"This has gorgeous aromas and mouthfeel, with freshly brewed Mocha Java, warm fig and incense notes up front, followed by dark, macerated currant and cherry fruit. The long finish is velvety and suave, with hints of mesquite, loam, licorice snap and sweet earth that just sail on. Best from 2010 through 2030. 535 cases made. –JM" (WS)
"On another level, the 2007 Chateauneuf du Pape Combe des Fous is a monumental bottle of wine that-s hardly budged since I first tasted it on release. Giving up heavenly aromas and flavors of black raspberries, cassis, incense, cured meats and exotic spices, this incredible effort flows onto the palate with a layered, impeccably balanced profile that carries massive concentration, polished tannin and a crazy length. Despite searching for something to be critical of, I came up empty.
Since taking control of the estate in 2002, and bringing on board rock star consultant Philippe Cambie, the Maurel brothers has been knocking it out of the park in literally every vintage. 2004? Gorgeous wines and easily at the top in a recent retrospective. The cooler, rainy 2008? Beautiful ripeness and texture, and again, at the top of the hierarchy. 2011 is the same story, and it’s amazing what this team has accomplished in all of their vintages. Looking at this retrospective, we went through all of their cuvees going back to 2003. Unfortunately, there’s no new information here, and this tasting simply confirmed what myself and Robert Parker have been saying for some time now; Clos Saint Jean is at the top of their game and producing some of the most singular, hedonistic and brilliant wines in the world.
Starting out with the classic Chateauneuf du Pape, it’s normally a blend of 75% Grenache, with the balance a mix of Syrah, Mourvedre, Cinsault, Muscardin and Vaccarese. As is common at this estate, the Grenache is aged all in tank, and the other varieties in a mix of tank and barrels. While I think this cuvee always lags the Vieilles Vignes bottling, it is consistently outstanding and always a super value.
Moving to the old vine cuvee, this is made especially for the US Market and is 85% tank aged, old vine Grenache, and the balance Syrah and Mourvedre. It too almost always represents a crazy value and has a broad drink window. I’m currently finishing up a case of the ’08, and purchased two cases of the 2010, which is just starting to open back up after closing down shortly after release.
As to the Combe des Fous release, this cuvée comes from a single plot of vines and is based largely on Grenache, with roughly 20% Syrah and 10% each of Vaccarese and Cinsault in the blend. The Grenache is aged all in tank and the other components see time in mostly demi-muids. While the Deux ex Machina always impresses more with its overt power and muscle, this cuvee always seems more polished, fine and elegant to me.
One of the greatest cuvees on earth, the Maurel brother’s Sanctus Sanctorum is 100% Grenache that comes from a single plot of vines in the La Crau lieu dit. Aged all in demi-muid, it’s been one of the greatest wines I’ve ever tasted, every time I’ve tasted it. All three of these were sheer perfection on this occasion, yet each has its own unique profile.
Lastly, and always the most powerful of the cuvees, the Deus Ex Machina is a blend of 60% tank aged Grenache and 40% demi-muid aged Mourvedre that all comes from 70-100 year old vines. The Mourvedre component is really what defines this cuvee, and it possesses the most obvious structure and mid-palate richness in the lineup. Seeming to hit maturity around age 10 or so, it can be consumed relatively early in its life due to its wealth of fruit, texture, and incredibly polished tannin. In addition, don’t miss this cuvee in the lighter vintages, as even their 2004 and 2008 show classic character and no shortage of richness." (WA)