This year marks the 10th vintage I’ve tasted of Xavier Vignon Chateauneuf du Pape Cuvee Anonyme from the winemaker Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate affectionately refers to as the ‘mad scientist’. Let me say this from the start just to remove any shadow of doubt: It’s the best he’s done yet and by far. Here’s why.
2017 wasn’t the easiest of vintages to navigate for the average winemaker in the Southern Rhone. A weird bout of spring weather created headaches for many, with some vineyards not even producing fruit! Those that did had to change their blends or winemaking style– or both. Advantage, Xavier Vignon.
The ‘mad scientist’ is built for these types of challenges. In the best of vintages, Xavier (a chemist by nature) is constantly tinkering– experimenting with different blends, level of extraction, and vineyard sources. Each vintage, he’s able to craft the perfect answer to whatever nature throws his way.
Turbulence in 2017 called for drastic measures. Unlike the softball vintage of the previous year, the 2017 vintage called for a completely new playbook. Xavier cut way down on his extraction instead relying on infusion. The stress on the vines caused the grapes to hold back imparting a rich tannic backbone to the wine that produced a wine that more closely resembles truly legendary vintages like 2007 and even 2010.
So add this one to the canon of those rare vintages of CDP that can continue to age gracefully for 30 years. Of course, the top wines of the vintage are going to cost you. Hommage de Perrins from Beaucastel, but that’ll run you $450 a bottle. Le Clos du Caillou Reserve, with basically the same score – a cool $200 a bottle.
It’s not often that you find value among the most prestigious wines in the world, but that’s exactly what we have today. Buy a bottle of Hommage, why not? Or get six bottles of Xavier Vignon’s Châteauneuf du Pape Cuvee Anonyme and put the extra $100 in your pocket.
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Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate
Tasted from barrel, the 2017 Chateauneuf du Pape Cuvee Anonyme adds toasty notes, cedar and vanilla to the whirlwind of fruit Vignon was able to harness in 2017. Blueberries, black cherries and stone fruit notes abound in this plush, full-bodied red that remains silky and focused on the long finish. It looks to be a terrific effort.