Intoxicating scents of ripe plums, dried spices and dark chocolate...rich, full-bodied effort that's undeniably impressive... Dense and concentrated, it somehow manages to retain a sense of freshness, perhaps the influence of the long, anise-tinged finish.
Clos Saint Jean was founded in 1900 in Chateauneuf-du-Pape and is still a small, family-run operation known for traditionally styled wines. The estate produces 12,500 cases annually. Brothers Pascal and Vincent Maurel run the business. Clos Saint Jean produces primarily Chateauneuf-du-Pape, including one white Chateauneuf-du-Pape. The quintessential blend is 75% Grenache, 15% Syrah, 4% Mourvedre, 3% Cinsault, 2% Vaccarese and 1% Muscardin. The Sanctus Sanctorum bottling, however, is 100% Grenache from vines planted in 1905. Robert M. Parker Jr. has written that the fame of Clos Saint Jean “lies in the fact that they do not release their wines until they believe they are at the peak of perfection.”
Châteauneuf-du-Pape, the appellation, is a large area of nearly 8,000 vineyard acres centered around the picturesque town of Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Located in southeastern France just north of the Avignon hills, the name of the appellation means “new castle of the pope” and it is a reference to the 14th century, when the Popes of Avignon built summer homes in the Southern Rhone Valley. Today the appellation is one of the most renowned in France and its terroir is known for layers of small pebbles, called “galets.” The stones in the soil are thought to help store heat and keep the soil warm, which helps ripen the grapes. The stones also help keep the soil from drying out in hot summer months. In 1923 Châteauneuf-du-Pape was a leader in establishing the idea that AOC wines in France should be made only with specified grapes, and the appellation allowed 13 grape varieties to be used. Since then the rules have been slightly modified to include several more allowable grapes. Red and white wines are produced, though in practice about 97% of all Châteauneuf –du-Papes are reds made with a blend of Grenache Noir, Cinsault, Counoise, Mourvedre, Muscardine, Syrah and Vaccarese. The red wines of this appellation are prized for being big, rich, spicy and full-bodied. White wines of the appellation are made with Grenache Blanc, Clairette, Bourboulenc, Roussanne, Picpoul and Picardin. Whites are floral, fruity and relatively full-bodied.