Domaine Auguste Clape – Cornas Greatness

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Perhaps not as refined tannins as in 2010, but that is compensated by a to die for-coolness in the vibrant and pure fruit. Add some oriental spices, black olives in brine, a dash of greenness, violets, loads of oozing wet rocks and you probably understand the 2011 Cornas from Pierre-Marie and Olivier Clape is right up my alley. 

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I’m not going to claim that Pierre-Marie’s and Olivier’s traditional winemaking approach results in a wine more true to its terroir. But at the very same moment I’m not sure my preferences can come up with a better example than Domaine Auguste Clape. Natural yeasts, no destemming, picking late, fermenting in concrete, aging in old foudres and no filtration, would seem a more honest way of respecting a vineyard and what it produces, but there is still a personal belief and intervention. The winemaker’s interpretation. In the case of Clape it is the last part that perfects the terroir presence. I simply call it skills. And an taught instinctive feel.

Domaine Auguste Clape is all about blending. The Cornas wine is a mix of grapes from some of the best sites in the appellation. No single vineyard wines here. Obviously Auguste Clape started something quite extra-ordinary when he decided to bottle the stuff himself and not sell the wine to the big companies as was the standard half a century ago. The knowledge built up during the decades, passing it on to his son Pierre-Marie, has few competitors in the wine world today. With Olivier, Auguste’s grandson, comes yet a dimension of knowledge considering he has partly been trained abroad. Not to mention the acquisition of the really old steep Petite Syrah vineyard sites from the legend Noël Verset, adding even more age to their existing parcels. Gee, I wish Clape was a single subject in the oenology degree.

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The 2011 Cornas has a structure which impresses. Twenty years wont be an issue. Au contraire. Still quite seductive but will close down as most Clape wines do. My experience of Auguste Clape with age is limited to a handful of tasting notes. Still they show a pattern saying aging is rewarded – and necessary. The 2004 Cornas was a painful reminder roughly two years ago. Even for tasting purposes and understanding the bigger picture, it almost felt stupid to have it knowing how few of them are produced annually.

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In order to ease the Clape cravings, there’s since more or less 15 years, the Renaissance, a second wine Cornas of high quality. Younger vines on granitic soil. The vinification is similar to the treatment of the grand vin but the end result is a bit more flirty and straightforward. Still an old-school wine and a style which will call for aging. The 2011 Renaissance shows the same purity in its fruit as the Cornas but not the same intensity or the same massive tannin level. It’s still playing in a league few producers reach up to. After all, how many producers would call 20+ years old vines for young?

It’s difficult to find Domaine Clape. It’s not cheap but put in to context perhaps it is. After all, tell me where you will find as much personality in a wine, as much expression of the terroir and as much handicraft for the Clape price tag and I’ll listen.

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