The Rhône Valley's famed Clos des Papes estate, whose 2003 Châteauneuf-du-Pape was the No. 2 wine in Wine Spectator's Top 100 of 2005, lost 2,600 bottles of wine recently when its old cellars collapsed.
Owner-winemaker Paul-Vincent Avril narrowly escaped injury when the part of the cellar that lies underneath his apartment, located in the historic estate, collapsed early on April 6. "We heard a large sound, and my girlfriend and I were able to get out quickly," said Avril. "We were very lucky, since it happened at six in the morning."
Construction had been underway to expand the winery's cellars, and a wall that had not been shored up apparently caused the collapse. The old cellar, where back vintages are kept, was destroyed and will need to be rebuilt.
Clos des Papes' old cellar contained about 23,000 bottles of wine, from the 1999 through 2003 vintages, Avril said. The surviving bottles have been moved to a different storage facility. The inventory was on reserve primarily for French restaurants, so wine shipments to the United States will not be affected.
There was no damage to the existing winery facility next door or to the estate's offices. Avril said he is currently bottling his 2004, and there have been no disruptions to the winery's activities. Avril's apartment, though, was completely destroyed, and the vintner lost most of his personal possessions.
"I am a little angry of course, but it could have been worse," he said. "So now, we just have to build again."