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"2016 is an exceptional vintage at Châteauneuf-du-Pape...perhaps 2016 will be the vintage that re-establishes the region as the source of serious, well-balanced red wines. The Royal appellation of the Southern Rhône can truly strut its multi-coloured, fascinating robes this year, a dazzle of pleasure to the eye and to all the senses. The wines are full of bounty, are aromatic, possess certain content, ripe tannins, and, hallelujah, are balanced." So says our friend John Livingstone-Learmonth, our favorite writer on all things Rhône, and our initial tastings have borne out this opinion, with the dense, complex and very ripe fruit supported by fresh acidity and firm structure for potential long-term aging.
It seems surprising that the vintage is of this quality, given the difficult conditions endured to the north, but even in Burgundy and the Loire Valley excellent wines were made despite the low yields. In the Southern Rhône, however, the growing season was similar to 2010, with sunny dry weather - so sunny that some growers were worried about blockage of ripening due to drought simlar to 2003. We quote Drink Rhône "2016 is actually a dry, sun-filled vintage, but there were two factors that dragged it back from being a close cousin to 2003 – fresh late summer nights and one mid-September rainfall. The fresh nights factor held an important role in forming the beauty of the wonderful 2010 vintage: the greater density and thickness of the 2016 content is what aligns it more with 1990 than 2010." The rains of September 14-15 brought needed moisture to the vines, helping the ripening, keeping the alcohol level lower (though still at 14 to 15.5 %) and contributng to the freshness and healthy acidity of the wines.
My first visit to Paul Avril at Clos des Papes was perhaps in 1991, and I remember being enormously impressed by the elegance and density of the red and completely surpised by the superb white. The estate has always been a darling of American critics, largely due to the intense concentration of fruit from the very low yields and strict sorting, as well as the high percentage of Mourvedre, roughly 30% in the 2016. We're happy to note that the estate has been certified organic since 2011. Our brief tasting last week confirmed a wine of deep, sappy fruit but also with good acidity and a real mineral core underlying the dark fruits and helping to balance the high alcohol. This will age beautifully and is highly recommended.
My visits to the Boiron family at Bosquet des Papes back in the '90s, left me with a great appreciation for the family and their work. Their "Tradition" cuvée is always a lovely, authentic Chateauneuf, but today's offer concerns their old vine cuvée "Chante le Merle," mostly from vines fo 85 to 100 years of age, fermented with whole clusters and aged in old and younger barrels (none new) and concrete vat. The 2016 is a gogeous wine of terroir that will be magnificent with ten-plus years of aging, then drink until 2040 and beyond.
The wines of Le Vieux Donjon have always impressed with their balance, complexity of fruit and hints of floral and herbal notes, a bit more Burgundian in weight and texture than some CDPs. Mostly produced from Grenache that varies in age from 20 to 100 years, there are white grapes in the blend, such as Clairette, which may contribute to the lighter style, and the grapes are 50% de-stemmed. We found the 2016 to be quite pretty, not with the density of Clos des Papes, but with fascinating aromas and lovely complexity and balance on the palate - obviously structured for long aging but enjoyable as a young wine as well.
Why, you might ask, are we offering the 2015 Mas de Boislauzon Tradition in an email of 2016s? Well, it's a great glass of wine, a beautiful Châteauneuf from a ripe vintage that is drinking beautifully as a young wine. It's a sensational value as well - enjoy it as you wait for the 2016s to mature. Also drinking well now is the lovely 2016 Mas de Boislauzon Côtes-du Rhône Villages - it's a great success in this vintage, a real junior Châteauneuf from the vineyards of "Bois Lauzon" and "Coudelet", just outside of CDP - drink over the next ten years and enjoy the low price as well.
In searching for value among the 2016 Châteauneuf-du-Papes we were happy to find La Bastide Saint-Dominique, an organic estate in Courthézon with well situated parcels in the vineyards of Pignan, Guigasse, Bédines and Chapouin on both sandy soils and clay with round stones. The wine is quite delicious with an intense bouquet of sweet liqueur fruit, kirsh liqueur, blueberry and blackberry fruits, licorice, dark chocolate and spice. The palate shows lush black fruits with elegant tannins with smooth texture and the freshness of the 2016s. This will drink well over the next ten to fifteen years and offers outstanding value.
And just for fun, how about a few magnums of 2009 Clos des Papes and 2009 Bosquet des Papes "Tradition?" In mid-life perhaps, but they should both be superb!
The Fine Print: Prices are net, no further discount. Wines are in stock, please allow two days for processing; pick-up or shipping available by Thursday 10/18.
From Drink Rhône "...dark red colour. Has a spiced, ripely fruited nose, blackberry and blueberry together, pockets of mystery, scope, oiliness. The spice is provided by the Mourvèdre. The palate is unctuous, beau, holds very good inside mass, well packed and thorough. There are flecks of flowers, rose hip, sweet touches; it’s rich with spice and sustained length. There is good sève (sap) in this. It’s very long. “What pleases me is the profound nature – it is long and deep,” Vincent Avril. Drink until 2050
From Drink Rhône "...quite a dark red robe, has a purple hue as well, shows legs. The bouquet is full and gracious, the cooked red fruit gleaming with wellbeing. There is a musky, perfumed hover. The palate is stylish, runs with attractive, scented plum fruits and produces some ripe tannins towards the finish, a slow build from them. This is genuine, interesting, and will give a really authentic STGT (wine of terroir) glass of Châteauneuf. It has excellent, sustained length, and is a true Child of the South and the garrigue lands."
From Drink Rhône "...dark red, full robe. The nose is extremely wide, bears a sweet, southern nature, with layered, well filled black fruits airs allied to notes of black olives, a local density apparent. The palate is weighted and freighted, expressive, comes with a mass of thick content, southern garrigue herbs woven into it, rosemary and a tang of tilleul/linden, laurel all jostling together. This has a grass roots certainty, is a thoroughly grounded wine for the long haul." Drink until 2040+
Mas de Boislauzon is a lesser-known, over-achieving estate located in the northern sector of Châteauneuf, with parcels in the lieu-dits of Cabrières, Boislauzon, Lagardiole, Palestor and Pignan. The soil types are sandy at Pignan, galets roulés at Boislauzon, with more clay at la Gardiole and Palestor. Organic farming since 2009. Approximately 70% Grenache and 30% Mourvedre. The grapes are de-stemmed and aging is in concrete vats and old barrels. The 2015 is a full-throttle, dark colored wine with deep blackberry liqueur, dark plum, earth and roast meat aromas. The palate is very dense and supple with ripe sweet blackberry and red currant fruit, well structured and lifted by cool acidity and firm tannins. Enjoy in its rather intense youth with a steak or grilled lamb or hold for ten to fifteen years. Terrific wine and a great value! David Lillie
(75% Grenache with Mourvedre, Syrah, Vaccarese, Counoise, Cinsault. De-stemmed, aged in large barrel, 550 liter casks and vat.) The "regular" cuvee from Bosquet des Papes is a consistently great value in a traditional style, and soft enough to drink young. "Quite dark, bright and full red. Welcoming, shapely red fruit aroma — immediate appeal, comes with a little smokiness, ash. Really good palate, tasty start, runs with a consisitent flow, strawberry jam in the flavor. Fresh and clear at the end, very faithful to it's place a wine of terroir, good balance. Drink from spring 2012 to 2023-2025." JLL
While hunting for value in the excellent 2016 vintage in Chateauneuf-du-Pape, we happened across this organic estate based in Courthezon that is making lovely Chateauneufs from organic parcels in Pignan, Guigasse, Bédines and Chapouin. The vines are 25 to 80 years old, the grapes are destemmed and the wine ages for 18 months in cement vats. The style here is a bit forward, and the wine is undeniably delicious with an intense bouquet of sweet liqueur fruit, kirsh liqueur, blueberry and blackberry fruits, licorice, dark chocolate and spice. The palate shows black fruits with elegant tannins with smooth texture and the freshness of the 2016s. This is a wine that can be enjoyed young and will hold nicely over the next ten to 15 years - really an excellent value and quite representative of this superb vintage. David Lillie
From 50-65% Grenache, 15-20% Syrah, 0-10% Carignan, 5-15% Mourvèdre from stony clay-limestone soils on Bois Lauzon & Coudoulet at Courthézon. The vines are on average 45 years-old. The wine ages in concrete tank and old barrels, and is bottled unfined and unfiltered. This is an outstanding Côtes-du-Rhône Villages that shows very dark red/black color with lovely aromas of lush blackberry and red currant with dark chocolate, citrus and spice. The palate is ripe and dense with round, lush berry fruits, earth and mineral flavors backed with firm citrusy acids.