One of the oldest winemaking families in Châteauneuf du Pape, the Avrils began their vinous adventures in the early 17th century. Today, the domaine is run by Vincent Avril who took over from his father Paul in the early 1990s. 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 trained in cellars all over the world (including a stage at Mouton Rothschild) Vincent Avril saw in his 32nd vintage at the domaine in 2017. 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, and show the different facets of the final blend. Vincent is uninterested in creating super cuvées, so makes just one red and one white, which he considers the best expression of this appellation. He abhors the idea of selling any wine in bulk, and that 70% of the appellation is traded like this makes him furious. At Clos des Papes, if the fruit is not good enough for the blend it simply won’t make it as far as the winery door. Low yields ensure concentration, and the same team of pickers over the past 20 years safeguard careful selection of each bunch.
The emperor of southern Rhône appellations, Châteauneuf du Pape was the first A.O.C. in all of France, created in 1936. Their bottle is unique embossed with the papal coat of arms. Thirteen varieties (14 if Grenache Blanc is counted separately) can be incorporated in the blend. The reds include: Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Carignan, Cinsault, Terret Noir, Picpoul, Vaccarèse, Counoise, Muscardin, while the whites are Roussanne, Bourboulenc and Clairette. Only a handful of producers use all 13, Grenache often being the highest percentage of the blend. This enables each producer to highlight the varieties that are the ripest and most interesting in any given year. Most Châteauneuf du Pâpes are master examples of wines that can be approachable within the first few years of release yet able to develop superb complexity during many years of cellaring.