The 2017 Chateauneuf du Pape Les Quartz features scents of black olives and black cherries on the nose. It's a full-bodied, dense, tightly packed wine that will need time to fully express itself—is it a modern-day 2005? Ample cherry and stone fruit appear on the long, intense finish, confirming the terrific potential this wine possesses.
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.