CLOS SAINT JEAN by JEB DUNNUCK

France, Rhone: Clos Saint Jean

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Vincent and Pascal Maurel, with the next generation
Since taking control of the estate in 2002, and bringing on board rock-star consultant Philippe Cambie, the Maurel brothers have been knocking it out of the park in literally every vintage. 2004? Gorgeous wines and easily at the top in a recent retrospective. The cooler, rainy 2008? Beautiful ripeness and texture, and again, at the top of the hierarchy. 2011 is the same story, and it’s amazing what this team has accomplished in all of their vintages. Looking at this retrospective, we went through all of their cuvées going back to 2003. Unfortunately, there’s no new information here, and this tasting simply confirmed what myself and Robert Parker have been saying for some time now: Clos Saint Jean is at the top of their game and producing some of the most singular, hedonistic and brilliant wines in the world.

Starting out with the classic Châteauneuf du Pape, it’s normally a blend of 75% Grenache, with the balance a mix of Syrah, Mourvedre, Cinsault, Muscardin and Vaccarese. As is common at this estate, the Grenache is aged all in tank, and the other varieties in a mix of tank and barrels. While I think this cuvée always lags the Vieilles Vignes bottling, it is consistently outstanding and always a super value.

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Barrels for the Syrah and Mourvèdre
The 2011 Châteauneuf du Pape offers gorgeous kirsch and strawberry-styled fruits to go with notions of spring flowers, licorice and rose petal. A perfumed, medium to full-bodied effort, it has loads of charm and class and will have a decade of overall longevity. More backwards and concentrated, the 2010 Châteauneuf du Pape has rocking mid-palate depth and length on the palate. Giving up ample dark fruit, kirsch, pepper, leather and big minerality, this beauty will see its 15th birthday in fine form. A spectacular showing, the 2009 Châteauneuf du Pape was firing on all cylinders at this tasting. As sexy and seamless as they come, with blackberry liqueur, kirsch, creamy licorice, orange peel and dried flower-like aromas and flavors, it hits the palate with a full-bodied, up-front, decadent style that just begs to be drunk. Drink this puppy while you wait on the 2010. A wine I’ve had numerous times, the 2008 Châteauneuf du Pape has a Burgundian feel in its black cherry, forest floor, pepper and underbrush-like aromas and flavors. Medium-bodied, elegant and seamless, it’s a delicious, certainly outstanding, wine to drink over the coming 3-5 years. Put this in a blind tasting with top-notch Burgundies and shock your friends. Showing the quality of the vintage, the 2007 Châteauneuf du Pape is an incredible wine. Possessing the classic kirsch liqueur, incense, flowers and licorice aromas and flavors that always show here, it flows onto the palate with a jaw dropping good texture that carries massive amounts of fruit, beautiful mid-palate concentration and a layered, silky feel. It’s hard to resist now, but it will be better in another couple years. From an under-the-radar vintage, the 2006 Châteauneuf du Pape is another full-bodied, layered and beautifully rich wine from this estate. Up-front, perfumed (kirsch and assorted red fruits, leather, wild flowers), concentrated and layered, it’s drinking nicely now and will continue to do so for at least another 5-7 years. The 2005 Châteauneuf du Pape is a ripe, concentrated effort that oozes melted licorice, plum, black olive and roasted herb-like aromas and flavors. Full-bodied, layered and beautifully put-together on the palate, it is almost overflowing with fruit, yet stays balanced, clean and thoroughly enjoyable. It will continue to thrill through 2020. Showing surprising depth and richness in the vintage, the 2004 Châteauneuf du Pape is slightly exotic on the nose, with hints of truffle, olive and underbrush morphing into more pure blackberry and sweet red cherry fruit. Medium to full-bodied, deep, rich and textured (especially for a 2004), it’s drinking at point and should be consumed over the coming couple of years (as always, depending on your preferences, as it will evolve for longer). Lastly, the 2003 Châteauneuf du Pape continues to drink fabulously, with its complex kirsch, leather, dried underbrush and spiced meat-driven profile. Rich, seamless and nicely concentrated, with some still-kicking tannin on the palate, it should be consumed over the coming 3-4 years as well.

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Philippe Cambie
Moving to the old vine cuvée, this is made especially for the U.S. Market and is 85% tank-aged, old vine Grenache, and the balance Syrah and Mourvèdre. It too almost always represents a crazy value and has a broad drink window. I’m currently finishing up a case of the ’08, and purchased two cases of the 2010, which is just starting to open back up after closing down shortly after release.

The 2011 Châteauneuf du Pape Vieilles Vignes is gorgeous (especially in the vintage), with loads of black raspberry, framboise and kirsch that’s balanced by notions of spring flowers, incense and spice. A forward, up-front version of this cuvée, it’s hard to resist now, yet it will have no problem evolving gracefully through 2023. More deep, rich and layered, with smoke, dried earth, ground pepper, leather and ripe blackberry-styled fruit, the 2010 Châteauneuf du Pape Vieilles Vignes is an incredible effort that has me purchasing more bottles every time I taste it. Showing more concentration than both the ’11 and ’09, with sweet tannin, it closed down slightly right after release, but was drinking beautifully on this occasion. I’d still hold off for another couple of years, and it will have 15-20 years of evolution with ease. Similar in style to the 2011, yet with additional richness, the 2009 Châteauneuf du Pape Vieilles Vignes boasts knockout aromas and flavors of blackberry liqueur, orange rind, sweet spice and crushed flowers to go with a full-bodied, rich, layered and sexy feel on the palate. A gorgeous effort that’s hard to resist now, it will nevertheless have 15 years or more of evolution. One of the stars of the vintage and a wine that should not be overlooked, the 2008 Châteauneuf du Pape Vieilles Vignes has a slightly darker fruit profile with plenty of pepper, mineral, earth and underbrush giving way to a medium to full-bodied, layered and silky feel on the palate. While from a cooler, more difficult year, you’d never know it by tasting it and it’s a beautiful effort that will continue to shine over the coming 4 to 5 years. Lastly, the 2007 Châteauneuf du Pape Vieilles Vignes is blockbuster stuff that has overflowing kirsch, blackberry, incense, lavender and Asian spices flowing to a sexy, full-bodied, multidimensional wine that has impeccable balance and knockout length. While I’ve a slight preference for the 2010, the 2007 has fabulous mid-palate density and an incredibly polished mouthfeel that’s hard to resist. It too is drinking well now, but will have 15 to 20 years of overall longevity when all is said and done.

Moving to the Combe des Fous release, this cuvée comes from a single plot of vines and is based largely on Grenache, with roughly 20% Syrah and 10% each of Vaccarese and Cinsault in the blend. The Grenache is aged all in tank and the other components see time in mostly demi-muids. While the Deux ex Machina always impresses more with its overt power and muscle, this cuvée always seems more polished, fine and elegant to me.

Starting with the 2011 Châteauneuf du Pape Combe des Fous, it’s easily one of the wines of the vintage and offers killer crème de cassis, kirsch, spice box, creamy licorice and toasted bread to go with a full-bodied, seamless, elegant and layered profile the palate. While showing the forward, approachable nature of the vintage, it has ample sweet tannin, rock-solid mid-palate concentration and blockbuster length. Also up with the top wines of the vintage, the 2010 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Combe des Fous shows the darker fruit and minerality of the vintage with its crème de cassis, blackberry, ground pepper, licorice and ample crushed rock-like minerality. Gaining more than one expletive in the notes, this full-bodied 2010 has thrilling purity of fruit, massive underlying structure and a rich, layered and decadent feel on the finish. As with most 2010s, it needs another 3 to 4 years of bottle age and will easily have two decades of overall longevity. A wine that blew me away, and the best bottle of this I’ve tasted, the 2009 Châteauneuf du Pape Combe des Fous gave up exotic and intense aromas and flavors of ground pepper, kirsch liqueur, incense, white chocolate and crushed flowers. About as seamless and sexy as they come, this extraordinary Châteauneuf boasts incredible concentration, no hard edges and insane length on the finish. Much more forward and open than the 2010, drink it over the coming 10 to 15 years. The 2008 Châteauneuf du Pape Combe des Fous shows what this estate can do in a more difficult vintage. Full-bodied, seamless and beautifully textured, it has ample kirsch, forest floor, truffle, black pepper, and an exotic, liquid flower-like quality to go with superb concentration and silky, polished tannin. Showing the vintage’s cooler nature, it nevertheless has serious richness and depth. Drink it over the coming decade. On another level, the 2007 Châteauneuf du Pape Combe des Fous is a monumental bottle of wine that’s hardly budged since I first tasted it on release. Giving up heavenly aromas and flavors of black raspberries, cassis, incense, cured meats and exotic spices, this incredible effort flows onto the palate with a layered, impeccably balanced profile that carries massive concentration, polished tannin and a crazy length. Despite searching for something to be critical of, I came up empty. Shockingly, the 2006 Châteauneuf du Pape Combe des Fous is almost as good. From a vintage that flies under the radar, it boasts a classic Clos Saint Jean profile of kirsch liqueur, ripe black raspberries, ground herbs and sweet garrigue to go with full-bodied richness and depth on the palate. Always slightly more elegant and silky than the more powerful Deus ex Machina, this thrill ride of a Châteauneuf will continue to drink well for another decade. Up there with the ’07, yet in a different style, the 2005 Châteauneuf du Pape Combe des Fous is a blockbuster that tops out on my scale. Exotic, perfumed and layered, with incredible kirsch, ground herbs, pepper and hints of olive tapenade-like aromas and flavors, this beauty is full-bodied and flawless on the palate, with ultra-fine tannin structure, building richness and a finish that just won’t quit. Given its depth of fruit, it’s a sheer joy to drink even today, yet will continue to knock it out of the park over the coming decade or more.

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As is getting more and more common, this estate produced one of the wines of the vintage in 2004. A cooler vintage that featured higher acids and more mid-weight aromas and flavors, the 2004 Châteauneuf du Pape Combe des Fous sports rocking depth and richness to go with big black fruits, black licorice, roasted herbs and assorted meatiness. Drinking well, I’d pop bottles over the coming couple of years, yet no doubt it will have a solid evolution through 2019 or so. Lastly, and a big, ripe and voluptuous effort, the 2003 Châteauneuf du Pape Combe des Fous is thrilling stuff that’s drinking beautifully. Incense, exotic pepper, cedar and spice are all supported by a ripe core of sweet kirsch and blackberry fruit. It’s full-bodied, rich, textured and voluptuous on the palate. Showing no signs of over-ripeness or astringency, with polished tannin and excellent mid-palate depth, it pumps out loads of fruit on the finish, and should be consumed over the coming handful of years.

One of the greatest cuvées on earth, the Maurel brothers’ Sanctus Sanctorum is 100% Grenache that comes from a single plot of vines in the La Crau lieu-dit. Aged all in demi-muid, it’s been one of the greatest wines I’ve ever tasted – every time I’ve tasted it. All three of these were sheer perfection on this occasion, yet each has its own unique profile.

The 2010 Châteauneuf du Pape Sanctus Sanctorum is the most classic in style, yet is still over-the-top and decadent in every way. Giving up heavenly aromas and flavors of crème de cassis, black raspberry, ground spice, sweet licorice and roasted herbs, it has a massive, voluptuous, layered and insanely pure feel on the palate. If you’re a Grenache lover, it doesn’t get any better. More flamboyant, open and exotic, with notes of kirsch liqueur, cassis, toasted almonds, sandalwood, lavender, and crushed flowers that you can smell from across the room, the 2009 Châteauneuf du Pape Sanctus Sanctorum expands on the palate, with incredible concentration, building, sweet tannin and a finish that just won’t quit. Where the 2010 cuts a more focused path, this puppy is overflowing with fruit and texture. It too is a perfect wine that will evolve for another couple decades, yet given this showing, don’t hesitate to crack bottles over the coming couple of years. The largest scaled of the three, the 2007 Châteauneuf du Pape Sanctus Sanctorum offers a 2009-like level of decadence, yet is more dense, concentrated and thick, with a massive mid-palate and texture that has nothing out of place. Boasting off-the-chart aromas and flavors of crème de cassis, ground pepper, melted licorice, loamy soil and exotic spice, it’s another desert island wine, in a lineup of desert island wines. Given that there are so few of these to go around, and that it’s bottled only in magnum, I know it’s difficult to open bottles, but don’t wait too long, as all three are insanely good – even today.

lways the most powerful of the cuvées, the Deus Ex Machina is a blend of 60% tank-aged Grenache and 40% demi-muid-aged Mourvèdre that comes from 70- to 100-year-old vines. The Mourvèdre component is really what defines this cuvée, and it possesses the most obvious structure and mid-palate richness in the lineup. Seeming to hit maturity around age 10 or so, it can be consumed relatively early in its life due to its wealth of fruit, texture, and incredibly polished tannin. In addition, don’t miss this cuvée in the lighter vintages, as even their 2004 and 2008 show classic character and no shortage of richness.

Starting off, the 2011 Châteauneuf du Pape Deus ex Machina is a stunner in the vintage. Like the Combe des Fous, it has incredible elegance, as well as the forward, sexy nature of the vintage. Kirsch liqueur, currants, toast, sandalwood, and graphite are just some of the nuances here. The wine hits the palate with full-bodied richness, a layered, seamless mouthfeel and beautifully polished tannin on the finish. Give it another year or two and drink it through 2026. Deeper and richer, the 2010 Châteauneuf du Pape Deus ex Machina has been nothing short of perfection on the 3-4 times I’ve been lucky enough to try it. Muscular and powerful, with a serious, full-bodied profile, it gives up incredible aromas and flavors of crème de cassis, licorice, graphite, beef blood and loamy earth. Like most 2010s at this stage, it’s backwards and dense, and needs to be forgotten for another couple of years. This beauty will have 2-3 decades of overall longevity. In contrast (and almost as good), the 2009 Châteauneuf du Pape Deus ex Machina is an extroverted, open and insanely perfumed effort that boasts killer blackberry and kirsch-styled fruit to go with layers of spring flowers, exotic spice and graphite. As are all of these efforts, it’s full-bodied, deeply concentrated and textured on the palate, with masses of sweet tannin. It will be better in a couple years and evolve gracefully for two decades, but it’s hard to resist right now. I think the wine of the vintage, the 2008 Chââteauneuf du Pape Deus ex Machina again shows how good this estate is, even in difficult vintages. Giving up beautifully ripe black cherry, currant, licorice, ground herbs and hints of pepper, it’s full-bodied, beautifully concentrated, rich, structured and layered on the palate. While it will age gracefully, it too is a superb drink now. Like the 2010, the still inky colored 2007 Châteauneuf du Pape Deus ex Machina is as good as it gets. Both incredibly decadent and elegant at the same time, it offers outrageous aromas of mulled blackberries, cured meats, spring flowers and exotic spices to go with a full bodied, seamless, layered, yet massively constructed profile on the palate. Showing the depth and texture of this phenomenal vintage, it’s a monumental effort that’s still an infant in terms of development. It lives up to the hype (I still remember tasting this on release, in the cellar with Vincent, and leaving with nothing but a crazy smile on my face) and can be consumed anytime over the coming two decades. The 2006 Châteauneuf du Pape Deus ex Machina was flirting with perfection on this go around, and was open, layered and sexy. Possessing rock-star kirsch, blackberry liqueur, incense, spice, garrigue and ground pepper, it’s a full-bodied, incredibly textured 2006 that has thrilling concentration, sweet tannin and a finish this just keeps going. If forced to pick one of these bottles for current drinking, it’s showing spectacularly. I’ve been lucky enough to have the 2005 Châteauneuf du Pape Deus ex Machina numerous times over the past year, and while still youthful, it’s starting to shows hints of evolution and secondary nuances. Cassis, crushed rocks, graphite, beef blood and iron-like aromas and flavors are all present here, and it offers incredible depth and richness on the palate, with gorgeous purity, masses of tannin and a rock-star finish. A wine that could make you run out of adjectives, it too is another wine that goes flying off the scale. Like the 2006 (and 2003), the 2004 Châteauneuf du Pape Deus ex Machina is drinking beautifully today and defies the vintage stereotype. Giving up awesome dark fruits, olive tapenade, licorice, earth, pepper and spice, it has a un-2004-like richness and texture, as well as beautiful underlying structure and balance. Sweetly fruited, perfumed and complex, drink it over the coming 4-5 years. Lastly, the 2003 Châteauneuf du Pape Deus ex Machina is a wine that can hit perfection on any given day. In this lineup, it seems just slightly behind the off-the-charts, 2010, 2007 and 2005. Just now starting to show hints of maturity (bottles from my cellar show more evolution than this one), it’s an incredible Châteauneuf that offers textbook kirsch, licorice, graphite, blackcurrants and spice to go with a full-bodied, layered and voluptuously-styled feel on the palate. Like the other 2003 from this estate, it shows no signs over ripeness, possesses sweet tannin and beautiful purity. I’d drink it over the coming 3-5 years, but it will evolve for longer.

Clos Saint Jean 2011 Châteauneuf du Pape (Red) Rating : 91

Clos Saint Jean 2010 Châteauneuf du Pape (Red) Rating : 93+

Clos Saint Jean 2009 Châteauneuf du Pape (Red) Rating : 94

Clos Saint Jean 2008 Châteauneuf du Pape (Red) Rating : 90

Clos Saint Jean 2007 Châteauneuf du Pape (Red) Rating : 94

Clos Saint Jean 2006 Châteauneuf du Pape (Red) Rating : 93

Clos Saint Jean 2005 Châteauneuf du Pape (Red) Rating : 92

Clos Saint Jean 2004 Châteauneuf du Pape (Red) Rating : 92

Clos Saint Jean 2003 Châteauneuf du Pape (Red) Rating : 91

Clos Saint Jean 2011 Châteauneuf du Pape Vieilles Vignes (Red) Rating : 93

Clos Saint Jean 2010 Châteauneuf du Pape Vieilles Vignes (Red) Rating : 96

Clos Saint Jean 2009 Châteauneuf du Pape Vieilles Vignes (Red) Rating : 94

Clos Saint Jean 2008 Châteauneuf du Pape Vieilles Vignes (Red) Rating : 92

Clos Saint Jean 2007 Châteauneuf du Pape Vieilles Vignes (Red) Rating : 95

Clos Saint Jean 2011 Châteauneuf du Pape Combe des Fous (Red) Rating : 97

Clos Saint Jean 2010 Châteauneuf du Pape Combe des Fous (Red) Rating : 99

Clos Saint Jean 2009 Châteauneuf du Pape Combe des Fous (Red) Rating : 99

Clos Saint Jean 2008 Châteauneuf du Pape Combe des Fous (Red) Rating : 94

Clos Saint Jean 2007 Châteauneuf du Pape Combe des Fous (Red) Rating : 100

Clos Saint Jean 2006 Châteauneuf du Pape Combe des Fous (Red) Rating : 99

Clos Saint Jean 2005 Châteauneuf du Pape Combe des Fous (Red) Rating : 100

Clos Saint Jean 2004 Châteauneuf du Pape Combe des Fous (Red) Rating : 94

Clos Saint Jean 2003 Châteauneuf du Pape Combe des Fous (Red) Rating : 97

Clos Saint Jean 2010 Châteauneuf du Pape Sanctus Sanctorum (Red) Rating : 100

Clos Saint Jean 2009 Châteauneuf du Pape Sanctus Sanctorum (Red) Rating : 100

Clos Saint Jean 2007 Châteauneuf du Pape Sanctus Sanctorum (Red) Rating : 100

Clos Saint Jean 2011 Châteauneuf du Pape Deus ex Machina (Red) Rating : 98

Clos Saint Jean 2010 Châteauneuf du Pape Deus ex Machina (Red) Rating : 100

Clos Saint Jean 2009 Châteauneuf du Pape Deus ex Machina (Red) Rating : 99

Clos Saint Jean 2008 Châteauneuf du Pape Deus ex Machina (Red) Rating : 96

Clos Saint Jean 2007 Châteauneuf du Pape Deus ex Machina (Red) Rating : 100

Clos Saint Jean 2006 Châteauneuf du Pape Deus ex Machina (Red) Rating : 99

Clos Saint Jean 2005 Châteauneuf du Pape Deus ex Machina (Red) Rating : 100

Clos Saint Jean 2004 Châteauneuf du Pape Deus ex Machina (Red) Rating : 96

Clos Saint Jean 2003 Châteauneuf du Pape Deus ex Machina (Red) Rating : 99

Importers: Eric Solomon, European Cellars, Charlotte, NC; tel. (704) 358-1565

 

CLOS MONTOLIVET by JEB DUNNUCK

France, Rhone: Clos du Mont Olivet

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Thierry and David Sabon
I’m not sure if this estate produces one of the longest-lived Châteauneuf du Papes out there, or if it just seems that way due to the fact that they have such a fantastic library of old wines and I’m able to taste more of them! Nevertheless, Clos du Mont Olivet, which is now run by Thierry Sabon, is a brilliant estate that fashions traditional, age-worthy Châteauneuf du Papes that have incredibly broad drink windows.

The outstanding 2011 Châteauneuf du Pape shows the supple, sweetly fruited nature of the vintage with plenty of kirsch, blackberry, leather, ground pepper and violets aromas and flavors. It’s medium-bodied, nicely textured, and will dish out plenty of pleasure over the coming decade or so. Much more serious, and a big, structured effort, the 2010 Châteauneuf du Pape has loads of minerality, pepper and garrigue to go with a core of blackberry-styled fruit. Possessing plenty of ripe tannin, good mid-palate concentration and superb focus on the finish, it will benefit from short-term cellaring and have over two decades of longevity. Another wine that shows the vintage characteristics beautifully, the 2009 Châteauneuf du Pape gives up loads of kirsch, sweet blackberries, garrigue and peppery herbs in its full-bodied, rich, concentrated and structured personality. There’s ample tannin here, so give it another year or two in the cellar.

Olivet2_wmThierry’s 2008 Châteauneuf du Pape is a good wine in the vintage. Giving up plenty of earth, pepper and forest floor-like qualities, it shows more and more fruit with time in the glass. You can tell it’s from a cooler vintage, but it has good richness, medium-bodied depth and a lively, fresh profile that’s ideally suited for drinking over the coming couple of years. The 2007 Châteauneuf du Pape continues to drink beautifully, and has never really shut down since release. Exhibiting loads of lavender, sweet black raspberry, cassis, licorice and garrigue-styled aromas and flavors, it shows the sweetly fruited, voluptuous 2007 style (Thierry’s father claimed that he’d never seen a vintage like this). This full-bodied, concentrated and layered Châteauneuf will drink nicely through 2027. Just as good, the 2006 Châteauneuf du Pape is surprisingly concentrated, with full-bodied richness, ripe tannin and a great finish. Giving up plenty of bouquet garni, leather, earth, blackberry and black cherry fruit, this classic effort will have 15 years or more of longevity. More focused and firm, the 2005 Châteauneuf du Pape possesses distinct minerality in its roasted herb, black olive, earth and beef blood-like bouquet. Still backwards and tight, it needs another handful of years in the cellar, but will be a long-lived Châteauneuf.

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Thierry Sabon in one of their plots located in front of the Village
A wine that the Sabons said closed down quickly, the 1999 Châteauneuf du Pape offers up a mature, classical feel in its darker-styled fruits, garrigue, leather, ground pepper and floral notes. Distinctly Provençal, it’s about as textbook a mature, classically made southern Rhône as you’re likely to find. While it’s advanced, it still has plenty of fruit and texture, as well as sweet tannin, all suggesting it will continue to evolve gracefully. The 1994 Châteauneuf du Pape is more mature and evolved, with plenty of forest floor, dried flowers, and Provençal herbs giving way to a medium-bodied, nicely textured profile on the palate. It’s a classically-styled wine that needs to be drunk up.

The 1989 Châteauneuf du Pape is a smoking effort that’s evolved beautifully. Gamey, wild and complex, with notions of thyme, beef blood, ground pepper and garrigue, it’s fully resolved and mature on the palate, yet still has beautiful density, plenty of fruit and a great finish. This is another vintage that the Sabons said closed down quickly after release. It’s also worth noting that this is the first vintage where they made a Cuvée du Papet bottling. More evolved, the 1988 Châteauneuf du Pape is still drinking nicely and exhibits notions of game, ground pepper, tobacco leaf, mint and rose petal. Medium-bodied, elegant and resolved, it’s another classic Châteauneuf from this estate that’s aging beautifully.

Olivet4_wmStepping back a decade, and in need of being drunk, the 1978 Châteauneuf du Pape offers notions of toasted nuts, old cabinet, cured meats and basil leaf to go with a medium-bodied, supple and seamless feel on the palate. Still showing a lively amber/ruby color, it nevertheless has a tinge of dryness on the finish, so drinking sooner rather than later is advised here. My favorite wine of the tasting was the 1961 Châteauneuf du Pape. Just a gorgeous example of a completely mature Châteauneuf, it boasts knockout aromas and flavors of forest floor, rose petal, mint, tobacco leaf and hints of cured meats, all of which continue to change and develop in the glass. Still a healthy ruby/amber color, it’s medium to full-bodied, layered and silky on the palate, with a great finish that belies its 50+ years of age. Also thrilling stuff, the 1957 Châteauneuf du Pape has gorgeous sweetness of fruit on the palate to go with complex aromas and flavors of game, autumn leaves, earth and tobacco. Certainly fully mature, it, like the 1961, has real character, texture and depth, and was a joy to drink.
Their vines in the Pied de Baud lieu-dit
We finished the tasting with two releases from the 1940s, both of which were past maturity and on a downward slope, yet still offered some charm. The 1949 Châteauneuf du Pape offers subtle oxidative qualities to go with caramel, furniture wax and orange liqueur-like aromatic qualities. Still kicking on the palate, with that Grenache-driven sweetness and texture, it’s more interesting at this point than pleasurable. The same can be said for the 1945 Châteauneuf du Pape. It had similar, slightly oxidative aromas and flavors of caramel, old wood, tobacco and forest floor to go with a medium-bodied, evolved, yet still textured feel on the palate. While both of these efforts have fallen into the « old wine » category and have lost some typicity, I was surprised by the texture and sweetness that was still present on the palate.
Clos du Mont Olivet 2011 Châteauneuf du Pape (Red) Rating : 90

Clos du Mont Olivet 2010 Châteauneuf du Pape (Red) Rating : 93

Clos du Mont Olivet 2009 Châteauneuf du Pape (Red) Rating : 91

Clos du Mont Olivet 2008 Châteauneuf du Pape (Red) Rating : 88

Clos du Mont Olivet 2007 Châteauneuf du Pape (Red) Rating : 93

Clos du Mont Olivet 2006 Châteauneuf du Pape (Red) Rating : 93

Clos du Mont Olivet 2005 Châteauneuf du Pape (Red) Rating : 93

Clos du Mont Olivet 1999 Châteauneuf du Pape (Red) Rating : 91

Clos du Mont Olivet 1994 Châteauneuf du Pape (Red) Rating : 89

Clos du Mont Olivet 1989 Châteauneuf du Pape (Red) Rating : 93

Clos du Mont Olivet 1988 Châteauneuf du Pape (Red) Rating : 89

Clos du Mont Olivet 1978 Châteauneuf du Pape (Red) Rating : 87

Clos du Mont Olivet 1961 Châteauneuf du Pape (Red) Rating : 95

Clos du Mont Olivet 1957 Châteauneuf du Pape (Red) Rating : 94

Clos du Mont Olivet 1949 Châteauneuf du Pape (Red) Rating : 84

Clos du Mont Olivet 1945 Châteauneuf du Pape (Red) Rating : 85

Various American importers including Michael Skurnik, Syosset, NY; tel. (516) 677-9300; David Hinkle, North Berkeley Imports, Berkeley, CA; tel. (510) 848-8910; Dionysus Imports, Manassas, VA; tel. (703) 392-7073; Ideal Wines and Spirits, Medford, MA; tel. (617) 395-3300; The Wine Company, St. Paul, MN; tel. (651) 487-1212; and Import Wines, Middleton, WI; tel. (608) 833-8622

RETROSPECTIVE VIEUX DONJON in WINE ADVOCATE J.DUNNUCK

France, Rhone: Vieux Donjon Retrospective
The next generation at Vieux Donjon – Claire & François Michel
Another bastillion of traditional Châteauneuf du Pape, Vieux Donjon is owned by Lucien and Marie José Michel, with the winemaking now firmly in the hands of their talented daughter, Claire Michel. They produce a single red and white Châteauneuf du Pape, with the red always a rough blend of 75% Grenache, 10% Syrah, 10% Mourvèdre and the balance a mix of other permitted varieties. They started partial destemming in 1993, pulling out the green stems and keeping the more lignified stems. Aging occurs all in concrete tanks and older foudre. This was a fabulous tasting with both Claire and her brother François, and as I hope the notes show, the wines have classic Châteauneuf du Pape character and broad drink windows.vieuxdonjon_wm

Starting with the 2011 Châteauneuf du Pape, it’s a forward, supple and sweetly fruited effort that offers up loads of kirsch, garrigue, licorice and pepper on the nose. Playing in the medium-bodied, elegant spectrum, it will evolve nicely for 7-8 years. On another level, the 2010 Châteauneuf du Pape is rock-star stuff, and is probably my favorite vintage from this estate to date. Deeply colored, it boasts masculine, meaty aromas and flavors of smoked herbs, pepper, licorice, lavender, crushed rock and blackberries to go with a full-bodied, concentrated and rich style on the palate. There’s ample tannin here, yet they’re sweet and beautifully integrated. Give it another handful of years and drink it over the following two decades. Also gorgeous, but in a more forward, perfumed style, the 2009 Châteauneuf du Pape is loaded with kirsch, wild strawberry, licorice, Asian spice and wild herb-like aromas and flavors. Full-bodied, sweetly fruited, voluptuous and textured, it’s hard to resist now, but will age gracefully.

Up there with the 2010 in terms of quality, the 2007 Châteauneuf du Pape dishes out loads of plum, lavender, ground pepper and licorice in its full-bodied, ripe and layered profile. Possessing a rock-star texture, no hard edges and beautiful concentration, it’s drinking nicely now, and should continue to evolve gracefully for another decade. The 2006 Châteauneuf du Pape is forward and ready to go, with plenty of kirsch, blackberry, garrigue and cured meat aromas and flavors all emerging from the glass. Full-bodied and nicely concentrated, it’s a classic, elegant and complex red that can be enjoyed anytime over the coming decade or longer. As is common with a lot of 2006s, it has a traditional feel, yet offers solid fruit and texture. More firm, structured and tannic, the 2005 Châteauneuf du Pape has a bloody, almost iron-like quality to go with more traditional roasted herbs, black cherries and garrigue. Still slightly backward, it needs another couple of years and will drink nicely through 2025. A wine I loved on release, the 2003 Châteauneuf du Pape continues to show more and more overripe notes of figs and raisins with each passing year. Sweetly fruited and nicely textured, it’s enjoyable, but it needs to be consumed sooner rather than later. The 2001 Châteauneuf du Pape is a beauty! Classic and textbook in style, with ample cured meats, earth, herbs and mature currant and blackberry fruit, it flows onto the palate with full-bodied richness, a gorgeous texture and serious length. It’s drinking beautifully now, but will continue to shine through 2021. More fresh and focused, the 1999 Châteauneuf du Pape is an elegant, classically-styled effort that offers textbook garrigue, pepper, smoked meats and currant bud-like qualities on both the nose and palate. Medium to full-bodied, nicely concentrated and balanced, it’s drinking at point, but will continue to evolve gradually.

Still going strong, the 1998 Châteauneuf du Pape is a ripe, voluptuous and decadent wine that has loads of garrigue, ground herbs, cured meats and mature, darker-styled fruits. Reminding me of strolling through a Provençal street market, this full-bodied effort is at full maturity and should be consumed over the coming 3-4 years. Fully mature as well, the 1995 Châteauneuf du Pape displays pretty aromas and flavors, medium to full-bodied richness and a silky, evolved profile on the palate. Giving up notions of sweet cherries, sandalwood, cedar and garrigue, it’s a wine I suspect was better a few years, but it will continue to evolve gracefully. I’d drink them if I had them though.
A big, ripe and full-bodied effort that’s fully mature, the 1990 Châteauneuf du Pape offers fabulous character and depth, and is about as classic as they comes. Showing an amber/mature color, it has loads of garrigue, spice meats, red currants, licorice and pepper as well as a rich, layered and seamless profile on the palate. It’s a thrilling wine, but it’s not going to get any better, so drink up. The odd man out was the 1989 Châteauneuf du Pape. Showing hints of oxidation and toasted nut in its evolved, spice-filled profile, it shows good concentration and mid-palate depth, but also some dry tannin on the finish. It certainly lacks the charm found in the other vintages here, and should be drunk sooner rather than later. In comparison, the 1981 Châteauneuf du Pape is a beautiful, elegant and mature effort that’s loaded with charm. Spice-box, cedar, licorice, tobacco leaf and aged-meat qualities all show here, and it’s medium-bodied, supple and seamless on the palate. Completely mature and in need of consuming, it’s a classy effort that still dishes out loads of pleasure.

The 1976 Châteauneuf du Pape is fully mature, yet still has a core of sweet fruit and plenty of texture. From a very hot year, it gives up notions of garrigue, sandalwood, dried flowers and dried cherries in its full-bodied, rounded and evolved personality. Lastly, the 1967 Châteauneuf du Pape was a privilege to taste, as it’s the first vintage produced from the estate. While Marcel Michel started the domaine in 1960, at the young age of 16 no less, he sold all of the grapes to négoçiants until 1967. While this bottle was over-the-hill with regard to it aromatics, it still showed some texture, richness and fruit on the palate, with some Grenache charm. While not the best wine in terms of quality, it was a classy end to a fabulous tasting.

Vieux Donjon 2011 Châteauneuf du Pape (Red) Rating : 91

Vieux Donjon 2010 Châteauneuf du Pape (Red) Rating : 96+

Vieux Donjon 2009 Châteauneuf du Pape (Red) Rating : 94

Vieux Donjon 2007 Châteauneuf du Pape (Red) Rating : 96

Vieux Donjon 2006 Châteauneuf du Pape (Red) Rating : 94

Vieux Donjon 2005 Châteauneuf du Pape (Red) Rating : 92+

Vieux Donjon 2003 Châteauneuf du Pape (Red) Rating : 87

Vieux Donjon 2001 Châteauneuf du Pape (Red) Rating : 95

Vieux Donjon 1999 Châteauneuf du Pape (Red) Rating : 92

Vieux Donjon 1998 Châteauneuf du Pape (Red) Rating : 95

Vieux Donjon 1995 Châteauneuf du Pape (Red) Rating : 89

Vieux Donjon 1990 Châteauneuf du Pape (Red) Rating : 95

Vieux Donjon 1989 Châteauneuf du Pape (Red) Rating : 87?

Vieux Donjon 1981 Châteauneuf du Pape (Red) Rating : 91

Vieux Donjon 1976 Châteauneuf du Pape (Red) Rating : 93

Vieux Donjon 1967 Châteauneuf du Pape (Red) Rating : 83

Importer: Alain Junguenet, Wines of France, Mountainside, NJ; tel. (908) 654-6173

CLOS MONT OLIVET,GIRAUD,BOSQUET DES PAPE,VIEUX DONJON,JEAN MARIE ROYER,VIGNOBLES MAYARD,VILLENEUVE,PUY ROLLAND,CHATEAU DE VAUDIEU,LES CAILLOUX,PORTE ROUGE,CHATEAU LA FONT DU LOUP,L’ABBE DINE,SAIT PAUL dans La derniere RVF dégustation de la plupart des 2012

info: par manque de communication les vins du clos saint jean,tardieu,clos du caillou et les halos de jupiter n’ont pas participer !

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2012 Chateauneuf du Pape Cuvee Speciale Wines Offer Nice Surprises in thewinecellarinsider.com

2012 Chateauneuf du Pape Cuvee Speciale Wines Offer Nice Surprises

2012 Chateauneuf du Pape wines 300×200 2012 Chateauneuf du Pape Cuvee Speciale Wines Offer Nice Surprises

The 2014 Chateauneuf du Pape harvest is in full bloom. Growers are picking all over the Southern Rhone Valley. The conditions for picking have been good so far. It’s been sunny and warm until recently in Chateauneuf du Pape. Some rain is falling and temperatures are going to drop a bit over the next few days. One thing we know for certain is growers will have a lot more wine with 2014. 2014 could be the biggest crop since 2007. After 2013, this is welcome news. But, as the old saying goes, it’s not over until it’s over. And it ain’t over yet! In other words, it’s far too soon to discuss the 2014 vintage as the grapes have not even fully arrived at the cellars. While it’s too early to know much about 2014, it’s not too early to talk about the recently bottled 2012 Chateauenuf du Pape wines I tasted in late June.

Drinking wine is fun. Tasting wine is almost as much fun. But trust me on this, tasting a single vintage in one day is a lot of work. It’s taxing on your palate and concentration. Often, it’s the surprises encountered during the tasting that keep you awake and focused becuase those wines really stand out. I really like the style of 2012 Chateauneuf du Pape wines with thier freshness, clean, silky fruits and forward personality. Some domaines were not as successful as I had hoped. Others made strong wines and a vew producers turned out sublilme efforts.

With the 2012 Chateauneuf du Pape wines, alcohol levels for most producers were in the 14%-14.5% range instead of 15% and over. For tasters that did not enjoy the richer, more alcoholic wines from 2009 and 2010, this is vintage they should enjoy. The wines are easy to drink and even easier to like. While they lack the concentration of years lke 2010, they are fresh, pure and charming. My previous report from last week looked at the regular 2012 Chateauneuf du Pape wines. There were definitely some wines that merited buying. In this report, there are also wines well worth taking a look at. At their best, there are estates that made 2012 Chateauneuf du Pape wines that transcend the vintage. In fact, a few wines really stood out and made an impression, due to their supple, open style and character. As you will see, there are definitely some 2012 Chateauneuf du Pape wines worth taking a serious look at.

The following 2012 Chateauneuf du Pape wines were tasted in June during a visit to the region.château

2012 Bosquet des Papes Chante le Merle Vieilles Vignes – Sensuous layers of sweet red fruits, spice and kirsch lay the groundwork for the elegant, ripe, spicy, round finish. Using 85% Grenache, 10% Syrah and 5% Mourvedre, the wine reached 14.5% alcohol. 95 Pts

2012 Bosquet des Papes A la Gloire de mon Grand-Pere – With a good depth of plum and kirsch on the mid palate, the spicy finish follows through. From mostly old vine Grenache, 2% Cinsault was added in for good measure. 93 pts

2012 Brotte Secrets de Barville – Medium bodied, peppery plums and garrigue deliver a fresh presence on the palate. 90 Pts

2012 Clos du Caillou Les Safres – Lots of ripe, round textured, peppery, black raspberries, kirsch and spice are found from start to finish in this rich wine. With Grenache making up most of the blend, 2% Cinsault, 2% Syrah and 1% were added for good measure. 91 Pts

2012 Clos du Caillou Les Quartz – With freshness in its character, the ripe, red and juicy black fruits stand out with their spicy qualities and polished textures. There is no sensation of heat in the 15.5% alcohol finish. The wine was produced from a blend of 85% Grenache and 15% Syrah. 92 Pts

2012 Clos du Caillou Reserve – There is a purity of fruit that leaves a long impression here. This is made even better with the freshness, length and silky tannins that push along the spice and ripe berry driven finish. This will be fun to age. The blend of 60% old vine Grenache and 40% Mourvedre reached 16% alcohol with no sensation of heat. 95 Pts

2012 Clos du Mont Olivet Cuvee du Papet – Charming in every way, the fruit has a polished texture and freshness that never seems to dissipate or lose its fresh, lush qualities. Produced from a blend of 75% old vine Grenache, 15% Mourvedre and 10% Syrah, the wine reached 15% alcohol. 93 Pts

2012 Duseigneur Joanna – Medium bodied, polished and smooth, the wine focuses on its fresh, spicy, kirsch and fresh herb personality. 90 Pts

2012 Gigonan Cardinalice – Spicy, candied red berries, polished silky textures and freshness leaves a solid impression. Made from a blend of 90% Grenache, 5% Mourvedre and 5% Syrah, the wine reached 14.5% allcohol. 91 Pts

2012 Grand Tinel Alexis Establet – Refined, polished and silky, with freshness in its kirsch core that really stands out in the finish. Made from 100% old vine Grenache. 92 Pts

2012 Giraud Les Grenaches de Pierre – Silky, clean and pure, the fresh peppery kirsch notes of the 100% old vine Grenache expand in the lush textured, pure finish. One of the stars of the vintage. 95 Pts

2012 Saint Paul Cuvee Jumille – Medium bodied, forward, finesse in style with good freshness and textures in its delicate, cherry finish. 89 Pts

2012 Vaudieu Val de Dieu – Elegant, polished, sweet and fresh, the wine serves up a richly textured, spicy, peppery, kirsch finish. Blending 75% Grenache, 15% Mourvedre and 10% Syrah produced a wine that reached 15% alcohol. 91 Pts

2012 Vaudieu Amiral G – Earthy in character, the wine is all about the sweet, soft and spicy, fresh core of fruit and licorice. With lusty textures and layers of sweet fruits, the wine is long, clean and fresh. This 100% old vine Grenache based wine will be better with a few years of age. 93 Pts