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“Suave marriage of power and tension. 92 rating.”Josh Raynolds
Domaine La Vieille Julienne straddles the northern border of Châteauneuf du Pape. So, inevitably, some of its vines were left out of the Châteauneuf appellation when it was drawn in the 1930s.
Perhaps the greatest of these is Clavin, a site just outside the appellation whose sandy soil, ancient Grenache vines, relatively cool temperatures and non-southern exposures are nearly identical to the prime sites within the appellation.
Vieille Julienne’s proprietor, Jean-Paul Daumen, invests just as much talent and energy in making Clavin as he does in crafting his blue chip Châteauneufs. But because Clavin doesn’t wear the “Châteauneuf du Pape” name, it sells for for a tiny fraction of the price. A case in point is the incredible 2014 Clavin.
Both inside and outside of Châteauneuf, La Vieille Julienne has one of the region’s most unusual terroirs: very sandy soils in the cool north of the appellation, without the iconic galets roulés of the hotter south. The results are intensely perfumed wines that deftly walk the tightrope of deep richness and fresh elegance.
And in recent years, vigneron Jean-Paul Daumen has taken his old-vine fruit from this singular place and made La Vieille Julienne a Châteauneuf superstar, with several site-specific cuvées among the appellation’s elite.
But these aren’t the only wines that capture the La Vieille Julienne magic: Jean-Paul’s 2014 Côtes du Rhône lieu dit Clavin is fabulous as well. Named for the old vine site from which it is sourced, Clavin is cut from the same cloth as his coveted Châteauneufs.
Like them, it delivers the singular La Vieille Julienne character in spades. In fact, the 2014 Clavin earned Rhône guru John Livingstone-Learmonth’s STGT “soil to glass transfer” designation, for the extreme purity of its terroir expression. And it can be drunk much earlier than the domaine’s Châteauneufs, while they are still maturing.
The Daumen family have been farming their estate for more than 115 years, but the location of their vineyards along Châteauneuf’s northern border meant that Clavin found itself north of the line when the appellation was created in the 1930s.
Clavin’s subtle variation of exposure and soil—a north-facing extension of La Vieille Julienne’s sandy plateau, mixed with small pebbles—expressed through the domaine’s oldest vines results in a southern Rhône of great depth and elegance.
Clavin’s singular personality is magnified through Daumen’s personalized classic approach which, since he took charge in 1990, has made him one of Châteauneuf du Pape’s elite winemakers.
It begins with biodynamic farming and very low yields, for pure, highly concentrated fruit—80% Grenache, with the balance Cinsault, Syrah and Mourvèdre. Daumen destems his fruit for fine tannins and silky texture, and co-ferments the different varieties in concrete tanks. Vinification is with the native yeasts and aging is in old, neutral foudre to capture the essence of this prized lieu dit.
The 2014 Clavin is a beautiful expression of the domaine’s character and quality at a bargain price. Not only does this overachieving Côtes du Rhône boast depth and complexity reminiscent of Daumen’s Châteauneufs it also, like them, turns back the clock to the days when the region produced wines of reliably rich, yet supple, elegance.
Given its soaring quality, and small production, this is an incredible bargain. Here’s the chance to experience the magic of one the region’s most singularly great terroirs, from one of its most gifted winemakers.
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