By Ben Collins, Bibendum Fine Wine Director
North v South. Wow, that is quite a shoot out, is it not?
For me one of the greats is the YL Chave Hermitage from the Northern Rhone, which sits firmly in my top five of all time, I’ve had many stellar bottles over the years. My criteria for a top spot from the Rhone is always great wines in off vintages, I can still almost taste the magnum of 1984 glugged down last year – it was wonderful!
My top Rhone from another neck of the woods is Clos des Papes from Chateauneuf-du-Pape, the wine is truly fab if a bit over-eulogised by the great Robert Parker. At a recent BYO dinner, with stellar bottles (Petrus and more), the wine was right up there with the best of them.
Just in case you think I am a flash Harry who only drinks the posh stuff (nearly true), I truly love Cotes du Rhone and definitely prefer the Southern versions with a melange of grapes, in particular with Carignan and Grenache, to the 100% Syrah versions of the North. However the only curse of the Rhone can sometimes be lashings of alcohol and a headache in the morning – mind you that won’t happen with YL Chave and Vincent Avril’s Clos des Papes.
Personally I like drinking Clos des Papes rather than worrying about the scores. However Robert Parker loved Chateauneuf du Pape – here is the famous note for 2007 Clos des Papes.
2007 Clos des Papes Chateauneuf du Pape, 99+ points Robert Parker -
“Paul Avril was a bigger-than-life vigneron, a visionary, and a great teacher, but Vincent has been in charge for a number of years, and he has rewarded his father with what I believe is the greatest Chateauneuf du Pape made since 1978 and 1990, the 2007. I have not only tasted this wine at the estate, but I purchased it for my cellar, and have now drunk it on three separate occasions out of bottle. It is unquestionably one of the great Chateauneufs of my lifetime, and I suspect it will merit a three digit score after another 3-4 years of cellaring. The blend is generally 65% Grenache, 20% Mourvedre, and the rest small amounts of Muscardin, Vaccarese, Counoise, and Syrah. It exhibits what is probably the deepest color I have ever seen here, and the finished alcohol is a high (for Clos des Papes) 15.5%.
Still slightly restrained because of its recent bottling, but wow, what potential complexity, mind-boggling richness, and compelling flavor profile are apparent. It is a sublime expression of the art of winemaking as evidenced by its dense purple color and big, sweet kiss of kirsch, framboise, blackberries, licorice, roasted herbs, and smoked meat. It hits the palate with a fascinating combination of substance, power, full-bodied authority yet extraordinary freshness, elegance, and precision. Give it 3-4 years of cellaring, and watch it unleash its glory over the next three decades. This is a prodigious wine of great quality from one of the most important reference point estates in Chateauneuf du Pape.”
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Be sure to check back each week as we continue our Battle of the Rhone: North vs South, with thoughts from our Fine Wine team…the guys who drink all the good stuff!
Plus check out our latest special offer on Clos De Papes