2015 Domaine Roger Sabon, Chateauneuf-du-Pape Rouge Reserve, Rhone Valley, France.
The powerful and ripe vintage, 2015 Reserve Chateauneuf from roger Sabon, is full of intensity and earthy/meaty depth with tar, melted black licorice and dark berry fruits all grabbing your immediate attention on its full bodied palate before the more subtle of complexities show up. Made from a field blend and barrel selection of Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre and Cinsault this cuvee shows a lot more of the leather and gamey (I usually associate with a high percentage of Mourvedre) side of Chateauneuf at first, though the plummy Grenache and Syrah florals do come through with air in this tightly wound red.
As importer Eric Solomon notes, the Sabon family is an ancient and well-regarded name in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, first mentioned in documents dating all the way back to 1540, with the family, under Seraphin Sabon, first bottled their own wine in the appellation under the family’s name in 1921, just before Chateauneuf became France’s first AOC in 1929, and his son Roger founded his own Domaine Roger Sabon in 1952, just before Chateauneuf-du-Pape rocketed to fame after the historic 1959 vintage. Currently run by Roger’s sons Denis and Gilbert, the Domaine’s wines are made by the talented Didier Negron, who has returned the wines to a more traditional place, doing away with the new small French barriques in favor of cement vat ferments and aging in more neutral foudres and some, as with this cuvee Reserve, demi-muids in the elevage of the reds.
Sabon owns 18 hectares in Chateauneuf with most of their holdings located in the northeastern part of the zone, where the soils are sandier with a high concentration of limestone, which powerful and ripe Grenache loves, though they also own a few parcels in the legendary Le Crau zone, like Vieux Telegraph, which famous for its red clay under a deep layer of galets, the iconic round river stones that Chateauneuf-du-Pape is known for. Actual grape, or Cepage, breakdowns details are sketchy at Domaine Sabon, as the Sabons are shy about divulging any information about any given wine, though they admit their Grenache plots have some vines over a hundred years old and some of their Syrah is at least 50 years old, and besides those and the Mourvedre, they also have Cinsault, Terret Noire, Counoise, Vaccarèse, Muscardin, Roussanne, Clairette, Bourboulenc and Grenache Blanc vines, and this Reserve includes some of the Cinsault that adds a fresh vein the cuts into the density.
This 2015 Reserve gets prettier and more polished with every minute of air, unfolding layers of boysenberry, damson plum, kirsch and creme de cassis, but also allowing a savory side to contrast with the loaded fruit with tobacco leaf, peppercorns, garrigue and charcoal embers. At 14.5% alcohol, on the label, this wine is no wimp, but has a finessed and mineral quality to it, it is a serious version with an elegant streak to it as well, look for it to drink well for at least another decade. I can only imagine how great the 2016 edition will be, which should eclipse this brilliant effort and looks to be a classic vintage in the Rhone.
($53 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive