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Clos du Caillou Chateauneuf-du-Pape Les Safres 2009
Critical AcclaimAll Vintages
—Robert Parker, The Wine Advocate
From robust Côtes-du-Rhône to memorable Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Clos du Caillou wines arguably represent some of the finest values in all of France. Proprietor Sylvie Vacheron and winemaker Bruno Gaspard are keeping the great work of the late Jean-Denis Vacheron alive with wines that are heady, robust and mouth-wateringly lush.
Caillou tends wonderfully old Grenache vines, some of which are 70 to 100 years old. With older Syrah and Mourvèdre added to the mix, it’s no wonder that Caillou wines are across the board impressive for their power, extract and deep minerality. The estate’s Châteauneuf terroir borders the impressive domaines of Chateau Rayas and Beaucastel.
Yet many of the Vacheron-Pouizin family's old vines are classified, by a quirk of 1923 politics, Côtes-du-Rhône and Côtes-du-Rhône-Villages. It’s why our Côtes-du-Rhône barrel selections show surprisingly like its kin in Châteauneuf-du-Pape.
In 1996 Jean-Denis Vacheron took full control of the viticulture and élévage at this estate. Under his stewardship, the wines of Caillou steadily gained stature, and today are benchmarks for the appellation. He understood that temperature-controlled fermentation and a cool, clean cellar are necessary to craft wines with refinement and true complexity.
Famous for its full-bodied, seductive and spicy reds with flavor and aroma characteristics reminiscent of black cherry, baked raspberry, garrigue, olive tapenade, lavender and baking spice, Chateauneuf-du-Pape is the leading sub-appellation of the southern Rhône River Valley. Large pebbles resembling river rocks, called "galets" in French, dominate most of the terrain. The stones hold heat and reflect it back up to the low-lying gobelet-trained vines. Though the galets are typical, they are not prominent in every vineyard. Chateau Rayas is the most obvious deviation with very sandy soil.
According to law, eighteen grape varieties are allowed in Chateauneuf-du-Pape and most wines are blends of some mix of these. For reds, Grenache is the star player with Mourvedre and Syrah coming typically second. Others used include Cinsault, Counoise and occasionally Muscardin, Vaccarèse, Picquepoul Noir and Terret Noir.
Only about 6-7% of wine from Chateauneuf-du-Pape is white. Blends and single-varietal bottlings are typically based on the soft and floral Grenache Blanc but Clairette, Bourboulenc and Roussanne are grown with some significance.
The wine of Chateauneuf-du-Pape takes its name from the relocation of the papal court to Avignon. The lore says that after moving in 1309, Pope Clément V (after whom Chateau Pape-Clément in Pessac-Léognan is named) ordered that vines were planted. But it was actually his successor, John XXII, who established the vineyards. The name however, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, translated as "the pope's new castle," didn’t really stick until the 19th century.
With bold fruit flavors and accents of sweet spice, red Rhône blends originated from France’s southern Rhône Valley. Grenache, supported by Syrah and Mourvèdre typically form the base of the blend, while Carignan, Cinsault and Counoise often come in to play. With some creative interpretation, Rhône blends have also become popular in Priorat, Washington, Australia and California.
In the Glass
The taste profile of a Rhône blend will vary according to its individual components, as each variety brings something different to the glass. Grenache is the lightest in color but contributes plenty of ripe red fruit and a plush texture. Syrah supplies dark fruit flavors, along with savory, spicy and earthy notes. Mourvèdre is responsible for a floral perfume and earthy flavor as well as structure and a healthy dose of color. New World examples tend to be fruit-forward in style, while those from the Old World will often have more earth, structure and herbal components on top of ripe red and blue fruit.
Rhône red blends typically make for very food-friendly wines. These can work with a wide variety of meat-based dishes, playing equally well with beef, pork, lamb or game. Braised beef cheeks, grilled steak or sausages, roasted pork and squab are all fine pairings.
Some regions like to put their own local spin on the red Rhône blend—for example, in Australia’s Barossa Valley, Shiraz is commonly blended with Cabernet Sauvignon to add structure, tannin and a long finish. Grenache-based blends from Priorat often include Carignan (known locally as Cariñena) and Syrah, but also international varieties like Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. In California, anything goes, and it is not uncommon to see Petite Sirah make an appearance.