Made from close to 100% Grenache and all from sandstone soils, the 2016 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Les Safres offers more framboise, strawberry and kirsch-like notes to go with a full-bodied, layered style on the palate. Ripe, textured, and incredibly sexy, yet with building tannin (it’s more structured than the traditional cuvée), it's going to just sing on release, yet keep for 15+ years of more. Clos du Caillou, under the helm of the Vacheron family, with Bruno Gaspard as winemaker and Philippe Cambie as consultant, continues to release a bevy of brilliant Côtes du Rhônes and Châteauneuf du Papes. As I wrote last year, the style has shifted slightly towards the more elegant side of the spectrum and apparent with the 2015s, which at times had me wishing for slightly more density and breadth, especially with the top cuvees. Nevertheless, the wines are brilliant and the 2015 vintage as a whole is a more streamlined, elegant vintage. The 2016s appear to be a return to wines with more oomph, density, and depth, and I think are a clear step up.
The 2016 Chateauneuf du Pape Les Safres delivers crisply defined cherry fruit, a richly tannic mid-palate and a long, focused, velvety finish. It looks likely to need a bit of cellaring but to be capable of aging up to two decades. This substantial estate totals 60 hectares in total, although only nine lie within Châteauneuf-du-Pape, concentrated in the sandier soils of the appellation's northeastern sector. On my visit, it was great to meet the young Marilou Vacheron, back to join the family estate after five years of business school, and the longtime (since 2002) winemaker Bruno Gaspard. The vineyards have been certified organic since 2010. Gaspard compares the 2016s to 2010 or 2005, he says, "but better."(JC)
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