Chateauneuf du Pape is the emblematic royalty of the Southern Rhone.  Within its large appellation acreage, there are many house styles and microclimactic differences that connoisseurs are recognizing in increasing detail.  Having followed Chateauneuf for almost a decade now, I can say that there seems to be a sweet spot to my palate: the North/Northeast quadrant.  With its larger quantity of sandy soils, higher elevation, and cooler temperatures, this area allows for a finesse driven balance and freshness that Grenache can sometimes lack in its heady higher alcohol levels, not to mention the fashion for ever bigger “luxury cuvees”.  Some of my favorite producers who fall into this burgundian, “pinot of the south” category include Chateau Rayas, Domaine de Ferrand, Domaine Charvin, Clos Saouma, and today’s introduction….
One of the first domaines to ever estate bottle in Chateauneuf is the Clos du Mont Olivet.  Mont Olivet websiteCreated in 1932 by the Sabon family, it takes its name from the lieu dit Mont Olivet, which is but one part of their diverse 28 hectares of holdings in Chateauneuf; the vast majority of their vineyards are in the N/NE sector.  They also own 17 hectares of land around the town of Bollene, roughly 20 miles north of Chateauneuf, from which they source all of their Cotes du Rhone bottlings.
Clos du Mont Olivet is a bastion of traditionalism, aging all wines in large neutral foudres; they are virtually all Grenache based, and have always had the same unifying house style of finesse and elegance throughout the generations.  The domaine is currently run by the grandchildren of Joseph Sabon:  Thierry, David, Celine, and Mylene.   With a firm root in tradition, this younger generation has pushed quality higher and higher with more vigilant and thorough vineyard management.  As is often the case, one can judge the work ethic of a domaine not only by their top wines (which should dazzle…), but rather by their humblest bottlings.  The various Cotes du Rhone wines that they produce deliver and then some, with the same tell tale elegance, power, and purity that are hallmarks of the estate.  I feel that is without question that they offer some the most outstanding quality/price rapport to be found, across their entire range, in particular their Chateauneuf wines.  The classic provencal character is there in spades….Their tete de cuvee, the Cuvee du Papet, is my candidate for the single greatest value in top tier Chateauneuf……this year’s rendition has already sold out, in particular because Robert Parker gave it 99 points and slew of superlatives…..but it is increasingly becoming my favorite example of a finesse driven show stopping traditional Chateauneuf, whose harmony is stunning, and whose age worthiness is classic.
My first step with the domaine just happens to be the stellar 2010 vintage; lucky for all of us!!
Here are the goodies, in stock, with reviews from Josh Raynolds of Tanzer’s IWC:
2010 Cotes du Rhone La Font de Blanche $12
“(60% grenache and 40% syrah):  Opaque purple.  Fresh blackberry and blueberry aromas and flavors are complicated by cracked pepper and violet, with a hint of smoke in the background.  Very smooth and open-knit, finishing with impressive clarity and peppery length.  Really shows the syrah right now. ” 88-90 points2010 Cotes du Rhone Monteiul la Levade $14

“(80% grenache, 15% carignane and 5% syrah):  Bright violet color.  Lively aromas of raspberry and candied rose, with a suave note of Asian spices and a hint of anise.  Juicy and focused, with very good depth and energy to its sappy red fruit flavors.  The seamless finish displays very good persistence and excellent cut.” 89-91 points2010 Cotes du Rhone Serre de Catin $17

“(100% grenache, aged in tank):  Full ruby.  Expressive red and dark berry aromas show very good clarity and a slow-mounting floral quality. Sappy and lush, with a silky texture and good depth to its fresh, peppery raspberry and cassis flavors.  Shows impressive persistence and energy on the finish, which leaves a spicy note behind.” 90 points2010 Cotes du Rhone la Varene $18
“(60% syrah and 40% grenache, raised in foudres and older barriques):  Inky ruby.  Cherry and cassis on the pungent nose and in the mouth.  Rich and broad, with a velvety texture and good finishing punch.  Less elegant than the other Cotes du Rhone bottlings here, showing a more brooding personality.” 89 points

2010 Chateauneuf du Pape Le Petit Mont $26
“Vivid ruby-red.  Expressive aromas of strawberry, raspberry, pungent herbs and spicecake. Seamless red fruit preserve and rose flavors show a smoky quality and gain weight with air, picking up a note of bitter cherry.  Rich but not at all heavy, finishing spicy, focused and persistent. ” 90-92 points

2010 Chateauneuf du Pape tradition $30
“”Deep ruby-red.  Ripe red and dark berry scents are complicated by notes of garrigue and licorice.  Lush, sappy black raspberry and mulberry flavors are lifted by a zesty mineral note and a hint of cracked pepper.  Shows good heft and finishes with sweet, clinging red fruit character.  Lots of power here but this wine is carrying no excess poundage.” 91-93 points2010 Chateauneuf du Pape Cuvee du Papet SOLD OUT
“Possibly the finest example of the Chateauneuf du Pape Cuvee du Papet since Mont Olivet’s unreal 1990, the 2010 is a blend of 75% Grenache, 15% Mourvedre and 10% Syrah, all aged in foudre. The grapes come from the estate’s oldest vines (50- to 105-years-old), which were planted in the famous sites of Mont Olivet and Bois Dauphin. A extraordinarily deep plum/purple color is followed by notes of balsam wood, raspberries, black currants, lavender, garrigue, kirsch, licorice and underbrush. This quintessential Chateauneuf du Pape smells like an open-air Provencal market. It is a full-bodied, full-throttle, multilayered wine with exceptional concentration, power and precision. While it can be approached now, it will not hit its prime for another 3-4 years, and should last for two decades given how well the 1990 continues to perform.”99 points Robert Parker

If you love the wines of southern France, and don’t yet know Mont Olivet, now is the time.  The 2010s are off the charts in their poise and intensity.  Quantities are quite limited, first come first served.
As always, with any questions or interests: rob@downtoearthwines.net
CHEERS TO THE FINESSE AND TRADITIONAL BEAUTY OF MONT OLIVET AND THE SABON FAMILY!
TO THE HEALTH OF YOU AND YOURS!
HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!!