Owners: Paul-Vincent Avril and Claude Avril
Vineyard area: 32 hectares
Average annual production: Around 7,000 cases per year
Standard blend: 60% Grenache, 20% Mourvedre, 10% Syrah and >10% Vaccarese, Counoise and Muscardin
Chateauneuf du Pape (CNDP) is the Southern Rhone’s most heralded appellation and is named after the town’s 14th century papal palace (once a summer retreat for the Avignon popes). The Clos Des Papes estate, not far from the palace ruins, produces one of the appellation’s most revered reds and is considered the benchmark wine for CNDP quality. It is famed for its complexity, a characteristic credited to the 25 individual parcels of land spread across the appellation – with a variety of soils and altitudes – that are home to its vines.
The domaine, which originally formed part of the papal vineyards, first started bottling its wine as Clos des Papes in 1896 under the auspices of Paul Avril, whose family had been producing wine in the region since the 17th century. Paul was succeeded by his son Regis Avril and his grandson Paul Avril, who ran the winery from 1963 to 1987 and played an integral role in the formation of the Chateauneuf du Pape appellation. Having contributed greatly to the reputation and success of Rhone wines, Paul Avril passed away in 2009 at the age of 72.
The current manager of Clos des Papes is Paul Avril’s son, Paul-Vincent, who according to Jane Anson has “built on his father's legacy to turn the estate from a local legend to a global star.”
Clos des Papes’ ten most recent vintages (2004-13) have an average score of 95.5 from the Wine Advocate, with all of them achieving scores of 90 or above. This compares to an average of 93.1 for wines produced in the previous decade.
In recent years, several of the estate’s wines have come under the spotlight. In 2007, the Wine Spectator proclaimed the 2005 vintage Wine of the Year. James Molesworth, who awarded it 98 points, commented that “it should be a monster – à la the 1990 – when it reaches its peak”. Following this recognition, prices skyrocketed from £350 in October of that year to £900 the year after. It has since drifted: its current market price is £590 per 12x75 and it last traded for £505 in May 2015.
2007 and 2010 are the most highly scored vintages by the Wine Advocate, receiving 99+ and 99 points respectively from Robert Parker. Parker described the 2007 as “the greatest Chateauneuf du Pape made since 1978 and 1990”, calling it “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.” He says the 2010 “flirts with perfection.”
Other critics appear to share Parker’s enthusiasm. Jancis Robinson awarded the “sumptuous and glorious” 2007 19.5/20 and the 2010 19/20. James Molesworth (Wine Spectator) gave the 2010 97 points, and 98 to the 2010.
Although the prices of both wines were boosted following Parker’s reviews, they have run flat since. In the March 2014 Cellar Watch Market report, Liv-ex questioned whether this is because the Rhone is producing so many excellent vintages that even the very best ones do not see extreme demand.
Prices and points
Even if this is the case, quality continues to impact vintage prices. As the chart below shows, the 2007 and 2010 are commanding the highest secondary market values: £1,040 and £900 respectively. A notch below this, the 2003 and 2006 vintages – both with 98 points – appear to offer relative value: both are available for less than £600 per case.