Paul Avril, the estate founder, was one of the key people contributing to the official birth of the Châteauneuf-du-Pape appellation in 1936. Today, Clos des Papes which takes its name from one of its plots located near the ruins of the 14th Century Papal castle, is still run by the Avril family and is made up by 24 small parcels throughout the appellation. This helps spread the harvesting time and get the most out of each site.
The current owner, Paul Vincent Avril, who Jeb Dunnuck describes as “one of the most talented and passionate winemakers in Châteauneuf-du-Pape” took charge in 1988. Staying true to the traditions of this 125 year old estate Paul Vincent produces wines that show amazingly consistent quality, no matter the vintage: “Clos des Papes remains one of the true reference point estates in Châteauneuf-du-Pape and is a safe buy in just about every vintage. I’ve yet to see the estate put a foot wrong, and even in more difficult vintages, they produce a beautiful, age-worthy wine, both with their white and red” (Jeb Dunnuck).
A wide array of terroirs ranging from the rocky soils to areas of sand, limestone and gravel lead to truly profound expressions found in each bottle. The vineyards are biodynamically farmed, green harvests and strict berry selection ensure a low yield, around 20 hl/ha. The grapes are destemmed prior to vinification which takes place in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. The wines are fined and not filtered and aged in old foudres before bottling.
Over more than a century the estate has been making just two cuvees, Clos des Papes rouge and Clos des Papes blanc. Clos des Papes rouge is always a blend of 60% Grenache, 20% Mourvèdre, 10% Syrah and the rest of the permitted varieties, aged for about 15 months in old foudres. It is “a staunchly traditional and world-class wine that always shines for its elegance and texture” (Jeb Dunnuck).
Clos des Papes Blanc is a blend of Roussanne, Grenache Blanc, Clairette, Bourboulenc and Picpoul, vinified and aged in stainless steel tanks for 6 months. It is a strikingly fresh white which ages beautifully for at least a decade: “I always find the white from this terrific estate to be near the top of the hierarchy in terms of quality, yet it’s made in a very different style than the likes of Beaucastel’s Blanc or the old vine Clairette from St. Prefert (or the whites from Vaudieu), and is more fresh, crisp and pure” (Jeb Dunnuck).
With just around 7,000 cases produced per year Clos des Papes cuvées remain some of the most sought after wines in the entire Rhone.