Paul Avril, who ran his family's famed Clos des Papes estate in the Southern Rhône appellation of Châteauneuf-du-Pape from 1963 through 1987, setting it on a course that would eventually put it among the elite domaines of the appellation, died on Saturday, June 13. He was 72. The cause was cancer.
Avril, who was still active at the estate even after he turned the reins over to his son Vincent, was one of the most respected senior vignerons in the appellation. A soft-spoken man, Avril was fiercely committed to quality. A contemporary of Paul Coulon, Henri Bonneau, Henri Brunier and other early leaders of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, he was among the first vignerons of his generation to believe that harvesting late to achieve riper fruit was a key to producing world-class wines—as long as balance and finesse could be maintained. Avril was also a staunch believer in "one estate, one wine," resisting the trend to produce small-production, high-price cuvées.
Avril's tenure was spent not only in propelling his own estate to new qualitative heights—he was one of the first Southern Rhône vintners to bottle his wines at the estate—but also in building Châteauneuf-du-Pape as a whole, holding several positions with the appellation during his career, including head of the grower's syndicate as well as the regional representative to the INAO, France's government-sponsored wine ruling body.
"When we arrived in Châteauneuf, he welcomed me as a winemaker," said Isabel Ferrando of Domaine St.-Préfert, located across the street from Clos des Papes. "He would always say, 'Be calm, never rush, never stress.' That was his style. And whenever I had a question about my vineyards, I could ask him."
Avril is survived by three children, including his son Vincent, who currently runs the estate. The 2005 Clos des Papes Châteauneuf-du-Pape was named Wine Spectator Wine of the Year in 2007.
A ceremony in Avril's honor will be held Tuesday, June 16, at the church in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. He will be buried in the town's cemetery.