- Rating: 95 out of 100
- Tasting Fee: $0
- Accepts Reservations: No
- Reservation Required: false
Clos Des Papes was my favorite wine tasting in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. If you trust me at all, that should be enough to get you to put it at the top-of-your-list. But in case you don’t trust me, trust the wine critics. Jeb Dunnuck cannot stop talking about their wines (scored the 2016 rouge 100PTS) and Wine Advocate also continues to rate it highly. But best of all, it’s free to taste (though I would expect them to start charging soon), they normally pour the current vintage and the one previous, and they also have their white wines to taste! When I visited, I couldn’t believe it. I spent more time here than I intended tasting the wines and speaking with their wine ambassador. But I have no regrets and enjoyed every minute of it.
Although the tasting room for Clos Des Papes is based out of a large house that doubles as their winery, it is actually quite easy to miss. In fact, I missed it a couple times until I saw their sign on the gate to the house (see above). As you walk up the driveway, it’s still pretty easy to think that you are in the wrong place and are in fact trespassing on someone’s private property. Once you make it to the building though, there are signs with the Clos Des Papes brand and operating hours posted that reassure you. You can head inside for a tasting once you have had your fill of staring at the vines (see my selfie at the bottom).
As you can see above, their tasting room is a little underwhelming compared to some of the other wineries I’ve written about in Châteauneuf. Have no fear. The first thing you’ll notice besides the look of the room is the temperature - they keep it at a cool 65 degrees, hence why their wine ambassador is wearing a sweater even though it’s 95 outside. The second is that there are several bottles of wine on the table and some interesting artwork nearby as well. If you’re like me, you’ll take a minute to compose yourself from the heat outside. Next, you’ll walk right up to the table and confidently ask for a tasting!
Looking back on the experience, I know that I was a bit star-struck when I realized the wine ambassador was going to pour me two vintages each of the blanc and the rouge. You might be thinking “oh, they didn’t pour you their special cuvee.” You would be half right and half wrong. That is because there is no special cuvee! Each vintage, Clos Des Papes only produces their blanc and their rouge. All of their fruit (including their best) goes into their one red and their one white, or else it gets sold off to other wineries. It’s a bit awe-inspiring how much they let their vines dictate what their wines are going to taste like each vintage. And who am I to argue? Each one was delicious!
Given that I wasn’t able to try Châteauneuf Blancs in many places and I got to try it from one of the best producers in the area, I can’t help but consider myself lucky. Even more special, I got an extra pour (the 2014 rouge). It was a great start to the morning, let me tell you…
- 2017 Clos Des Pape Blanc (52€)
- Their Blanc uses 6 of the 7 white varietals allowed in CdP (equal percentage of Grenache Blanc, Roussane, Clairette, Bourboulenc, Picpoul, and Picardin). The nose is mellow and soft, predominantly with yellow fruit notes. The structure of the wine is high alcohol, medium(+) body, and medium(+) acidity, which I was not expecting. The bottle was served at room temperature, so some of the alcohol burn came out on the finish. Although there are so many varietals in here, the palate feels like a smooth, integrated wine (I couldn’t pick out more than lemon, white peach, and orange zest). But I know how complicated this wine is and what it might develop into with more time. You might think $60 is expensive for a white wine. This is one of those wines where you throw preconceptions like that out the window.
- 2016 Clos Des Pape Blanc (54€)
- Same varietals and blending percentage in this wine as the 2017. Doing that year after year is not as simple as that sounds as mother nature demands constant change. Just smelling the wine, you get a sense the ‘16 and ‘17 are two totally different wines because the nose feels much more defined for the 2016. I wonder if that is indicative of the vintage or the extra year of aging. On the nose, you get white spice, ripe yellow fruit, even more zest, and orange fruit comes out in greater intensity. The white spice and minerality is stronger on the palate too, but with a lighter body. There is so much harmony though - there’s got to be some magic in the winery for them to use the same percentage of grapes for the blend each year, yet allow them to be adaptable to what fruit comes in.
- 2016 Clos des Papes Rouge (62€)
- This wine is already displaying such integration and depth, but also acidity and brightness with a 75/25 red-to-black fruit ratio on the nose (mostly strawberry and light cherry). The palate has medium(+) acid, medium(+) but fine tannin, with a nice clean finish and red fruit lingering. The wine is lighter in its spice profile than others in the area and also shows off brighter, lighter red fruit. But there is an undercurrent of tertiary character (wood, earth) that is present and starting to creep in. Not quite as integrated as the other vintages, but one to three years of aging will fix that. This wine just feels different from other reds in the area, especially with its distinctive baking spice character.
- 2015 Clos des Papes Rouge (64€)
- The nose is so evolved on the 2015. I cannot believe this is the same wine and has only aged for an additional year. The red fruit feels more cooked (2015 was a hot vintage), but the wood spice, black pepper, cedar, and forest floor come out so much more on this nose. Though, if you asked me, I would still call this a bright wine. Structurally, you have medium(+) acid, high but very fine tannin, and a medium body. On the palate and finish, the dried cranberry and baking spice are dominant, but the tertiary notes already possess good length. I love how it’s baking spices and not black pepper that’s the dominant spice here. It integrates with the tertiary character very well and makes me yearn for red meat.
- 2014 Clos des Papes Rouge (59€)
- I’ve said so much already about the ‘15/’16 that it’s hard to come up with something new to say. The nose builds on the 2015, except a little less intensity and a little more integration of aromas. Dried/cooked red fruit and baking spices continue to dominate. Structurally, this wine has high acid, medium(+) tannin, and a medium body. The flavors align with the aromas, though I might be starting to feel a little garrigue, but I’m unsure. The dried (ripe cranberry/raspberry) red fruit come out so nicely on the nose and feels like there is a bouquet of flowers integrated within. I spent more time smelling this wine than the others and it makes me giddy that I have bottles stored away, waiting for me.
I must say, the dried/cooked red fruit plus baking spice character is so distinctive in their red wines that I think I can pick it out of a Châteauneuf-du-Pape lineup. And I do not type those words lightly… Yet another reason that I am drawn to this wine. Afterwards, I had to go clear my head outside in the vineyards (see below).
I decided to visit Clos Des Papes because the bottle I had from them was delicious and I knew their wines scored well. I thought I would get a similar tasting experience as Domaine du Pegau. I never expected all of this. If you ever happen to visit Châteauneuf-du-Pape, you need to make this your first stop. Also, their wines are hard to come by in the USA and are usually priced around $100+ per bottle of rouge. Buying a case may save you $20-$30 a bottle, provided you have a means of shipping the wine out of the country cheaply (aka: room in the luggage).
If you do bring some back and have second thoughts, invite me over and I’ll help with that dilemma, haha. Cheers!!
Rating: 95 out of 100