A Towering Legend of Châteauneuf
Clos des Papes is one of the great established names of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, aptly named since a parcel of the land there is nearby the pope’s castle and has been surrounded by walls (clos). The family has been living in the village for centuries and were among the people who created the appellation for the village, the first in France to do so.
It is currently run by winemaker Paul-Vincent Avril who attended wine school in Burgundy in the 1980’s, and after working abroad (with a stint at Mount Mary with Dr John Middleton) returned home to work with his father in 1988. Since then he has succeeded to make what many regard as the best single example of the appellation producing just one red wine and one white wine–no special cuvees!
They hand harvest all the grapes and allow natural yeast ferments, de-stemmed for the red varieties with all parcels vinified separately mostly co-fermented. Aging of red wines takes place in large wooden foudres of various sizes and ages for 18 months. White varieties are whole bunch co-fermented at cool temperature and aged on lees for 5 months with no malolactic fermentation before bottling.
“A very Clos des Papes vintage,’ says Vincent Avril, and I know what he means – a vintage that naturally delivers the kind of fresh, elegant wines that this estate is famous for. A tasting of several foudres point to a wine with natural, easy balance. The Mourvèdre is excellent here this year, and adds great depth to the fresh and delightful Grenache that has notes of black tea, black cherry and iron. Elegant and very fine.”
-Decanter, 98 Points
“Proprietor Paul-Vincent Avril expects to bottle 100,000 bottles of something approximating this “final blend,” tasted out of foudre. A blend of 55% Grenache, 35% Mourvèdre and 10% Syrah and other permitted varieties, the 2020 Chateauneuf du Pape looked exceptional on this day, offering up scents of framboise and kirsch alongside dried flowers and Asian spices. Full-bodied yet weightless, silky and long, this is special stuff, complex and balanced. Like many of the producers I visited in late 2021, Paul-Vincent Avril seemed happy to receive a visitor after so many months of virtual isolation. “We’ve had a good summer—not too hot,” he said. The estates parcels were, however, badly affected by frost in the spring. His team began picking on September 20, paused over the following weekend for rain, and he expected them to finish on October 2. “The phenolic maturity is there, the sugars are there,” Avril said. “No, it won’t be like 2019, but I think we will come in around 14.5–15 degrees [of alcohol]. I think, I don’t like to say before the vintage is finished.” Of the vintages reviewed here, Avril said he finds the 2019 “more powerful and rich,” comparing it to 2016 and 2007, whereas he calls the 2020 “really elegant.” Clos des Papes farms 24 different parcels in the appellation, and Avril said they all bring something important to the blend. “Chateauneuf de Pape is a blend—a blend of grapes and a blend of the terroirs.” The 2021 vintage marked his 36th vintage.”
-Wine Advocate, 98 Points
Foxcroft Online Price: $140 per bottle
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