Chateau du Donjon

Minervois - Languedoc

 HVE Level 3 conversion starting 2016

Château du Donjon “Grande Tradition” - Minervois 
This is the main wine of the estate representing 17 ha. The blend is 50% Syrah, 40% Grenache Noir and 10% Carignan. While the Syrah vines are on average 16 years old the Grenache and Carignan vines average 40 to 50 years of age. The average yield is 35 hl/ha. The grapes are destemmed and fermented in concrete vats separately with a plot by plot approach, the Carignan will go through the carbonic maceration process. The fermentations will last about 10 days at 28°C for the Grenache and Carignan and 3 to 4 weeks at 28°C for the Syrah. The wine is aged for 12 months in concrete vats.

PVins notes: The wine has a complex nose of garrigue and spices, well-balanced and structured, showing blackberry fruits with hints of spices and smooth tannins on the palate. It may be cellared for 5 to 7 years.

Château du Donjon “Cuvée Prestige” 2012 Minervois 
This is the premium wine of the estate representing 5 ha. The grapes are a selection from the best plots representing a blend of 70% Syrah and 30% Grenache Noir, this might vary depending on the vintage. The vine's average age is 30 years old for the Syrah and 50 years old for the Grenache producing an average yield of 30 hl/ha. The grapes are destemmed and fermented in concrete vats, 7 to 10 days for the Grenache and 4 weeks for the Syrah at 28°C. The ageing process will last 12 months with the Syrah in french oak barrels of which 20% are new and the remainder 1 to 4 years old, the Grenache is aged in concrete vats.

PVins notes: Very deep red in colour, expressive nose of spices with ripe fruit with hints of vanilla and chocolate aromas. Full-bodied and generous on the palate with a long and powerful finish supported by elegant tannins. The wine may be cellared for up to 10+ years.

Wine Spectator  88
Spicy, with peppercorn and dried herb notes dusting the core of blackberry, iron and currant flavors. Firm acidity and tannins lend structure through the finish. Syrah, Grenache and Carignan. 

Château du Donjon is located about 10 kilometres north-east of Carcassonne in the heart of Bagnoles. It was once the property of the monks of the abbey of Caunes-Minervois and was used as an outpost. It takes its name from the ancient castle at Bagnoles. The estate has been in the PANIS-MIALHE family since the 15th century and still has its picturesque 13th century donjon.

Guy Panis took over the estate in 1958 at the age of 24 following his father's death. In 1996, Jean Panis took over the estate from his father Guy and produced his first vintage. He introduced oak barrels on the estate which his father had never done and obtain top ratings by the wine critics. That same year, he also met Caroline his future wife now helping him to manage Château du Donjon. Jean's father Guy passed away in 2008. Recently, a new cellar was built to further improve the winemaking process, parcellaire approach, estate bottling and also increase the storage space in a climate control environment.

The vineyards of Château du Donjon stretch out over the rural district of Bagnoles in the western part of the Minervois called “Clamoux”. The estate’s 60 ha are divided as follow: 30 ha are in A.O.P Minervois and the rest is classified as I.G.P Côteaux de Peyriac (Regional wines). The soil structure is gravely on the terraces and clayey-limestone on the hillsides. The estate is planted with the region's red grapes which are Syrah, Grenache, Carignan and Cinsault. In 2010, the white grapes Vermentino (Rolle) and Roussanne were planted to produce a new white Minervois with the first vintage being 2014, only a small amount of 6,000 bottles are produced.

Since 2016, the estate has under taken the process of a HVE Level 3 (High Environmental Value) certification. This label is recognised by the Agricultural Ministry, which demonstrates the estate’s efforts to protect at best the environment. It is based on indicators of results relative to the biodiversity, the phytosanitary strategy and the management of organic fertilization. Vineyard management include green harvest and canopy management when necessary.

Come harvesting time the grapes are picked, sorted and destemmed in the vineyard before arriving at the cellar. As for the winemaking, with Jean's plot by plot approach each grape variety and parcel will be fermented separately in concrete vats. Stainless still vats are mainly used to produce the Minervois rosé and whites. The fermentations will vary from 10 days to 3 to 4 weeks for the Syrah using indigenous yeasts. The exception is the Carignan as it is fermented with the carbonic maceration technique like in the Beaujolais, this is to amplify fruitiness and soften the tannins. The estate's reds are aged in concrete vats except for the premium "Cuvée Prestige" where oak barrels are used to age the Syrah for 12 months. The yields for the Minervois reds are low averaging 30 to 35 hl/ha. 

Jean Panis produces four Minervois wines which include 2 reds, a rosé and a white since 2014. The main wine of the estate is the cuvée "Grande Tradition" a blend of Grenache, Syrah and Carignan, the wine is aged without oak keeping the aromatic characteristics of each grape variety. The premium wine "Cuvée Prestige" is a blend of Grenache and Syrah following a selection of the best parcels of the Château. The wine is aged for 12 months using oak barrels for the Syrah, this is a wine made for cellaring. The latest addition since 2014 is a white Minervois, a blend of Vermentino (Rolle) and Roussanne. Jean also produces a variety of regional wines under the appellation IGP Côteaux de Peyriac.

Links:  AOP Minervois   -   Minervois map   -   Languedoc map


The Minervois appellation was created in 1985, it is located in the Languedoc region north-east of the Medieval city of Carcassonne. It is named after the ancient city of Minerve, originally a Roman fortress named after the Goddess Minerva. The appellation stretches for 60 kilometres from east to west and about 20 kilometres from north to south across the departments of Aude and Hérault. It is also one of the 18 appellations within the Languedoc region. Within the appellation Minervois there are two other appellations which are Minervois - La Livinière and Muscat de Saint Jean de Minervois known for its fortified dessert wines.

The 4,300 hectares of vineyards are planted between 50 to 350 metres in altitude at the foot of the Montage Noir (Black Mountain) in a vast amphitheatre on terraces facing south. The vine density varies from 3,000 to 4,000 per hectare. The terroir is very complex ranging from the Primary to the Quaternary eras, depending on the area in the appellation, it can be limestone based or fluvial, schist and stony on the terraces. 

The grapes planted for the Minervois reds and rosés are mainly Carignan, Grenache, Mourvedre, Cinsault, Syrah including some Lladonner pelut, Picpoul Noir, Terret Noir and Aspiran. As for the Minervois whites the main grape varieties are Marsanne, Roussanne, Maccabeu, Bourboulenc, Vermentino (Rolle), Grenache Blanc, while the secondary grapes are Picpoul Blanc, Clairette Blanc, Terret Blanc and Muscat à Petits Grains.

The climate is one of Mediterranean-Atlantic transition, with Mediterranean being dominant where summers are hot and dry, spring and autumn are mild with the occasional morning frosts in April. Winters are mild too, sunny, with temperatures rarely falling below freezing. Rainfall is low (the lowest in France is certain communes) whilst the omnipresent Tramontane wind helps prevent plant disease. The Mediterranean influence is particularly felt at the far west of the region where the sea has a strong influence on the climate.