2018 Clos Cibonne, Tibouren, Cuvée Tradition Rosé, Côtes de Provence AOP, Cru Classe, France.
The 2018 is nicely aged and showing all the complexity these unique Clos Cibonne can deliver with its customary funk, depth and vinous pleasure along with a surprising racy quality and mineral tones to go with burnt orange, red peach, earthy nectarine, muskmelon and apricot marmalade fruit layers as well as wet stones, a touch of spice and dried florals, hinting to the maturity and a slightly oxidative sense. To be honest, I had forgot I had this bottle and even reviewed the later 2019 version before finding this one, but as I have often noted, these wines get more interesting with some age, unlike the drink fast versions of dry Rosé and this vintage, which is delicately salmon/pink hued, does not disappoint and impresses for its ironic style and beautifully rounded medium bodied mouth feel. As I have noted in prior reviews, the Cuvée Tradition is the normal or classic Tibouren Cotes de Provence Cru Class AOP bottling by Clos Cibonne, but it is anything but basic, with 90% Tibouren grapes, plus about 10% Grenache, being fermented in stainless steel and then aged Sur Lie under fleurette (a thin veil of yeast “Flor” like is found in Sherry) in 120-year-old, 5,000L foudres, large oak casks which adds that touch of oxidation, as well as a textured mouth feel and stabilizes the wine allow it to age way beyond what a normal Rosé. The Clos Cibonne vines, goblet-trained Tibouren, are organically grown on schist soils from parcels as old as 60 years old vines at just 50 meters above sea level. The winery notes that Tibouren is a very fine, thin-skinned grape which requires a lot of ventilation to be successful, adding that it needs to grow close to the ocean, with lots of ventilation to be successful, which Clos Cibonne provides along with a constant Mistral wind and air flow blowing through the vines here on the blue Mediterranean Sea.

The Tibouren grape, or Rossese di Dolceacqua (as it is called in Italy), is mainly known as a red French variety that is primarily grown in Provence and in Liguria, on the Italian Riviera, but most likely it originated in Greece and brought here in ancient times. It is a varietal that deserves wider study, and it is interesting to note that the legendary Randall Grahm, formerly of Bonny Doon, has started planting Tibouren and Rossese clones here in California and even made his first Rosés (2020 & 2021 Language of Yes Wines) with a high percentage of Tibouren, which has turned out to be a success, highlighting the potential of this grape over here! In recent times, fifth-generation winemaker Olivier Deforges is both vineyard manager and winemaker here at Clos Cibonne and has even taken the estate to new heights of quality. Olivier, as the winery explains, has focused most his energy on the impeccable viticulture done here, after transitioning to all organic viticulture over the last decade, they are now officially certified organic since this 2019 vintage. Clos Cibonne, owned by Bridget Roux and her husband, Claude Deforge, is only about 800 meters from the beautiful blue Mediterranean Sea, set in a natural amphitheater that allows for wonderful ripening and with a unique constant air flow through the vines that keeps all the clusters wonderfully healthy. Like many Provence wineries, after Phylloxera, as planted mostly to Mourvedre as many historic grapes were almost forgotten, but Bridget’s grandfather André Roux, who ran the estate back from the 1930s to after WWII, is credited with resurrecting Tibouren and even got it Cru Classe status and he was instrumental in allowing the grape’s name to be on the label, as it is today. In recent times, we’ve seen a huge interest in dry Rosé with the market place loaded with fine examples, but very few intrigue us wine geeks in the way that Clos Cibonne does and I highly recommend searching out these coveted old school bottlings and enjoy them with a range of foods, especially with sea food stews and or mussels in spicy broth.
($38 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

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