The joy of Clape
It doesn’t happen all that often – although I wish it did – but when it does, it serves as a reminder of exactly how mindblowing the finest wines can be. I’m talking of that moment when you first taste a really great wine. Not just a good wine, but a great wine. The sort of wine that you relive over and over again in your head (and mouth) ad infinitum and blab on about it’s glory to anyone who’ll listen.
Tonight, happily, I was lucky enough to try one of these wines. It was only a sample really, a sip or two, but it was enough to fall in love. Enough to have me still thinking about it hours later. Enough to have me trying to work out how to accurately describe it. Enough to have me questioning everything really.
That wine was the 2005 Clape Cornas, a Northern Rhone red of renowned, of high points, of serious reputation. And it was a wine that delivered. What makes it great is just how drinkable it is – as pointed out by the Australian importer, James Johnston of World Wine Estates. It’s actually a quite uncomplicated wine in that vein, with no new oak, reasonably low alcohol and rather savoury flavours. What makes it great is just how perfect it is. Think roasted meat (but not roasted fruit), red fruit and serious, dense tannins. It’s firm but not hard, soft but not light. It is, quite simply, the essence of what ‘Syrah’ is meant to be. And I loved it.
But the fun didn’t stop there tonight. No. Tonight’s selection also included the 2002, 2003, 2006, 2007 and 2008, plus the interloper second label 2008 Clape Renaissance. It was a lineup of consistency, of power, of ‘give me another glass please’ glory.
The only problem really is that at circa $160 a bottle it’s hardly cheap. Considering that I can buy 4 bottles for the price of a single bottle of Penfolds Grange however, it’s ultimately not all that much money considering the quality on hand.
Time to give the credit card a beating I think….
The wines (apologies for the vagueness. These are recollections mainly):
Clape Cornas 2002
Cool year. A slightly rustic, herbal wine in this context, tannins are still forthright and powerful. Dusty, slightly stinky but lots of enjoyment here. Good rustic style. Still interesting. 17/90
Clape Cornas 2003
From the hardcore, roasting 2003 vintage, this looked big and slightly stewed, but no questioning the impact and firm tannins. Slightly desiccated on the finish. Ka-pow wine. Drying out but with lots of concentration. 17.5/91
Clape Cornas 2005
(See above) 19/96
Clape Cornas 2006
It looks lighter, sweeter, softer, more feminine after the 2005, with lighter tannins and less power through the back end. A real red fruit style after the 05. Still with lots to hold onto here, this is nothing if not approachable. On its own I think I’d be frothing over this. 18/93+
Clape Cornas 2007
Ala 2005. It’s got that same delicate balance of meaty ripe fruit, red fruit and cola. It’s tighter and more restrained than the 05, but the hallmarks are there. Maybe not quite the length of the 05. Carries brilliant, long and delicious peppery mouthful of firm fruit. Ironstone edge to the back palate. Still no oak to be seen. Top shelf. 18.5/94+
Clape Cornas ‘Renaissance’ 2008
Set immediately lighter than the preceding wines.Still carries that granitic mineral edge, yet seems softer and the tannins are rather light in context. Silken tannins they are though. Needs more length for bigger marks. 17/90
Clape Cornas 2008
Take the Renaissance and add in more depth. More power. Still a cranberry edged wine without that minerally meaty core of limitless richness that the better vintages have. Almost GSM like in its freshness. A lesser wine in this lineup, but it’s a beautiful Shiraz. Lovely wine. 17.8/92