The burden of success is scrutiny – everyone’s watching a bit closer, chalking each vintage against the last. Within the northern Rhone Valley, few producers are under closer watch than Auguste Clape, nestled within eight hectares in Cornas.
Though the Clape family made wine across many generations within the Languedoc, growers’ strikes in the early 1900’s sent the family up to the northern Rhone Valley. Once there, they started anew, carving out their land from the steep western slopes of the Rhone River. Auguste, the former mayor of Cornas, was the first in the area to bottle estate fruit. The family operation now includes Auguste’s son, Pierre-Marie, and grandson Olivier.
The family’s eight hectares under vine sit stacked precariously on terraced parcels, a difficult topography which renders machines useless. Thus, vineyard work is done by hand. Winemaking overall has changed little, if at all, since the beginning. Harvest occurs at full ripeness, stems remain on the fruit, and primary fermentation occurs in concrete tanks for roughly one week followed by a prolonged skin maceration. There is never new oak – after all, “the Syrah must breathe,” Clape once proclaimed.
Auguste Clape wines currently available:
Domaine Auguste Clape Cornas, Rhone 2010 1.5L $599 special, 1 magnum available
Robert Parker 100 points “Eclipsing even the 2009, the 2010 Cornas achieved one of the highest natural alcohol levels (14%) ever recorded at Clape. This complex, inky/purple-colored effort boasts abundant notes of charcoal, licorice, blackberries and blueberries intermixed with a hint of scorched earth (or is it charcoal embers?), a full-bodied mouthfeel, a seamless personality and a crushed rock-like minerality. The tannins are so sweet it will be drinkable in 2-3 years, and should keep for 25 or more. It is a tour de force in what Syrah can achieve in this hallowed appellation. Kudos to the Clape family, especially Pierre-Marie.” RP
Domaine Auguste Clape Cornas, Rhone 2012 1.5L $249 special, 1 magnum available
Wine Advocate 95-97 points “Moving to the reds and one of the most impressive efforts from Cornas I was able to taste, Clape’s 2012 Cornas offers up an inky purple color to go with massive aromas and flavors of charred earth, graphite, cassis, black raspberry and searing minerality. Turning meatier with air, this full-bodied 2012 has a blockbuster texture, thrilling mid-palate depth and a decadent finish, yet never loses focus or seems over the top in any way. It will need 3-4 years to become approachable, and evolve gracefully for two decades or more.” WA