October 25th 2016
James Low and I enjoyed the most incredible visit to this estate two weeks ago. Two hours was not nearly enough time to taste, nor discuss, the detailed, layered, intoxicating wine made chez Avril. And so we happily continued the conversation and tasting at Vincent’s ‘canteen’ (a great local restaurant with a daily changing set menu, La Table de Sorgues). So great is the demand this year that both of Vincent’s wines are strictly allocated, but we still wanted to share with you the tasting notes and details about the domaine. It really is an extraordinary place.
Rightly revered as one of the greatest growers of the appellation, Vincent Avril is lifting his long-established family estate to new heights. Having studied in Burgundy, and having trained in cellars all over the world (including a stage at Mouton Rothschild) Vincent has just seen in his 30th vintage at the domaine in 2016. He makes supreme wines, blending varieties from the moment they are picked, so that Grenache may be co-fermented with Syrah or Mourvèdre, or all three together. His various cuves are therefore mini blends, which show the development of the young wine as it ages before the final assemblage takes place. In 2015 he was delighted that a parcel of late ripening Mourvèdre reached maturity at the same time as a parcel of Syrah, a rare occurrence. Low yields ensure concentration, and the same team of pickers over the past 20 years safeguard careful selection of each bunch. The white is unoaked, and Vincent explains there are three important stages for the wine: 1) primary fruit and floral freshness in the first 1 to 2 years; 2) petrol minerality not dissimilar to Riesling between 3 and 5 years; 3) and finally notes of honey and grilled nuts, with a salty savoury character from 5 years plus. Vincent is not interested in creating super cuvées; for him just one red and one white are the best expression of this appellation.
Châteauneuf du Pape Blanc (allocation only)
£216.00 per 6 Bottles In Bond
This blend includes all six varieties authorised for the appellation’s white: Grenache Blanc (fruity flesh), Roussanne (power), Clairette and Picardin (finesse), Bourboulenc and Picpoul (acidity). In its extreme youth it has a dazzling array of primary pear and pineapple, accented by vanilla and nutmeg spice. There is a genuine sweet ripeness to the palate, which nevertheless retains elegance. It has all the ingredients to develop seamlessly through the three stages of great Clos des Papes Blanc. Drink 2017 – 2025
Châteauneuf du Pape Rouge (allocation only)
£276.00 per 6 Bottles In Bond
£285.00 per 3 Magnums In Bond
A high proportion of 35% Mourvèdre brings finesse and elegance to this blend, and ensures the alcohol is checked below 15%. Mourvèdre does particularly well on the clay soils of Châteauneuf, whilst Grenache finds its most mineral expression on the pockets of sandy soil that pepper the appellation. The core of the blend’s 60% Grenache comes from an excellent 7 hectare sandy parcel right next to Château Rayas. It has the peppery warmth of southern France, the herby flecks of Provençal garrigue, the sweet ripe fruit of a silky core, and a long, mineral finish. The overall blend has a freshness and tension one would not immediately associate with Châteauneuf, particularly in a warm year. But Vincent has succeeded in producing a wine that transcends its appellation; this is a truly great wine. Drink 2019 – 2035