds are only de-stemmed if the vintage is difficult and the grapes are not entirely healthy. Jérôme’s classic Châteauneuf is a decidedly old school construct without pumped up fruit, oak, or alcohol. The same can be said for his super old vine cuvée named Marquis Anselme, a wine that takes its name from Anselme Mathieu. He was a 19th century ancestor renowned for his wine and poetry who helped found Le Félibrige in 1854, a group dedicated to preserving the language and customs of Provence.

Domaine de Saje and Châteauneuf

Regardless of a given style or a given vessel for aging, all of the Saje cuvées share a common aim of sumptuous ripeness—the basis for Châteauneuf’s fame— without crossing over into surmaturité and its chest-beating levels of alcohol.

Domaine de Saje's bottles

Thanks to Jeff Bramwell for the bottle shot and for the shot from Châteauneuf vines looking across the Plain de Dieu to the Dentelles–foreground, left–and to Mt. Ventoux beyond.

The Wines

Côtes du Rhône Cuvée Château Mar
Based on Grenache with roughly 35% SyrahFrom 5 acres that grow across the AOC border of Châteauneuf, just northwest of the Maucoil and Cabrières zones. Raised in cement vats. The wine is made "on the fruit," Jérôme says, and he’s not kidding. Production averages 700 cases.
Tech sheet here.
Châteauneuf-du-Pape BlancA base of Clairette with small amounts of Bourboulenc, Picpoul, and RoussanneThis comes from just over one acre, and all the grapes are raised in tank except for a bit of barrel-fermented Clairette; all malo is blocked by filtration to retain freshness in the wine. Production is a couple of hundred cases.
Based on 80-85% Grenache, followed by a field blend of varietals (Counoise, Mourvèdre, Muscardin, Clairette Rose, Syrah, Terret Noir, and Vaccarèse)Normally raised in foudre for 14 to 16 months, bottled without fining and with only a very light filtration. Production averages 1,300 cases. Tech sheet here.
Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée Marquis Anselme Mathieu

Based on 85% Grenache, followed by a field blendCentenarian vines, coming from 2 parcels planted in 1890 and 1892. They grow in La Font du Pape immediately east of the village, and in Barbe d’Asne just to the west. Combined surface is about 5.5 acres. Aged in the house’s oldest foudre (approaching centenarian) and bottled after 14 to 16 months. Made only in good years. Production averages 200 cases annually.