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Chateauneuf-du-Pape: Clos des Papes

Written by JW. Posted in Rhone

I recently had the chance to tuck into a couple of bottles of great Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Clos des Papes, made by Paul and Vincent Avril. These guys make terrific Chateauneuf, big bold and ripe but still with freshness and fruit. A dozen years ago I had a great trip to their cellars with Olivier Hickman [] and we were treated to a mini-horizontal from 1997 back to 1990 – the later an utterly fabulous wine. Their white Chateauneuf  is also fascinating and ages wonderfully.

Prices for these wines have risen a great deal in recent years. Robert Parker in particular has given recent vintages very high scores, but they are still worth searching out. Typically Clos des Papes takes age, needs it even, the 1989 still had much life in it and wasn’t at all tired. The 2005 was in a different league entirely.  Wonderfully ripe and deep it clearly had lots of life ahead of it but is already quite a joy. From memory the guys here use the entire palette of varieties that Chateauneuf allows but credit must be given here to Grenache which is predominant. The blend varies but Grenache accounts for a good two-thirds of it with high proportions of Mourvedre and Syrah. In the right hands, like the Avrils here, Grenache is a wonderfully perfumed, silky and attractive variety. For me it works in a blend with Syrah and Mourvedre just like Merlot does with Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot. It may not be where the spice, backbone and colour of the wine lies, but it’s at the heart of the joy, vibrancy and seduction of any great southern Rhone blend.

Clos des Papes, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, 2005

Deep black red; deep nose; dark fruits; strawberry and fig; lots of depth; spice too; palate very polished palate; still pretty pent up and dense but not in a way that is at all over done. Should be fascinating in ten years – a great wine in the making – though lots of joy now if left for 3+ hours in a decanter. 95+/100

Clos des Papes, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, 1989

Deep colour; red/brown at edge; some nice mature and developed notes on the nose; spices; tobacco; palate round and mature; not fabulously complex but nicely done. A degree lighter in alcohol than 2005. [13.5% v 14.5%] 91/100

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