Mention Cornas and you will probably include Auguste Clape in the same breath. The son of a chartered accountant, Auguste Clape first came to Cornas in 1949 to marry his wife, the daughter of a local winegrower. Today the two are still happily married, live in the same family house and farm the family vines (many now approaching 100 years in age).
His is the leading estate in Cornas ( a small appellation comprised of some 250 acres), a leader in the Nothern Rhône and one of the finest producers in all of France. The wines are in a class of their own with an inimitable intensity and richness — as well as great charm and depth of flavor.
Clape, at 80 years old, is one of the few remaining old heroes and an icon of French winemaking. He now works along with his son Pierre-Marie making wines in the same way he has for decades. Anyone who has decided to seriously explore Syrah cannot consider their work done until they have had a Clape Cornas. A deeply inky, mineral-rich wine that is in a class of its own given its power, depth, and complexity. That being said, it would be a mistake to overlook his other wines, including his white wines.
Clape’s Côtes-du-Rhône Blanc is 100% Marsanne with fermentation done in cement vats and aged in stainless steel. Light, golden straw in color. Light notes of citrus, lemon curd, honey, white flowers on the nose. On the palate, pear, Fuji apple, pomelo, quince and white pepper on the palate with a very pronounced and steely minerality. A bit oily, rich and textured with crisp acidity. Medium body, impeccable balance and a solid finish. A great start to the 2009 — and might just be my choice to end the year next December. Recommended.
The wine is imported by Kermit Lynch — a national treasure and and icon in his own right. I often recall Eric Asimov’s profile of Lynch, which certainly is one of the better attempts at defining his contribution to the wine world and is definitely worth a read. I am also currently reading Inspiring Thirst: Vintage Selections from The Kermit Lynch Wine Brochure — which is a collection of his musings from from 1974-2003. It is a very entertaining and enjoyable read, but seeing the prices from 30 years ago is a tough pill to swallow. For example, Lynch sold the 1980 Auguste Clape Cornas for $7.95 a bottle — on sale from the regular price of $8.75.
Speaking of prices, you can now get in on pre-arrival on wines from Auguste Clape (and Thierry Allemand) — which might not be a bad idea as I expect prices will only continue to increase once the reviews start to come in on the 2006 offerings. His 2006 Cornas is priced at $72 a bottle, which may seem expensive compared to the 1980 price, but if you can find the 2005 Cornas you will probably pay $100 or more for a bottle. All the details are in the latest newsletter from Kermit Lynch.