There’s something mysterious about a good Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Not just because the blend of the 13 varietals (Grenache, Mourvedre, Syrah, Cinsault, Muscardin, Vaccarese, Picardin,
Picpoul, Bourboulenc, Terret Noir, Counoise, Clairette, and Roussanne) is always unknown, but because the flavors are a perfect marriage for me of elegance and rusticity. I’ve rarely had any California wine that comes close to duplicating the leathery, earthy, and herbal components that integrate with the fruit flavors of these wines. They’re among my favorite wines to drink with food because of their soft tannins and good acidity.
One can hardly find a better example of Châteauneuf-du-Pape than those wines made by Domaine du Caillou, or Domain Clos du Caillou, as it is sometimes know. Caillou is run by the Vacheron-Pouizin family, and was under the direction of Jean-Denis Vacheron, who took the helm in 1996 and spent the next 6 years turning Caillou into one of the most sought after names in the region until his tragic death in 2002 in a car accident at the age of 35. His wife, Sylvie Pouizin, whose family has owned the estate for decades, currently runs the estate and has hired Bruno Gaspard as winemaker and manager, who was formerly winemaker at Château du Trignon in the Gigondas.
The domaine has been around for a long time, long enough to have Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre wines between 75 and 100 years old at this point. Caillou makes about nine different wines, six of which are classified as Cotes-du-Rhone-Villages as the result of a 1923 survey which placed several of their vineyards outside of the Châteauneuf-du-Pape appellation. This despite the fact that the estate sits adjacent to Château Beaucastel and Château Rayas, two of the more famous estates in the appellation.
This wine, one of the few that can carry the CNP designation, is from a single vineyard named “Les Quartz” for the raw chunks of quartz which dominate the soil.
One of the interesting things about this wine is that it is labeled “Red Rhone Dessert Wine” in little letters on the back label, presumably due to its alcohol content which is over 14%.
A dark garnet in the glass, this wine has a lovely nose of redcurrant, leather, violets, and smoked meats. In the mouth it has perfect acid balance and lush silky tannins supporting gorgeous flavors of cherries, raspberries, leather, and briary green wood. The finish is breathtakingly long. Really a superb wine, and while it is drinking perfectly now, I can imagine it improving over the next 5 to 8 years.
I drank this wine with a rack of lamb with chanterelles, shell beans, green beans, and sautéed squash blossoms. It was a perfect match.
Overall Score: 9.5
How Much?: $60
This wine is readily available for purchase online.