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2019 Châteauneuf-du-Pape from Mont Olivet : the product of an exceptional vintage

March 2021

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Few critics have pronounced yet, but I expect the 2019 vintage in the Southern Rhône to go down as a great year. From my limited tastings of samples sent to me at home, it seems clear that 2019 will outperform the more opulent 2018s in terms of quality and longevity and could be inked in as a modern-day classic for Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Rhône critic, Jeb Dunnuck, commented as follows, while promising an in-depth review later this year: the 2019s ‘offer more depth, concentration, and richness, all while showing considerable purity of fruit and elegance.’ He adds that ‘in short, 2019 appears to be a beautiful, possibly exceptional, vintage for the Southern Rhône’.
I was fortunate to receive samples of both 2018s and 2019s from one of my favourite estates, namely ‘Clos du Mont Olivet’ run by three members of the Sabon family. I used to visit Celine, David and Thierry every year with my good friend, the late John Gauntley, who acted as agent for the estate in the UK. John had a great palate when it came to the Rhône and he certainly influenced my buying decisions early in my career. Mont Olivet was an estate on which we agreed wholeheartedly. In an era when Châteauneuf-du-Pape offered a plethora of different styles and many estates started to experiment and to create micro-cuvées from old plots in an effort to chase Parker points, there was something reassuringly traditional at Clos du Mont Olivet. That is not to say that things have not evolved here, but rather that the estate and its wines have not lost their identity or typicity.
Today the estate extends over 21 hectares in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, with a further 14 hectares in Lirac, to the west of the appellation, supplemented by 10 hectares in the Côtes du Rhône and 3 in the Vin de Pays du Gard. Their vines in Châteauneuf-du-Pape are spread across the appellation and include some of the most famous lieux-dits (or named vineyards), but Châteauneuf-du-Pape is ultimately a blend, so the different locations and terroirs contribute to the complexity of the estate’s wines. Additionally, where many Châteauneuf-du-Pape have moved towards Grenache, with Syrah and perhaps Mourvèdre, or maybe even wines made from 100% Grenache, Mont Olivet has a terrific supporting cast comprising a whole host of lesser known yet historical southern Rhône varieties, such as Counoise, Vaccarèse, Muscardin, Terret Noir and Picpoul Noir as well as Cinsault. Incorporating all these vines ties in beautifully with their philosophy of being true to their roots…and, of course, making complex, age-worthy wines.
Harvest time is a tricky period with so many different plots and varietals contributing to varied ripening times. Thierry is very careful with extraction – never wanting to push things too far by extracting too much from the skins, his preference is for elegance and with fruit as rich as that in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, his approach regularly pays dividends, not least in the recent hot, dry vintages. Each variety is kept separate for the straight Clos du Mont Olivet, allowing them to assemble the blend once they have had the chance to evaluate the fruit from different parcels and varieties. The assembled wine is then aged in either old oak foudres, barrels or in vat. Making great Châteauneuf-du-Pape relies on a whole host of skills and, given the exercise of blending, there is added complexity to the tasks and the resultant wine. The consistency of the wines of Mont Olivet stands testament to the series of decisions taken and never ceases to fascinate me, just as it did on my very first visit to the estate’s cavernous cellars in the heart of Châteauneuf-du-Pape.
I am really pleased to offer a trio of hugely impressive 2019s from Clos du Mont Olivet, including their new Lirac – they each offer exceptional value and great prospects for ageing. Please see my full notes below.


2019 Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Clos du Mont Olivet
£145 per 6 bottle case in bond

A blend of 80% Grenache, 10% Syrah, 6% Mourvèdre and 4% from a mixture of Cinsault, Counoise, Vaccarèse, Terret Noir and Picpoul Noir.
Deep crimson in the glass with a stunning nose of dark fruits, wonderfully ripe, kirsch and aromatic Provençal herbs, or garrigue as it is so often described. This couldn’t be from anywhere else but the Southern Rhône – it reveals a gorgeous, juicy fruit on the palate with notes of fragrant red fruit adding lift to spiced loganberry and blackberry. The tannins are impeccable, so fine-grained and barely intrusive even at this young stage. While it is admirably concentrated, it never loses its focus and sense of balance. Slight mineral notes come through to the finish, as does a certain peppery quality to the fruit, but nothing distracts from the beautifully pure fruit on show. A classic example in the making. Drink 2022-2034 (SL)

2019 Châteauneuf-du-Pape, La Cuvée du Papet, Clos du Mont Olivet
£295 per 6 bottle case in bond

This wine is only made in exceptional vintages from the oldest Grenache vines on the estate, planted in 1901 in the two lieux-dits of Mont Olivet and Bois Dauphin. The Grenache component accounts for approximately 75%, with Mourvèdre and Syrah in support. Here, the three varieties are fermented together.
Deeper in the glass than the ‘Mont Olivet’ above, the aromatics are really quite something. Notes of juicy dark fruits, sous-bois or forest floor, lavender and aromatic herbs, but also a touch of liquorice. The palate is intense, with a broad swathe of admirably ripe, lightly spiced dark, luscious stone-fruits. There is an endless sense of depth here, layer after layer of expressive fruit. It just gets better and better in the glass; the tannins are so sleek, but currently hold the fruit just about in check. What fascinates me is how such a rich, powerful wine can retain such freshness in a vintage like 2019. This is simply stunning – a benchmark Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Drink 2025-2040. (SL)

 Footnote : I have been fortunate enough to taste some of the very greatest vintages of Cuvée du Papet, including the 2007, the 2010 as well as the 1990 and 1989. I have little doubt that the 2019 will join this exceptional set. If you look at the reviews for these vintages, you will quickly note that they rank as some of the most revered wines in the region and rightly so.
2019 Lirac, Cuvée Marie-Jausset, Clos du Mont Olivet
£105 per 6 bottle case in bond

The Sabons employ the same approach here as they do with Cuvée Papet, this time in Lirac. This is an expression of the best plots in their vineyards in Lirac and is named in honour of the great grandmother. The vines are located in Saint-Laurent-des-Arbes and Saint-Geniès-de-Comolas. The blend is 85% Grenache and 15% Syrah.
This blend is an absolute success. Bright in the glass with a youthful purplish hue, the nose offers fragrant red and dark fruits like summer berry pudding. There is a beautiful, lifted floral accent that continues to the palate, which is packed with spiced raspberry fruit and notes of garrigue. This is just so streamlined, bright and juicy fruit all the way, but there is a complexity too, with spice, black olive and dusky damson notes gradually unfurling. The Sabons have always produced good Lirac, but this raises the bar. It will be interesting to see how this ages over the mid-term as it certainly warrants some cellarage. A very fine new addition in its second vintage. Impressive and something of a snip. Drink 2022-2030 (SL)
It is an absolute joy to be offering these wines once more – previous bottles have lived long in the memory.

Please let us know of your interest.
All the best,

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