Vinopolpick Thursday – January 2

January 2014

Clos des Papes

Clos des Papes Chateauneuf du Pape first sold in 1896 and it became a registered estate in 1902, taking its name from the walled vineyard parcel near what was the pope’s castle. The Avril family that has owned and managed the vineyards and winery has a long history in the region.  They were a driving force behind the creation of the Chateauneuf du Pape AOC, which was the first of its kind in France.
The 24 vineyard parcels owned by the estate today are scattered around the Chateauneuf du Pape Appellation.  This allows the estate to take advantage of the different microclimates to stagger harvests and draw upon a broader expression of Chateuneuf du Pape wine. The vineyard soils range from rocky mixture with sand and limestone to gravel in the south.

Today Clos des Papes is operated by the third generation owner Paul-Vincent Avril.  He began at the winery in the late 1980s, under his father, after training at wineries in Australia and at the Chateau Mouton Rothschild.  Drawing upon his experience, Avril maintains what he sees as a modern-traditionalist approach to winemaking.  He maintains low yields by careful pruning and partial bud and bunch removal.  Red and white grapes are hand sorted three times for quality and 100% destemmed.  His reds, sourced from over 50 year old vines, are fermented for three weeks under temperature control and gently pressed with compressed air. The fine sediment is retained in the wine to improve ageability. The wine is aged in old wood foudres for twelve months before being transferred to tanks and sees no new oak. When bottled, Avril uses the same high quality Portuguese cork producer his family has used since 1926. The white wine, which his family has produced since 1955, is aged in steel for six months. The wine is unoaked and does not undergo any malolactic fermentation.  The white grapes are sourced from four vineyards with vines between 15-30 years old.
His wines have been described as Burgundian in style due to their balance, freshness, elegance and well-integrated alcohol.  Instead of making special selection blends, Avril produces only one red and one white cuvee in the tradition of the his father to avoid sacrificing the quality of the traditional blend by not including the best grapes.  He says: “It’s simple to make a better wine out of the choicest grapes, but this would inevitably harm the quality of our traditional cuvée, so that it would lose the quality and the expression at which we aim.”
The reds can be aged for up to 20 years, depending upon the vintage.  His typical blend is over 50% Grenache and up to 20% Mourvedre, 10% Syrah and the rest from other allowed varietals such as Vaccarèse, Counoise and Muscardin.  The Grenache provides the majority of the fruit character of the wine, giving notes of cherry and licorice.  He prefers to use no more than 10% Syrah to avoid losing the “refinement and freshness” of the fruit character.  The higher proportion of Mourvedre is used for spiciness and tannin.  Avril is one of the few winemakers in the region who still includes other traditional red grapes, contributing a more authentic and traditional flavor.  The white wines are best enjoyed for their fresh fruit flavors for up to 4 years or for their mature flavors after 10 years.  It is a blend of near-equal parts Clairette, Picpoul, Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, and Bourboulenc.

The United States sees only 8% of Clos des Pape’s yearly production, so we are pleased to offer the following wines for your enjoyment.

Clos des Papes – Wines Here Now

Clos des Papes Chateauneuf du Pape 2005 ($179.95) $149.00 special, 1 bottle available
Wine Spectator 98 points: 
“Really tight now, but packed with dark fig, currant, espresso, licorice and chocolate notes. Superfleshy but seriously structured, there’s layer after layer of sweet spice, fruit and minerality pumping through the finish, with lots of latent depth and power. Far more backward than the 2003 or 2004 on release, but since this red typically puts on weight as it ages, it should be a monster–à la the 1990–when it reaches its peak. Best from 2009 through 2030.” WS

Clos des Papes Chateauneuf du Pape 2008 ($99.95) $69.00 special SOLD OUT
Wine Spectator 95 points:
 “Dark, inviting and very alluring, with captivating black tea, charred mesquite and kirsch aromas and flavors allied to a remarkably silky mouthfeel. Superlong, with mineral, violet, pepper and additional crushed cherry and plum notes all gliding through the finish. Shows none of the difficulties of the vintage-arguably the best property in the appelation right now. Best from 2011 through 2027.”

Clos des Papes Chateauneuf du Pape 2009 ($149.95) $99.00 special, 14 bottles available
Wine Spectator 96 points:
 “Sinewy and reserved, with a light dusting of cocoa over the tangy damson plum, red licorice and cassis notes. The long, supple finish, with a lovely wafting note of Lapsang souchong tea, is packed with minerality and tight-grained tannins that will need time to fully evolve. One of the more backward 2009s, though this should pick up steam in the cellar. Best from 2013 through 2025.”

Clos des Papes Chateauneuf du Pape 2011 ($129.95) $99.00 special SOLD OUT
Stephen Tanzer 92-94 points
: “I tasted the 2011 wine here in its four basic components, drawn from different foudres, followed by a sample of what Avril believes will be the final blend. #1: 75% grenache, 15% syrah and 10% mourvedre; intense, spice-accented red fruit aromas, with a sexy floral nuance and good back-end cut. #2: 50% syrah, 45% grenache and 5% everything else; richer and more masculine, offering deep dark fruit flavors and a hint of bitter chocolate; more serious than the first component but less precise and graceful. #3: 65% grenache and 35% syrah; graceful and silky in texture, offering vibrant red fruit and floral aromas and flavors. Very fresh, in an intriguing, pinot-like way, with excellent cut and length. #4: 65% grenache, 30% mourvedre and 5% syrah; emphatically spicy, with deep cherry and raspberry flavors and a hint of anise. The spiciness builds with air and carries through impressively. The final blend is bright ruby red with a heady bouquet of candied red fruits, potpourri and allspice, along with musky herb and mineral elements. Sappy and precise, with vibrant black raspberry and cherry flavors given lift by zesty acidity. Finishes clean and very long, with resonating floral and spice notes and harmonious tannins.”

Clos des Papes Chateauneuf du Pape Blanc 2012 ($99.95) $79.00 special SOLD OUT
Robert Parker 94 points:
 “Looking at Paul-Vincent’s Chateauneufs, and a rich, voluptuous example of this cuvee that possesses great acidity, the 2012 Chateauneuf-du-Pape Blanc offers up ripe stone fruits, white currants, honeysuckle and licorice to go with a full-bodied, rich and powerful profile on the palate that somehow stays beautifully fresh and focused. It’s a gorgeous wine that can be consumed in its fresh and vibrant youth, or cellared for a decade or two. It’s a knockout white that should not be missed! Drink now-2032.”