The spirit of Jacques Reynaud, the godfather of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, is always present. When the legendary founder of Château Rayas died suddenly in 1997, his wife asked their nephew, Emmanuel Reynaud, to take the reins at both Château Rayas and Château Fonsalette. Already making wines at his father’s Château des Tours, Emmanuel agreed.
He is somewhat reclusive, and can be found working his vineyards at most any time of day, every day. Emmanuel does not revel in the fame and notoriety that come with making such sought-after and acclaimed wines, but he continues to carry the mantle of his famous forebears, producing hauntingly aromatic wines at his three estates: Château Rayas, Château des Tours and Château de Fonsalette.
Château Rayas was purchased by Emmanuel’s grandfather, Albert Reynaud, in 1880; it was made famous by Jacques and his father, Louis, a pioneer in the appellation. Even today, visiting Rayas is like taking a trip back in time; the estate did not even have electricity until the late 1980s. Emmanuel continues in the traditional style, while moving forward as the heralded winemaker of one of the world’s most sought-after wines. Here, in addition to creating the wines of Château Rayas, Emmanuel also produces Pignan, expressing a different approach to this unique terrior.
Composed of three separate vineyards — Le Couchant, Le Levant and Le Coeur — Château Rayas occupies one of the most unique sites in the world. The estate is surrounded by towering pine trees (pignan in French) that monitor the airflow into the vineyards, and the vines are planted in very fine sand that regulates their temperature and maintains humidity around the roots. This seemingly magical sand creates its very own microclimate — and exceptionally elegant wines.
While 13 varietals are permitted in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Emmanuel uses only one for Rayas’ red wines: Grenache. For the whites, he uses Grenache Blanc and Clairette. Grapes come from the three vineyards, are vinified and aged separately in old barrels, then are blended to achieve Emmanuel’s vision for the vintage, always adhering to Château Rayas’ signature style. With a Pinot Noir–like flavor profile — kirsch, cherry, peat moss — coupled with a peppery Mediterranean flair that is distinctively “Southern France,” there is simply nothing like a bottle of Château Rayas.