Clos Saint-Jean Deus Ex Machina Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2018
Deus ex Machina is a literary and dramatic term for a miraculous intervention that interrupts a logical course of events in a plot or play. A suitable name for a cuvée that had it’s start in the torrid vintage of 2003 when Philippe Cambie and Vincent Maurel made the decision to harvest at the end of September, weeks after their neighbors. Deus ex Machina is a blend of old vine Grenache from La Crau, aged in tank with equally ancient Mourvedre from the sandy soils of Bois-Dauphin aged in demi-muid.
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Another terrific effort from this estate, the 2018 Chateauneuf du Pape Deus Ex Machina shares a sense of elegance with its vintage stablemate, the La Combe des Fous. Kirsch, stone fruit, black cherries, licorice, pomegranate…the list could go on and on. And while the wine is undeniably full-bodied, it doesn't come across as heavy or hot, instead being built on a lacy, silky structure of fine tannins and rounded acids that linger on the finish.
As always, the 2018 Châteauneuf Du Pape Deus-Ex Machina checks in as a blend of 60% Grenache and 40% Mourvèdre that saw the Grenache aged all in concrete tanks and the Mourvèdre new barrels. This richer, full-bodied, meaty 2018 boasts a fabulous mid-palate as well as a complex nose of cured meats, toasted spices, peppery garrigue, loamy earth, blackcurrants, and blackberries. It certainly displays the more forward, seamless style of the vintage, yet still brings plenty of power and richness as well as length on the finish. It’s beautifully done yet unquestionably a more forward, approachable vintage for this cuvée. Give bottles 1-2 years in the cellar and enjoy over the following 15 years or so.
Alluring, with gently mulled Damson and raspberry notes infused with black tea, incense and garrigue accents. Subtle mineral edge adds length to the finish while pulling everything together nicely. Grenache and Mourvèdre. Best from 2021 through 2033.
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, Châteauneuf-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 Châteauneuf-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 Châteauneuf-du-Pape is white wine. 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, Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre form the base of the classic Rhône Red Blend, while Carignan, Cinsault and Counoise often come in to play. Though they originated from France’s southern Rhône Valley, with some creative interpretation, Rhône blends have also become popular in other countries. Somm Secret—Putting their own local spin on the Rhône Red Blend, those from Priorat often include Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. In California, it is not uncommon to see Petite Sirah make an appearance.