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Average critic rating : 92.0 points
The 2008 Chateauneuf du Pape Vieilles Vignes is a 1,000-case blend of 70% old vine Grenache (60- to 100-year-old vines) and 30% Mourvedre (a much higher percentage than normal). One of the top half-dozen Chateauneuf du Papes of the vintage, it boasts a dark plum/ruby/purple color, full body, light to moderate tannin and lots of white chocolate, licorice, black currant, kirsch, incense and jus de viande characteristics. This beauty can be drunk now or cellared for a decade. It is a remarkable achievement for a vintage such as 2008. ||Christophe Sabon, his sister Isabelle, and their father operate one of the great Chateauneuf du Pape winemaking estates. They continue to invest in new vineyards as well as state-of-the-art winemaking equipment. Moreover, they never seem to be satisfied with the status quo, and are constantly challenging their past performances. Their 2007s were unbelievably good wines, the 2008s were among the finest wines of the appellation, and the 2009 vintage is another resounding success for them. The style is progressive, combining the best of traditional winemaking with the finest of a more modern approach. The wines all reflect their Provencal origins, only tiny quantities of new oak are used, and then only with the two grape varietals that can benefit from it (such as Syrah and Mourvedre). This is also a fabulous source for top wine values as the following tasting notes demonstrate. Christophe Sabon told me that the white varietals he works with tend to come from sandy and gravelly soils, so there is more finesse. Both Chateauneuf du Pape blanc cuvees are well-worth a search of the marketplace. Interestingly, Sabon achieves excellent acidity in his white Chateauneufs despite the fact that they go through 100% malolactic fermentation, an unusual practice for white Chateauneuf du Papes. His objective is to bottle them unfiltered, which he is able to do. The wines are also extremely low in SO2. As I wrote last year, Christophe Sabon made two of the finest Chateauneuf du Papes of 2008. The estate’s third cuvee, the Chaupin, was declassified into the traditional wine, which no doubt benefitted from it. Sabon told me there was more Mourvedre used in the blend in order to provide more structure and support to the Grenache in 2008. In 2009, all three cuvees were produced. I always think the harvest at Janasse must be one of the most difficult to manage as they have 200 acres of vines with over 200 separate parcels spread throughout the southern Rhone. Christophe told me it takes nearly two full days to just drive around and sample all the different vineyards to see where they are in terms of maturity. Wine Advocate.October, 2010
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