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stirring the lees with james molesworth

Clos des Papes for Breakfast, Truffles for Dinner

Photo by: David Yellen

Posted: Nov 9, 2006 1:24pm ET

Spent the day in Châteauneuf-du-Pape again today. Unlike the chilly north, the weather down here is almost summer-like—the temperature was over 70 degrees today, and the terrace at La Mere Germaine was filled up for lunch.

But before that, I had a vertical of Clos des Papes for breakfast, as Vincent Avril graciously poured me 10 vintages of his red, back to ’88 (and including the monstrous ’90), and 11 vintages of his far-too-often overlooked white, back to 1986.

The 2005 red at this estate could be the best of the ‘03/’04/’05 trio. It’s resting in foudre now, with each foudre dominated by Grenache, along with differing amounts of Syrah and Mourvèdre. Tasted each foudre, you get a feel for the floral notes, the purity and the power the wine combines, as separate entities. Then when he makes a quick mini-blend of them, you see it all come together.

I then spent 15 minutes just trying to cross the street to visit Domaine Paul Coulon & Fils. That’s because of the large crane parked outside Clos des Papes that is rebuilding the cellar that collapsed earlier this year. In addition, a road crew is working on new sewer lines on the main drag, the D17. And there’s new roundabout in town that the locals are just blowing straight through, instead of actually going around the circle. All this activity lent a very different air to CdP this time—a suddenly bustling little town.

At Coulon, we tasted a mini-vertical of their Côtes du Rhône-Villages Rasteau Domaine de Beaurenard Cuvée Les Argiles Bleues. It’s made in the exact same way as their regular Côtes du Rhône-Villages Rasteau Domaine de Beaurenard, and the vines are the same age as well. But the terroir is blue clay instead of red, and it really shows in the wine, which offers a blueberry/bluebell-filled profile.

We also tasted a few vintages of their Châteauneuf-du-Pape Domaine de Beaurenard, with the ’01 the star, and a number of barrel samples of the various parts that will make up the ’05 Domaine de Beaurenard Boisrenard. Made from three old-vine parcels, the wine is split between new and used barrels of different coopers for the elevage. It’s always the highlight of my visit to taste through them—and amazing to see the difference that barrels—even from the same cooperage, have on the wine.

Lunch was at La Mère Germaine, the charming bistro in the center of town, and the place was packed, inside and on the terrace. Vignerons, other wine professionals, locals and tourists all eat there—it is the lunch-time heart of this little town.

Afterwards, following up on a tip from another vigneron, I visited with Julien Barrot, at Domaine La Barroche. Barrot, just 26, has started bottling his own wine along with his father, who initially had sold off the domaine’s grapes to négociants. It’s a small property—only 30,000 bottles produced in the ’04 vintage—but I’ll be keeping an eye on it.

 

As for the gossip in town, the sale of Domaine des Sénéchaux is the current hot topic. A well-situated domaine with 26 hectares of vines, the sale is being held up by a group of about 20 vignerons in CdP who want to divide the property up amongst themselves. Seems the appearance of the original buyer, a well-heeled Bordelais, has ruffled feathers in traditional, quiet little CdP, so the vignerons have petitioned SAFER, the governmental agency that controls the sale of vineyards, to rethink the sale. It’s in French beaurocratic limbo now...

In addition, Domaine de Relagnes has also just been sold, a surprise as it comes on the heels of this estate’s terrific performance in 2004.

I guess with all the buzz about CdP in general these days, it seems to be a good time to sell. There will be some newcomers, and new ideas, which is great. But in the end, there will probably be just a little turnover—there are too many quality estates that have their family histories invested in CdP for any major shift to occur.

I couldn’t leave France without pinning the truffle meter on ‘Full,’ so it’s back to La Beaugraviere again for dinner tonight. The truffle market officially opens this weekend, but La Beaugraviere already has their truffle menu in full swing. That’s a big Austin Powers “Yeah, baby!”

Todd R Laubach
Washington, DC —  November 9, 2006 5:30pm ET
James - Did you taste the 2000 Clos des Papes in the vertical you had at the Domaine? I had it a month or so ago and thought it was drinking excellent....much better than the previous reviewer's 87pts.
Guus Hateboer
Netherlands —  November 10, 2006 8:50am ET
James, will you be publishing the tasting notes on the Clos des Papes verticals? Can't wait to see the notes on the 2005's either.
James Molesworth
November 10, 2006 10:08am ET
I'll post my notes as soon as I can in the forums, but the wifi here is down right now...
Elwood Reid
November 10, 2006 2:31pm ET
James, any thoughts on the 05 vieux telegraphe blanc? And how do you think the sale of Relagnes will impact their recent rise in quality? The 04 Relagnes are some of my favorite CDP.
James Molesworth
November 11, 2006 8:39am ET
Elwood: Winemaker Olivier Hilaire is keeping the parcel that produces the Les Petits Pieds d'Armand cuvee, and the label, so theoretically no changes there. As for the other cuvees, that remains to be seen. You're right though, this domaine really had a quality pop in '04.

I really liked the '05 Vieux Tele blanc - richer than usual, with lots of minerality.

Guus and Todd - the Clos des Papes notes are now in the forums.
Elwood Reid
November 11, 2006 11:24am ET
James and Cambie, thanks for the info on Domaine Relagnes. The Petits Pieds Armand is a special wine. Like a great Burgundy. I've snatched up all the 04 I can find and here's hoping Olivier Hilaire doesn't change a thing.James -- the Rhone reports are great. Pin the truffle meter and keep filing.

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