From the lightest, sandiest soils in the Gras Châteauneuf stable, the 2018 Chateauneuf du Pape Les Saintes Vierges is a blend of 80% Grenache, 18% Mourvèdre and 2% Cousoise. Befitting its origins, it's the most perfumed of the three wines this year, with floral, rose-like notes, a veritable potpourri of spice and herb shadings and a vibrant core of red berries. It's labeled (like the others) at 14% alcohol but feels lighter on the palate, soaring in silky arches of intermingled red berries and delicate tannins, then lingering elegantly on the finish. This prominent Gigondas estate owns several small parcels in Chateauneuf du Pape, three of which are bottled separately. Young Benjamin Gras believes in a lengthy elevage, so this was a first chance to see the 2017s out of bottle, as well as the newly bottled 2018s. Unfortunately, there was no 2018 La Crau Ouest produced (mildew). (JC)
Perfumes of violet and rose petal linger from nose to finish in this graceful red. Made with 90% Grenache (augmented by 9% Mourvèdre and 1% Counoise), the wine is sourced from sandy soils in the lieu-dit Les Saintes Vierges. Pristine and piercing red-cherry and raspberry flavors tread softly on silk-tipped tannins. Thrilling young, the wine should hold well through 2035. (AI)
Moving to the three Châteauneuf du Pape that I was able to taste, 2018 Châteauneuf Du Pape Les Saintes Vierges shows a beautiful bouquet of kirsch liqueur and wild strawberry-like fruits interwoven with notes of dried flowers, new leather, and Asian spices. These all carry over to the palate where the wine is medium to full-bodied, has a seamless texture, ultrafine tannins, and a great finish. This beautiful, elegant, floral, already complex Châteauneuf du Pape is ideal for drinking over the coming 12 to 15 years. The young yet obviously talented Benjamin Gras continues to make an elegant, beautifully balanced style of wine from this benchmark estate in Gigondas, which now also produces a handful of terrific Châteauneuf du Pape. He’s made the most of the 2018 vintage, and these are impressive wines.
Soft-edged, with elegant cassis, blood orange and cherry puree notes gliding through, lined with light hints of rose petal, red licorice and lavender through the finish. Drink now through 2035.
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