Auguste Clape Vin des Amis Rouge 2019
Critical AcclaimAll Vintages
Not quite as seductively aromatic as the 2020 version, the 2019 Vin de France Le Vin des Amis still boasts great fruit expression. Cassis and black olive notes dominate this medium to full-bodied effort. Quite richly textured and concentrated. Best After 2021
In the world of wine, there are many good winegrowers. However, there are only a very select few who are truly great, and Auguste Clape will go down in history as one of the greats. A proud and uncompromising pioneer of fine winemaking in the Northern Rhône, his Syrahs from the cru of Cornas have earned their place 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 Auguste's 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. Without pretense or fanfare, Auguste, the former mayor of Cornas, was a stately picture of grace and magnanimity—a no-nonsense wise man who never rested on his laurels and sought to better himself and his wines each year until his passing in 2018 at the age of 93. Today, his son, Pierre-Marie, and grandson, Olivier, carry on his legacy with honor and integrity.
A long and narrow valley producing flavorful red, white, and rosé wines, the Rhône is bisected by the river of the same name and split into two distinct sub-regions—north and south. While a handful of grape varieties span the entire length of the Rhône valley, there are significant differences between the two zones in climate and geography as well as the style and quantity of Rhône wines produced. The Northern Rhône, with its continental climate and steep hillside vineyards, is responsible for a mere 5% or less of the greater region’s total output. The Southern Rhône has a much more Mediterranean climate, the aggressive, chilly Mistral wind and plentiful fragrant wild herbs known collectively as ‘garrigue.’
In the Northern Rhône, the only permitted red variety is Syrah, which in the appellations of St.-Joseph, Crozes-Hermitage, Hermitage, Cornas and Côte-Rôtie, it produces velvety black-fruit driven, savory, peppery red wines often with telltale notes of olive, game and smoke. Full-bodied, perfumed whites are made from Viognier in Condrieu and Château-Grillet, while elsewhere only Marsanne and Roussanne are used, with the former providing body and texture and the latter lending nervy acidity. The wines of the Southern Rhône are typically blends, with the reds often based on Grenache and balanced by Syrah, Mourvèdre, and an assortment of other varieties. All three northern white varieties are used here, as well as Grenache Blanc, Clairette, Bourbelenc and more. The best known sub-regions of the Southern Rhône are the reliable, wallet-friendly Côtes du Rhône and the esteemed Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Others include Gigondas, Vacqueyras and the rosé-only appellation Tavel.
Marked by an unmistakable deep purple hue and savory aromatics, Syrah makes an intense, powerful and often age-worthy red. Native to the Northern Rhône, Syrah achieves its maximum potential in the steep village of Hermitage and plays an important component in the Red Rhône Blends of the south, adding color and structure to Grenache and Mourvèdre. Syrah is the most widely planted grape of Australia and is important in California and Washington. Sommelier Secret—Such a synergy these three create together, the Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre trio often takes on the shorthand term, “GSM.”