Clos des Papes is one of the great established names of Châteauneuf-du-Pape and in recent years has produced a succession of remarkable wines made by Paul-Vincent Avril. The 2005 Clos des Papes Red was voted Wine of the Year by Wine Spectator in 2007, this Grenache-based wine, already a Parker favourite, joined the ranks of collectible treasures. In 2009 his white wine reached No 10. Vincent Avril gave a fabulous vertical tasting of White and Red Chateauneuf du Pape “Clos des Papes”. I had the privilege of attending the Red Chateauneuf du Pape “Clos des Papes tasting at Kelly’s Resort Hotel and Spa, Rosslare, Co. Wexford.
There was a large attendance at this tasting and included were a number of wine writers.
“I take it as a compliment when people tell me that Clos des Papes makes a wine almost in the style of a Burgundy!” – Paul-Vincent Avril
Vincent Avril started to work at Clos des Papes in 1988. He trained at several other wineries before joining the family business at Clos des Papes. It could be said that Vincent Avril is a modern traditionalist. On the one hand, he destems the grapes, seeks low yields and does not filter. On the other hand, he eschews new oak and would not consider producing a high end cuvee. His philosophy is that would only serve to harm their main brand, which is Clos des Papes, a wine that has been produced for more than a century. In 2002, it was the idea of Vincent Avril to start using the unique embossed bottle you see for Clos des Papes to this day.
The vineyard of Clos des Papes consists of 35 hectares of vines that are spread over 24 separate parcels in the Chateauneuf du Pape appellation for the production of their wine. 4 hectares in their cooler terrior are reserved for grapes used in the production of their white Chateauneuf du Pape wine. 31 hectares are used to produce their red Chateauneuf du Pape. Part of what makes the wine of Clos des Papes special is the range of different terroirs and soils their vineyards are located in.
Clos des Papes Red is produced from about 65% Grenache, 20% Mourvedre, 10% Syrah and 5% from other varietals that range from Muscardin, Vaccarese to Counoise. It is the goal of Clos des Papes to always include a large portion of Mourvedre in the blend whenever possible for its spicy qualities and structural backbone.
Clos des Papes Blanc which made its debut in 1955 is produced from a blend of 20% Roussanne, 20% Grenache Blanc, 20% Clairette, 20% Bourboulenc and 20% Picpoul. The wine is aged in steel tanks for 6 months. The average annual production is close to 1,000 cases per vintage.
The winery also makes a red table wine called Petit Vin d’Avril. This was the first wine tasted. It is a well-balanced full bodied red wine. It is a blend of at least four vintages.
2012 Clos des Papes Châteauneuf-du-Pape
Violets, red cherries, raspberry and spicy plum scents make up the perfume. On the palate, the wine is silky, lively and fresh, expressing sweetness in the fruit, round, voluptuous textures and purity of flavour.
2011 Clos des Papes Châteauneuf-du-Pape
A deep ruby colour, medium bodied, the nose kicks in with spices, kirsch and peppery scents. The wine offers soft, round textures and a spicy, fresh, black cherry, fennel and black raspberry finish that is further complicated by a hint of spearmint on the endnote.One of the great vintages for Vincent & his team although yields were very low.
2010 Clos des Papes Châteauneuf-du-Pape
Full bodied, packed and stuffed with sweet, spicy berries, red fruits and floral notes. The wine is sweet, concentrated and dense. There is a lot of volume and depth in this wine. It leaves a lasting impression. A few years in the bottle should add a lot to this wine.
2009 Clos des Papes Châteauneuf-du-Pape
Black raspberries, cherry, floral on the nose, with silky textures, freshness, cherry and raspberry flavours that feel soft, fresh and silky on the palate. The wine leaves you with sweet cherries on the end note.
2006 Clos des Papes Châteauneuf-du-Pape
Thick, dense, yet light, the wine is packed with delicious, sweet, spicy red berries, kirsch, wet earth and floral scents with just a hint of sweet jam. Silky, plush and mouth filling, you can drink now, or age it. An excellent wine!
Kelly’s Resort Hotel and Spa, Rosslare, Co. Wexford has won many Hotel and Catering Review Awards over the years.
Andrew O’ Gorman, Secretary, Irish Guild of Sommeliers.
No need to look down your nose at the wine novice
When it comes to wine, Lucinda O’Sullivan asks if you are a buff or a bluffer?
Laura Kelly, Vincent Avril & Bill Kelly
We were down recently in that bastion of hospitality and tremendous food and wine that is Kelly’s Resort Hotel in Rosslare, where they were hosting a Spring Wine Tasting event, over four days, featuring French wine producers Vincent Avril of Clos des Papes Chateauneuf-des-Papes, and Benjamin Leroux, who is considered one of the most gifted and knowledgeable wine growers in all of the Cote d’Or.
Kelly’s is an incredible place and Bill and Isabelle Kelly are now celebrating the family’s 120th year in business. Bill is the fourth generation at the helm of Kelly’s and last year he was joined by the fifth generation, daughter Laura.
Kelly’s may be famous for its lavish food – but wine is a big passion in Bill’s life, which is why, at Kelly’s, you can enjoy some amazing wines at very good prices. You could actually say Bill married into the wine world, because Isabelle’s family are the aforementioned Avrils of Clos de Papes in Chateauneuf-du-Pape, who have been producing wines for 120 years.
Wine is a subject that can be intimidating for many, not helped by some of the pompous bluffers and buffs who pontificate about the “smell of diesel and the whiff of cat pee” on the nose.
Indeed, the pinning down of the provenance of the wine on the older TV series of The Restaurant by resident judges Messrs Doorley and Tullio became a joke, as they constantly picked the wrong countries. This time around, with the show now being sponsored by Aldi, they don’t have that task as the wines are blind tasted in advance by the celebrity chef and revealed on the show – so no more red faces!
Many years ago, I remember sitting with a self-styled ‘wine expert’ who happily quaffed over half a bottle of corked wine before it was drawn to his attention. Perhaps our palates vary and we all taste wines differently.
Vincent Avril was delivering the wine tasting on my visit. It was a vertical tasting (which means different vintages of the same wine) of the white Clos des Papes Chateauneuf-du-Pape, which they started producing in 1955.
Working backwards from 2013 through each alternate year to 2005, we tasted the wine at different stages. To obtain premium ripeness, the stems are completely removed from the green grapes, which are fermented for 21 days. They never touch oak, nor does any lactic acid fermentation take place. After ageing in steel tanks for six months, the wine is filtered and then bottled. It is best drunk either very young (1-4 years) or very old (10 or more years after the harvest). However, what Avril managed to do was make the whole wine-producing process so approachable, human and understandable.
Far from being up in the air about the whole thing, he told us very movingly how, from all the detailed records kept by his ancestors, he could see how each harvest fared and how they developed the wines.
He had worked very closely since he was a young man with his father, the very respected Paul Avril, who died in 2009 and is clearly much missed.
He told us of the differing parcels of land on his estate and how the soil in each parcel was different; how he had the same pickers every year who knew exactly what he wanted of them; how the grapes are picked by hand; how he is up on the tractor himself making sure the grapes are just right and transported safely back to the winery, where the estate also has its own state-of-the-art bottling plant.
Avril controls each stage of the wine production – nothing is left to chance. None of his wines ever go to a large consortium, they are all sold directly to his customers. This is a man who supplies wines to 35 countries and whose 2005 Clos des Papes red was, in 2007, voted wine of the year by the Wine Spectator. This Grenache-based wine, already a Parker favourite, joined the ranks of collectible treasures, while in 2009 his white wine reached No 10.
During the tasting, he told us how the wine aged, and how the various conditions in which it is stored could affect it. I came away convinced Monsieur Avril should have his own TV show educating people on the joys of wine.
Sunday Independent 22/3/2015