Clos Saint-Jean Sanctus Sanctorum (1.5 Liter Magnum) 2020
Critical AcclaimAll Vintages
Lastly, the 2020 Châteauneuf Du Pape Sanctus Sanctorum is always all Grenache from a single parcel of very old vines in the La Crau lieu-dit. I wouldn't be surprised if there was a touch of whole cluster here, but in general this cuvée is mostly destemmed. Brought up in equal parts new and once-used demi-muids, it offers a brilliant array of kirsch liqueur, blackberries, herbes de Provence, and scorched earth, with just a kiss of classy background oak. This is never the biggest or richest wine in the lineup (it's also never the deepest colored), but it's a wine that brings incredible intensity, depth, and complexity while staying flawlessly balanced. It needs just a few years in the cellar and should evolve for two decades. It's a singular expression of old vine Grenache that I wish every reader could taste. Best after 2024.
Very alluring, and while densely packed, this is very silky and refined in feel. Presents perfumed raspberry, cherry and plum puree notes laced with sandalwood, incense and rooibos tea. Flirts with exotic as the fruit hangs on the finish, where a sweet wood spice hint echoes late. Approachable for its beguiling nature, but there's no rush at all. Drink now through 2040.
Clos Saint Jean is a 41 hectare estate in Châteauneuf-du-Pape run by brothers Vincent and Pascal Maurel. Considered by many critics and wine-writers as the preeminent estate espousing the modern style of winemaking in Châteauneuf, this cellar is one of the oldest in the region having been founded in 1900 by the great-great-grandfather of Vincent and Pascal, Edmund Tacussel. A short time after its founding and well before the AOP of Chateauneuf-du-Pape was created in 1923, Edmund began bottling estate wines in 1910.
The various vineyards of Clos Saint Jean are located primarily in the region of Le Crau. This plateau is perhaps the most iconic of the many terroirs of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, iron-rich red clays topped with galets. While about 60% of their vineyards are located here, specifically in the lieu-dits of Côteau de Saint Jean and Cabane de Saint-Jean, another 40% are located in alluvial clay and sandy soils adjacent to the plateau. They also own a small parcel of Mourvedre in the lieu-dit of Bois-Dauphin near Château Rayas planted on sandy, limestone-rich soils.
The farming at Clos Saint Jean is fully sustainable due to the warm and dry climate which obviates the need for chemical inputs. Vincent and Pascal employ organic methods for pest control, mainly pheromones to prevent pests from taking up Le Crau with Châteauneuf-du-Pape on the horizon.
Famous for its full-bodied, seductive and spicy reds with flavor and aroma characteristics reminiscent of black cherry, baked raspberry, garrigue, olive tapenade, lavender and baking spice, Châteauneuf-du-Pape is the leading sub-appellation of the southern Rhône River Valley. Large pebbles resembling river rocks, called "galets" in French, dominate most of the terrain. The stones hold heat and reflect it back up to the low-lying gobelet-trained vines. Though the galets are typical, they are not prominent in every vineyard. Chateau Rayas is the most obvious deviation with very sandy soil.
According to law, eighteen grape varieties are allowed in Châteauneuf-du-Pape and most wines are blends of some mix of these. For reds, Grenache is the star player with Mourvedre and Syrah coming typically second. Others used include Cinsault, Counoise and occasionally Muscardin, Vaccarèse, Picquepoul Noir and Terret Noir.
Only about 6-7% of wine from Châteauneuf-du-Pape is white wine. Blends and single-varietal bottlings are typically based on the soft and floral Grenache Blanc but Clairette, Bourboulenc and Roussanne are grown with some significance.
The wine of Chateauneuf-du-Pape takes its name from the relocation of the papal court to Avignon. The lore says that after moving in 1309, Pope Clément V (after whom Chateau Pape-Clément in Pessac-Léognan is named) ordered that vines were planted. But it was actually his successor, John XXII, who established the vineyards. The name however, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, translated as "the pope's new castle," didn’t really stick until the 19th century.
Grenache thrives in any warm, Mediterranean climate where ample sunlight allows its clusters to achieve full phenolic ripeness. While Grenache's birthplace is Spain (there called Garnacha), today it is more recognized as the key player in the red blends of the Southern Rhône, namely Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Côtes du Rhône and its villages. Somm Secret—The Italian island of Sardinia produces bold, rustic, single varietal Grenache (there called Cannonau). California, Washington and Australia have achieved found success with Grenache, both flying solo and in blends.