Domaine Auguste Clape Cornas 2015

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Critics and connoisseurs agree that Auguste Clape is one of the greatest pioneers of the Northern Rhône, and his Syrahs from the cru of Cornas are among the most celebrated wines of France. The Clapes have been vignerons for many generations, but the infamous grower strikes of 1906 and 1907 forced his grandfather out of the Languedoc and into the Northern Rhône to start anew from practically nothing. The Clapes rebuilt their fortunes, terrace-by-terrace, along the steep, western slopes of the Rhône River. For many years, the majority of growers in Cornas sold their fruit to négociants. Auguste was the first to bottle his own wine, which eventually paved the way for such contemporary superstars as Thierry Allemand. Without pretense or fanfare, Auguste, the former mayor of Cornas, is a stately picture of grace and magnanimity-a no-nonsense wise man who is still interested in learning. Today, he works side-by-side with his son, Pierre-Marie, and grandson, Olivier.

Though the Clapes farm only eight hectares, the challenge presented by the rough, tightly stacked terrace vineyards of Cornas is largely enough to handle by anybody's standards. The dicey precipices make using any machinery in the vineyards impossible. All work must be done by hand. There are no official rules to their viticultural methodology-they work the old-fashioned way, by instinct, feeling, and common sense. The vineyards sit on granite subsoil, behind the village, with optimal sun exposure. They own pieces of such prime parcels as Reynard and La Côte, as well as Les Mazards and Pied La Vigne. They also recently acquired the vineyard, Les Sabarottes, bought from the now retired Noël Verset. Their only secrets: starting with old vines, and optimizing the ripeness of the fruit as best they can. They accomplish this by holding out before they harvest-a risky game of 'chicken' where the trick is to keep the fruit on the vine as long as possible while still harvesting before the rains. Individual parcels are vinified separately in old, oval foudres. Long élévages of twelve to twenty-two months add depth to the natural complexity of the wines. The wines are capable of tremendous longevity in the cellar, but are also wonderful to try when young and fresh to better appreciate the evolution to come. For a taste of the old-style Syrah from the sculptured slopes of the Northern Rhône, Auguste Clape's Cornas is the standard bearer.

Category Red Wine
Varietal
Country France
Region Rhone
Appellation Cornas
Brand Domaine Auguste Clape
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Wine AdvocateClape's flagship 2015 Cornas is enormously complex and compelling. Almond skin, cherries, blood and herbal notes all combine on the nose, while on the palate this medium to full-bodied wine is firmly tannic but ripe and balanced, with a rich, velvety and nearly endless finish.

Neal Martin, December 2017

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