A self-confessed alchemist with a scientific, oenological background, Vignon has not been afraid to experiment, blending vintages and producing unusual one-off bottlings (known as the Arcane series). He is today one of the Rhône wine region’s most inquisitive, radical and accomplished winemakers.
Xavier Vignon doesn’t own any of his own vineyards, but he consults on vineyards all over the Rhône Valley. Thanks to his consultancy business, he has access to a huge range of terroirs, as well as the multitude of grape varieties grown in the region.
Vignon often identifies certain sites depending on the conditions of each vintage, opting for cooler-climate sites in hotter vintages and vice versa in cooler ones. His extensive network of contacts gives him great freedom when selecting which grapes to purchase for his own projects.
His Arcane series consists of one-off creations, often coming from unusual or different terroirs, which in certain vintages created something particularly special.
It is in the winery where Xavier Vignon’s alchemy comes to life. Aside from his classic Southern Rhône appellation cuvées, known as the Signature range (consisting of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Gigondas, Vacqueyras, Cairanne, Rasteau, Beaumes-de-Venise, Lirac and four Côtes du Rhône cuvées), he also produces one-off bottlings, known as the Arcane series and a perennial range of more experimental cuvées called the Creations range.
For many of his cuvées, Vignon uses traditional winemaking methods, using a range of concrete and stainless steel tanks for fermentation, and large oak foudres, smaller oak barriques and amphorae for maturing the wines. Beyond these more traditional practices, Vignon has carried out many alternative experiments in the winery, which have gone on to feature in some of his most successful wines.
For instance, he was the first to produce a multi-vintage blend of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. More recently he pioneered two winemaking techniques: ageing wine in barrels completely suspended in larger vats of wine, as well as fermenting and maturing wines only in glass.
Vignon developed the “vinarium” method, as a way to extend the wine’s maturation in oak without fear of oxidation. The wines are aged in specially designed oak barrels that are completely suspended in larger vats of wine. Completely immersed in liquid, there is no evaporation, no racking, no sulphur required. The wine is totally protected from oxygen. This works particularly well with Southern Rhône varieties such as Grenache, prone to oxidation during extended ageing.
The second technique is to use only glass in the winemaking process. Vignon believes that glass is the only medium that doesn’t change the flavour or texture of the wine, allowing for pure site expression. Vignon is so convinced by the process and power of glass that he has built a winery made entirely out of glass. From grape to bottling, the wine will only see glass.