Clos du Caillou
The team at Clos du Caillou, from left to right: Philippe Cambie, Aude Perche, Sylvie Vacheron, Marilou Vacheron and Bruno Gaspard
This was a massive tasting with the team at Clos du Caillou and we went through each of their cuvées going back over decade. While this domaine has been in the Pouizin family since 1956, with Claude Pouizin running the estate through 1996, most of the production was solid off to négoçiants up until around 1993. In 1995, Claude’s daughter, Sylvie, married Jean-Denis Vacheron, and the couple took over the running of the estate at that time. Unfortunately, Jean-Denis died in a tragic traffic accident in 2002, and today the estate is run by Sylvie, with the wines made by Bruno Gaspard and consulting advice from Philippe Cambie. Located on the eastern edge of the appellation, in the Courthézon district, they produce up to three Châteauneuf du Papes (Les Safres, Les Quartz and the Cuvée Reserve) in any vintage. In addition, they produce a white Châteauneuf du Pape and a number of smoking Côtes du Rhônes, all of which come from vineyards bordering Châteauneuf du Pape (identical terroir actually) and are top quality.
We started the tasting with their base Châteauneuf du Pape, which comes all from Safres (sandstone) soils located around the estate. It’s always based on 50+-year-old Grenache vines (95% or higher) and is aged all in older foudre. While this cuvée is called Les Safres today, it was label as their traditional Châteauneuf du Pape up until 2005.
Starting with the 2011 Châteauneuf du Pape Les Safres, it offers a beautiful perfume of kirsch, melted licorice and flowers to go with a sexy, supple and textured profile on the palate. It’s decidedly 2011 (i.e. upfront, sweetly fruited and hedonistic) in style and should be consumed over the coming decade. Darker, richer and more concentrated, the 2010 Châteauneuf du Pape Les Safres has considerable structure and depth to go with plenty of peppery herbs, leather, licorice and darker styled fruit. Made from 100% Grenache in 2010, it has fabulous richness and texture, and will evolve gracefully for another decade. A vintage that continues to impress, the 2009 Châteauneuf du Pape Les Safres comes across as a hypothetical blend of the ’11 and ’10, with its perfumed aromatics and richer, more structured feel on the palate. It possesses layers of black cherry, licorice, herbes de Provence and earthy qualities to go with a seamless, rich and concentrated mouth feel that carries plenty of sweet tannin and blockbuster length. It will continue to shine through 2024. The only Châteauneuf produced in the vintage, the 2008 Châteauneuf du Pape Les Safres is an outstanding effort, especially in the vintage. Medium-bodied, seamless, silky and balanced, with perfumed pepper, leather, herbs and spring flowers, it shows the cooler nature of the vintage, yet scores high on sheer drinkability. I’d say drink it over the coming 3-5 years, but wouldn’t be surprised to see it continue to evolve gracefully past that, as it’s nicely balanced. The 2007 Châteauneuf du Pape Les Safres is a classic 2007 in every way. Incense, pepper, lavender, black raspberry and cassis all emerge from this sweetly fruited, seamless and hedonistic effort. It’s a big wine, but it stays remarkably elegant and fresh, with a nicely focused feel on the palate. It’s smoking good now, but will continue to thrill over the coming 7-8 years.
Sandwiched between the more hyped 2005 and 2007 vintages, the 2006 vintage produced a bevy of serious wines that show classic profiles. For the most part, the wines have never shut down and have drunk beautifully since release. The 2006 Châteauneuf du Pape Les Safres follows this trend and offers textbook roasted herbs, spice, pan drippings and sweet black cherry and currant-styled fruits that flow nicely to a full-bodied, rich, concentrated and sexy wine that will continue to evolve nicely through 2021. Still holding its cards close to the vest, the 2005 Châteauneuf du Pape Les Safres is firm and tight, with masculine dark fruits, mineral-laced earth, pepper and wild herb aromas and flavors giving way to a full-bodied, fresh, and concentrated feel on the palate. Give it another 2-3 years and drink it over the following decade. Since I had just reviewed the 2004 (rated 89) during the 2004 Châteauneuf du Pape retrospective, we skipped that vintage and went straight to the 2003 Châteauneuf du Pape. Smoking good in the vintage, with full-bodied richness and sweet tannin, it boast perfumed notes of garrigue, Asian spice, dried flowers and kirsch liqueur to go with big fruit, no hard edges and a drink me now feel. It’s drinking at point for me, and I’d consume bottles over the coming couple of years while it’s showing so well.
While the 2002s are always a significant step back, they’re still fun to taste and educational. In addition, the wines can be good when they’ve been well stored. The 2002 Châteauneuf du Pape is fully mature and evolved, yet has some textured and sweetness on the palate, as well as a balanced, medium-bodied feel. While it’s not something to seek out, it’s enjoyable and should be drunk up if you have them. The 2001 Châteauneuf du Pape is drinking perfectly, and to my mind, is getting close to full maturity. Black cherry and assorted darker fruits all mix nicely with notions of garrigue, licorice and wild herbs, and it opens up in the glass to show a medium-bodied, silky, balanced and textured style. I’m a fan and it should be consumed over the coming handful of years. Slightly more open and supple (which is common when you compare the same wine from these two vintages), the 2000 Châteauneuf du Pape is another mature, balanced and classic Châteauneuf that’s drinking at point. Exhibiting plenty of pepper, Asian spice, herbes de Provence and sweet cherry and raspberry fruit, it too should be consumed over the coming couple of years. Lastly, the 1997 Châteauneuf du Pape – like the 2008, was the only cuvée produced in the vintage – offers fully mature aromas and flavors of pepper, tobacco leaf, leather and sweet spice in a medium-bodied, nicely balanced package. It’s still enjoyable and evolving gracefully, yet was mostly like better a few years ago.
Moving to the Les Quartz Cuvée, this was first made in 1999 and comes mostly from the Les Cassanets lieu-dit, yet incorporates a small amount of Syrah from Les Bedines. It’s normally a blend of 85% Grenache and 15% Syrah, with the Grenache aged in a combination of oak tanks and foudre, and the Syrah in new barrels. While the Reserve gets most of the attention, Grenache lovers need to check out this cuvée as it always offers thrilling fruit and texture, with an exuberant, Grenache-driven style.
Starting with the 2011 Châteauneuf du Pape Les Quartz, it offers fabulous aromas and flavors of black raspberry, blackberry, toasted spice, creamy licorice and roasted meats to go with a flamboyant, hedonistic and voluptuous style. Just hard to resist, it nevertheless has solid mid-palate depth, good concentration and fine tannin, so don’t be surprised when it’s drink beautifully at age 15 as well. Even better, the 2010 Châteauneuf du Pape Les Quartz offers additional depth and richness, with ample dark fruits, blackberry, crushed rock and edgy minerality giving way to a full-bodied, big, powerful wine that won’t hit prime time for another 3-4 years. When all is said and done, it will have two decades of overall longevity. Almost as good, the 2009 Châteauneuf du Pape Les Quartz has a 2011 like perfume of sweet black raspberry, creamy licorice, lavender and spice. Full-bodied, balanced and concentrated, with rock solid underlying structure, it’s drinking nicely now, but has some upside as well. I doubt it will shut down, so drink it anytime over the coming decade or so. The incredible 2007 Châteauneuf du Pape Les Quartz is – aside from the otherworldly 2001 – the greatest example of this cuvée I’ve tasted. Full-bodied, deep, rich and concentrated, it’s also seamless and elegant, with killer black raspberry, cassis, lavender, crushed flowers and exotic spices all soaring from the glass. Still showing a youthful, unevolved profile, with serious concentration, it is approachable now due to its wealth of the texture, yet will continue to evolve gracefully. The 2006 Châteauneuf du Pape Les Quartz is another prime example of this under-the-radar vintage. A big, rich and muscular effort, it offers loads of dark fruit, mushroom, pot roast and bouquet garni in its full-bodied, layered and balanced profile. Still a little bit backwards and closed, it will be better in another year or so and drink well through 2021. As with the 2005 Les Safres release, I found the 2005 Châteauneuf du Pape Les Quartz to be structured, concentrated and serious, with big tannin and a focused feel. Showing plenty of dark fruit, crushed rock, earth and iron, it stretches out nicely on the finish and will be a long lived wine. Give it another couple years and enjoy bottles though 2028. Showing similar to when I tasted it late last year, the 2004 Châteauneuf du Pape Les Quartz offers pretty kirsch and red currants, spice, saddle leather and herbs de Provence in its full-bodied, balanced, nicely concentrated and even elegant style. In short, it’s a classic Châteauneuf that’s drinking at point. As expected, the 2003 Châteauneuf du Pape Les Quartz is a ripe, exuberant effort. Plum, figs, licorice, roasted herbs and roasted meats are just some of the nuances here, and it has full-bodied richness, good concentration and sweet tannin. Drink it over the coming couple of years. The 2001 Châteauneuf du Pape Les Quartz was a total shocker, and was easily the best bottle of this I’ve had; more than one taster at this retrospective had it as their wine of the tasting. Giving up phenomenal notes of black currants, beef blood, ground pepper and crushed rock, it flows onto the palate with full-bodied richness, outrageous concentration and a finish that just won’t quit. I’ve had a few bottles of this that possessed excessive volatile acidity, but not this bottle, and I seriously toyed with the idea of adding another point on here. Regardless, it’s profound stuff to drink over the coming 3-4 years. Lastly, the 2000 Châteauneuf du Pape Les Quartz is beautiful as well, with complex garrigue, spiced meats, bouquet garni and pepper all emerging from the glass. It has a full-bodied, open, sexy and yet concentrated feel on the palate, and I love its overall purity of fruit. While it’s more evolved than the 2001, It should still cruise for another couple of years, although certainly, there no reason to hold off.
The top release from the estate, their Réserve release was first made in 1998 and is a blend of 60% Grenache and 40% Mourvèdre (this is sometimes a split of Syrah and Mourvèdre) that’s aged mostly in 1, 2 and 3-year-old, 600-liter demi-muids for 18 months. Where the Les Quartz release is more exuberant and Grenache dominated (both in style and in the blend), this cuvée, which comes from mostly sandy soils, always has more elegance and polish, as well as rock star concentration and muscle. In addition, it performs beautifully in more difficult vintages as well.
As I said when I reviewed it from bottle last year, the 2011 Châteauneuf du Pape Réserve is near the top of heap in the vintage, and is a brilliant wine. Giving up classy crème de cassis, black raspberry, ground herbs and creamy licorice, it has full-bodied richness and depth to go with an open, sexy, supple style that’s hard to resist. The tannin here is present however, but is polished and sweet, so it will evolve gracefully going forward. Monumental stuff in every way, the blockbuster 2010 Châteauneuf du Pape Réserve has put on even more richness and weight than when I tasted it on release (rated 98). Inky colored, it offers up extraordinary aromas and flavors of black currants, black cherry, crushed rocks, spring flowers and melted licorice to go with a full-bodied, beautifully concentrated, dense and layered profile on the palate that needs to be tasted to be believed. It needs to be forgotten for another 4-5 years, at which point it will evolve gracefully for another two decades… It’s that good. More open and ready to go, the 2009 Châteauneuf du Pape Réserve is a perfumed, sexy wine that thrills with its cassis, candied licorice, violets, flowers and spice. Surprisingly upfront and open, yet with smoking purity of fruit and fine tannin, it can be enjoyed anytime over the coming 10-15 years.
Just another perfect wine (ho hum), the 2007 Châteauneuf du Pape Réserve is an incredible effort that matches the 2010 in terms of quality, yet has a bigger than life, richer and more over the top style. Loaded to the gills with sweet black cherry, cassis, licorice, lavender, roasted meats and creamy licorice, it hits the palate with a massive, full-bodied profile that carries awesome fruit, building, sweet tannin, incredible depth and blockbuster length. Just spectacular in every way, enjoy it anytime over the coming two decades. Seemingly more reserved and rustic (probably just because it followed the 2007…), the 2006 Châteauneuf du Pape Réserve (60% Grenache, 30% Mourvèdre and 10% Syrah) offers impressive richness and depth, with plenty of toasted spice, licorice, wild herbs and earthy dark fruits. Relatively closed for a ’06, it nevertheless has serious concentration, plenty of texture and no shortage of underlying structure. Give it another year or three and drink it through 2026. The most backwards and structured in the lineup, the 2005 Châteauneuf du Pape Réserve offers thrilling amounts of blackberry, black raspberry, cassis, spice and toasted bread to go with a full-bodied, seamless, yet seriously concentrated feel on the palate. Still inky colored, and pretty much a baby in terms of development, it has building tannin, good freshness and a focused, delineated profile that will benefit from short term cellaring. I love it, and it will have over two decades of longevity. In stark contrast, the 2004 Châteauneuf du Pape Réserve was open for business, with a perfumed, layered and balanced profile that was just begging to be drunk. Made from 60% Grenache and 40% Mourvèdre, it offers plenty of black raspberry, chocolate, spring flowers and spice, full-bodied richness, and a multi-dimensional, layered and seamless style. Drink it over the coming decade. An off the charts effort that was one of my wines of the trip, the 2001 Châteauneuf du Pape Réserve is a spectacular effort that doesn’t put a foot wrong. Getting a bevy of « incredible », « spectacular », and a few other adjective (i.e. expletives) in the notes, this rock star of a Châteauneuf boasts off the hook notes of black currants, saddle leather, beef blood, pepper, spring flowers and licorice. Possessing full-bodied richness on the palate, with beautiful underlying structure and depth, this incredible effort represents the essence of this fabulous terroir, and is a thrilling drink that I wish every Rhone lover could have the opportunity to taste. With a hard act to follow, the 1999 Châteauneuf du Pape Réserve showed beautifully and gave up complex spice-box, peppery herbs, game and tobacco leaf-like aromas and flavors. A full-bodied, rich and layered Châteauneuf, it’s drinking at point, yet will continue to evolve gracefully for upwards of another decade. Lastly, the 1998 Châteauneuf du Pape Réserve would probably have been rated 100 in any other context, yet on this occasion, seemed just slightly behind the incredible trio of the 2010, 2007 and 2001. Now at age 16, it’s still youthful, but is certainly in its prime drink window. It exhibits incredible garrigue, tobacco leaf, toast and spice that are all grounded by a rocking core of fruit, and this beauty flows onto the palate with full-bodied richness, no hard edges and a sexy, seamless feel that just about makes it impossible to spit. The first release of this wine, it too is an incredible testament to the wines of this region and was a fitting end to the tasting.
Domain du Clos du Caillou 2011 Châteauneuf du Pape Les Safres 93
Domain du Clos du Caillou 2010 Châteauneuf du Pape Les Safres 94
Domain du Clos du Caillou 2009 Châteauneuf du Pape Les Safres 93
Domain du Clos du Caillou 2008 Châteauneuf du Pape Les Safres 90
Domain du Clos du Caillou 2007 Châteauneuf du Pape Les Safres 93
Domain du Clos du Caillou 2006 Châteauneuf du Pape Les Safres 92
Domain du Clos du Caillou 2005 Châteauneuf du Pape Les Safres 92
Domain du Clos du Caillou 2003 Châteauneuf du Pape 92
Domain du Clos du Caillou 2002 Châteauneuf du Pape 85
Domain du Clos du Caillou 2001 Châteauneuf du Pape 92
Domain du Clos du Caillou 2000 Châteauneuf du Pape 91
Domain du Clos du Caillou 1997 Châteauneuf du Pape 87
Domain du Clos du Caillou 2011 Châteauneuf du Pape Les Quartz 94
Domain du Clos du Caillou 2010 Châteauneuf du Pape Les Quartz 96
Domain du Clos du Caillou 2009 Châteauneuf du Pape Les Quartz 95
Domain du Clos du Caillou 2007 Châteauneuf du Pape Les Quartz 97
Domain du Clos du Caillou 2006 Châteauneuf du Pape Les Quartz 94+
Domain du Clos du Caillou 2005 Châteauneuf du Pape Les Quartz 95
Domain du Clos du Caillou 2004 Châteauneuf du Pape Les Quartz 93
Domain du Clos du Caillou 2003 Châteauneuf du Pape Les Quartz 94
Domain du Clos du Caillou 2001 Châteauneuf du Pape Les Quartz 99
Domain du Clos du Caillou 2000 Châteauneuf du Pape Les Quartz 94
Domain du Clos du Caillou 2011 Châteauneuf du Pape Réserve Le Clos du Caillou 96
Domain du Clos du Caillou 2010 Châteauneuf du Pape Réserve Le Clos du Caillou 100
Domain du Clos du Caillou 2009 Châteauneuf du Pape Réserve Le Clos du Caillou 95
Domain du Clos du Caillou 2007 Châteauneuf du Pape Réserve Le Clos du Caillou 100
Domain du Clos du Caillou 2006 Châteauneuf du Pape Réserve Le Clos du Caillou 95+
Domain du Clos du Caillou 2005 Châteauneuf du Pape Réserve Le Clos du Caillou 98+
Domain du Clos du Caillou 2004 Châteauneuf du Pape Réserve Le Clos du Caillou 94
Domain du Clos du Caillou 2001 Châteauneuf du Pape Réserve Le Clos du Caillou 100
Domain du Clos du Caillou 1999 Châteauneuf du Pape Réserve Le Clos du Caillou 95
Domain du Clos du Caillou 1998 Châteauneuf du Pape Réserve Le Clos du Caillou 99
Importers: North Berkeley Imports, Berkeley, CA; tel. (510) 848-8910; Dionysos Imports, Manassas, VA; tel. (703) 392-7073; Import Wines, Middleton, WI; tel. (608) 833-8622; and Domaine Select Wine Estates, New York, NY; tel. (212) 279-0799