I had some thoughts on Clos des Papes during a recent vertical tasting that spanned vintages from ’69 to ’05 that are beginning to come to fruition, thanks to a bit of a catalyst from tasting the fabulous 2006.
If I had to choose just one wine to represent its appellation in all its glory, complexity and finesse, it would have to be Clos des Papes. The blend includes just about every red variety allowed under the A.O.C. sun and undergoes an unadorned, old fashioned fermentation and elevage. The wine demonstrates the heights of what a naked, terroir driven expression of old vines can achieve when coupled w/ miniscule yields and brilliant blending. Power and finesse, unraveling beautifully in the cellar to unfold layer after layer like a Grand Cru Burgundy. I know the price escalation and Wine of the Year ballyhoo have dampened the spirits of this Rhone stalwart’s fans, but I truly believe it is an ambassador of Chateauneuf du Pape, continuing to go from strength to strength. Is there a more consistent performer in the 21st century than Clos des Papes? Is there another producer that can coax such harmony from their reds and whites from what are essentially field blends? Two wines and two wines only, one red, one white; using every varietal tool at their disposal, yet virtually no high tech gadgetry in the cellar. They are pure, classic Chateauneuf du Pape wines that represent more than just first growth quality, they represent the essence of the appellation.
I am not an apologist for their pricing or a defender of its publicity. I am just an admirer of the appellation and I find Clos des Papes to embody all that makes Chateauneuf du Pape great. I can’t drink as much of it as I’d like, but I certainly cherish each opportunity I get to savor this liquid treasure.
Clos des Papes ‘06
This is an atypically structured, powerhouse of an ’06 (not unlike the ’04), w/ a brooding purple color and an exceptionally closed, backward bouquet of violet, lavender, crème de cassis, kirsch liqueur and rose petals. The wine has a hauntingly pure, opulent sensibility in the mouth, cramming fabulous layers of bittersweet cocoa dusted flavors from cheek to cheek in a full bodied, tannic, multi-dimensional fashion. This is a seriously endowed, beautifully proportioned young C los des Papes that has the sinew of the ’05 allied to the fruit of the ’00 and should prove to be one of the longest lived wines of the vintage, 97 points.
Can any of you think of other wines that you would choose to represent an appellation?