Roger Sabon Chateauneuf-du-Pape Prestige 2018
As with the other cuvées from Roger Sabon, the philosophy behind the Cuvée Prestige is to harvest the Grenache and Syrah early to preserve their natural acidity since the age of these vines – the oldest topping a century in age – will provide plenty of richness and concentration. As a result this wine walks the line between fresh red fruit, and dense black fruit flavors with additional complexity coming from a blend that also includes Mourvedre, Cinsault, Counoise, Vaccarèse, Muscardin and Terret Noir.
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Hints of violets and lavender appear alongside mixed berries on the nose of the 2018 Chateauneuf du Pape Prestige. While not overwhelmingly concentrated or dense, it's beautifully balanced, being medium to full-bodied on the palate, smooth and supple in feel and fresh on the cooling and silky finish, where it adds hints of mocha and darker fruit while retaining a sense of etherealness. It should drink well for a decade, perhaps a bit longer.
Reminding me of a Street market in the South of France, the 2018 Châteauneuf Du Pape Prestige sports a medium ruby/purple if you as well as a smorgasbord of Provençal goodness in its red and black fruits, Provençal herbs, garrigue, and new saddle leather-like aromas and flavors. Beautifully textured, medium to full-bodied, and flawlessly balanced, this is a smoking good 2018, I would be thrilled to have in the cellar. Drink bottles anytime over the coming 10 to 12 years. The blend is 70% Grenache, 20% Syrah and the rest a mix of permitted varieties, all from the Les Brusquières and Cabrières lieux-dits, brought up in 60% Foudre, 30% in tronconique tanks, and the rest in demi-muids.
This is nicely packed, with cassis, raspberry reduction and melted red licorice notes all layered together, followed by mesquite and and warm stone notes that bloom through the finish. Shows excellent range and character. Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Counoise and Vaccarèse. Best from 2023 through 2036.
Domaine Roger Sabon was founded in 1952 and is currently run by Roger’s sons Denis and Gilbert. A third son, Jean-Jacques is deceased but his son-in-law Didier Negron is the current winemaker. Denis and his son Julien oversee the farming while Gilbert and his niece, Delphine run the office. It is quite the family affair!
The size of the domaine has grown slowly over the years with 18 hectares in Chateauneuf du Pape, 8 hectares in Lirac and 8 hectares in Côtes-du-Rhône. Most of their holdings in Chateauneuf-du-Pape are located in the northeastern part of the appellation, where the soils are sandier with a high concentration of limestone. They also own a few parcels in Le Crau famous for its red clay under a deep layer of galets deposited from the alps eons ago. These two soil types combine to make wines that are equally rich and nuanced.
Since 2001 Didier Negron has made the wines at Domaine Roger Sabon, but recently he’s begun to move away from demi-muids and barriques in favor of aging his family’s wines in concrete and large French oak foudres. While the terroir of Roger Sabon, with its high concentration of sand and limestone, has always been inclined to a more ethereal and delicate style of Chateauneuf, Didier’s changes in the cellar have amplified these qualities – the wines have never been more engaging and lovely.
While Grenache is the mainstay at the Domaine, they also grow Syrah, Mourvedre, Cinsault, Terret Noire, Counoise, Vaccarèse Muscardin, Roussanne, Clairette, Bourboulenc and Grenache Blanc. They own some fairly old Syrah, about 60 years old, located on limestone soils which is an important component in the Prestige bottling. Their oldest vines, topping 100 years old, are located in two plots near Courthézon, and are the source for the Secret des Sabon. While details are sketchy and the Sabons are shy about divulging any information about this cuvée, it is safe to assume that these vines are primarily Grenache. In the cellar there is a single demi-muid in the shadows which is presumably the Secret des Sabon, but once again polite inquires are met with a Gallic shrug."
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, 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.