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Roger Sabon, Chateauneuf-du-Pape Les Olivets 2016
Grenache 80%, Syrah 10%, Cinsault 10%
Now this is really something special in what is regarded as a spectacular vintage in the Rhone Valley. The Cuvee Prestige is made from vines of a minimum age of 90 years being mainly Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault and Mourvedre but they also add the little known but permitted varieties of Muscardin, Terret, Vacarese and Counoise. This wine needs time to develop to really show reward.Â
Made from the youngest vines on the property with an average age of 50 years, Les Olivets is the largest production Chateauneuf-du-Pape at Domaine Roger Sabon. This Grenache-dominant cuvee also includes about 10% each Syrah and Cinsault and it is aged entirely in foudres and concrete tanks. Hand harvested, destemmed, 20 day maceration with daily delegate. Aged 15 months in 40hl foudres and concrete tanks
The Sabon family is an ancient and well-regarded name in Chateauneuf-du-Pape first mentioned in documents dating to 1540. Perhaps not as venerable as the Ameniers of Domaine de Marcoux and Domaine Giraud, but still eminently respectable. A more recent patriarch of the family, Seraphin Sabon first bottled wine in the appellation under the family's name in 1921. He also fathered three very enterprising sons, all of whom established their own domaines: Joseph Sabon at Clos du Mont Olivet, Noel Sabon at Chante Cigale and Roger Sabon. The Sabons are like the Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young of the village. Domaine Roger Sabon was founded in 1952 and is currently run by Roger's sons Denis and Gilbert. A third son, Jean-Jacques is deceased but his son-in-law Didier Negron is the current winemaker. Denis and his son Julien oversee the farming while Gilbert and his niece, Delphine run the office. It is quite the family affair! The size of the domaine has grown slowly over the years with 18 hectares in Chateauneuf du Pape, 8 hectares in Lirac and 8 hectares in Cotes-du-Rhone. Most of their holdings in Chateauneuf-du-Pape are located in the northeastern part of the appellation, where the soils are sandier with a high concentration of limestone. They also own a few parcels in Le Crau famous for its red clay under a deep layer of galets deposited from the alps eons ago. These two soil types combine to make wines that are equally rich and nuanced. Since 2001 Didier Negron has made the wines at Domaine Roger Sabon, but recently he's begun to move away from demi-muids and barriques in favour of aging his family's wines in concrete and large French oak foudres. While the terroir of Roger Sabon, with its high concentration of sand and limestone, has always been inclined to a more ethereal and delicate style of Chateauneuf, Didier's changes in the cellar have amplified these qualities - the wines have never been more engaging and lovely. While Grenache is the mainstay at the Domaine, they also grow Syrah, Mourvedre, Cinsault, Terret Noire, Counoise, Vaccarese Muscardin, Roussanne, Clairette, Bourboulenc and Grenache Blanc. They own some fairly old Syrah, about 60 years old, located on limestone soils which is an important component in the Prestige bottling. Their oldest vines, topping 100 years old, are located in two plots near Courthezon, and are the source for the Secret des Sabon. While details are sketchy and the Sabons are shy about divulging any information about this cuvee, it is safe to assume that these vines are primarily Grenache. In the cellar there is a single demi-muid in the shadows which is presumably the Secret des Sabon, but once again polite inquires are met with a Gallic shrug.
Wine Advocate 92pts (2016) - Tasted blind, the 2016 Chateauneuf du Pape les Olivets shows gorgeous aromas of purple raspberries and garrigue. Full-bodied and even a bit chewy, it picks up hints of mocha and licorice on the long finish. It's a blend of 80% Grenache and 10% each Cinsault and Syrah, matured in foudres and oak vats.