- Drink Date:
- 2021 - 2035
In case readers were wondering, it is possible to be disappointed by a wine that rates "only" 97 points. I had such high hopes for the 2017 Chateauneuf du Pape La Reserve after tasting it last year, but this year the bottled wine is only extraordinary, not potentially perfect. Hints of cedar and vanilla from aging in 20% new demi-muids accent ripe black cherries in this full-bodied, silky-textured but concentrated wine that once again manages to combine richness with airiness, power with elegance and features a finish that lingers while being refreshing at the same time. It's still a major-league contender for wine of the vintage.
Always one of my most-anticipated visits, Le Clos du Caillou continues to craft some of the finest, most consistent Châteauneufs year after year. Marilou Vacheron and Bruno Gaspard are typically candid in their assessments of recent vintages. "We [had] big, big problems with mildew in Châteauneuf du Pape [in 2018]," said Gaspard. Yields were under 20 hectoliters per hectare, about two-thirds of normal. Yet the result, he said, are well-balanced wines that aren't too high in alcohol. "It was a very interesting year for Mourvèdre," said Gaspard. "One of the best years we've had." Notably, La Reserve is more than half Mourvèdre in 2018. As for 2017, he resisted attempts to characterize it as a hot year. "It's not a solar vintage; in terms of wine, perhaps it's a mix between '12, '14, '06 and '04. Not a lot of tannin, just the quantity you need." Looking at the wines from 2009 now, they're still holding up well. Les Safres, with its elevated Grenache content is probably just at or past peak, but Les Quartz and (especially) La Reserve still have years to go. Unfortunately, time constraints prevented me from tasting the white wines at this fine estate. Finally, Le Clos du Caillou produces a range of excellent Côtes du Rhône wines that I'll review in the second part of my Southern Rhône report.
The consistent high quality of this estate's wines makes it a perennial favorite of mine. New developments here include the addition of purchased wine to the entry-level cuvées, without any loss of quality. Winemaker Bruno Gaspard admits 2016 is a good vintage, grinning when asked about it. "It's not too solar, not heavy," he said. The 2017s at this address boast an extra level of concentration that must be the result of the vintage's low yields, yet they remain supple and balanced. Although two potentially perfect red Châteauneuf-du-Papes lead the list, don't overlook the various Côtes du Rhône bottlings, which often represent great value, or the white wines, all of which seem better every year.