2017 Clos Ste. Magdeleine, Cassis Blanc, Provence, France.
I’m a huge Cassis Blanc fan, I think it is one of the great wines of France and one of the wine world’s best kept secrets, and Clos Ste. Magdeleine is one of the best producers, imported by the famed Kermit Lynch, this elite Provence winery makes stunning versions and this 2017 absolutely rocks my world! Clos Saint Magdeleine, now run by Fancois Sack was originally founded by Jules Savon, who won the Gold Medal for the domaine at the World’s Fair in 1900 and put this estate on the map and the Sack family who have been in charge for four generations continue to make awesome wines in this picturesque village on the Mediterranean sea, not far from both Bandol and Marseille, where Cassis is a favorite at the best bistros and cafes. The village (AOC) which allows only White and Rosé is an ancient fishing village, and as Kermit Lynch notes, Cassis has seen its fair share of visitors over the millennia. Greek colonists from Phocaea first arrived in the sixth century B.C., and with them came the timeless Ugni Blanc grape and viticultural savvy. The Romans later made their way here, as well as their Barbarian successors, followed by the medieval Counts of Les Baux, all the way to tourists of the modern era looking to escape the cold, dark cities. Cassis is not only an active port, but what Kermit calls “an earthly paradise…”, with the vineyards of Clos Sainte Magdeleine being particularly stunning, and a place I hope to visit in person. These vineyards jut out on to a private cape to meet majestic shoreline and spectacular limestone cliffs, poised above gorgeously beauty of the sparkling, azure Mediterranean, which even from pictures is breathtaking, I can only imagine witnessing it in the flesh. It is well known that only a handful of vignerons today are fortunate enough to produce A.O.C. Cassis, with Domaine Bagnol and Clos Sainte Magdeleine being the top, and the small quantities available are largely consumed locally, making it hard to find, but well worth searching out, especially this one.
The 2017 Cassis Blanc is made from organic grapes, about 40% Marsanne, 30% Ugni blanc, 25% Clairette and 5% Bourboulenc, with the last three varietals being Chateauneuf du Pape legal and the Marsanne, which makes up the biggest part and does exceptionally well here close to the sea is one of the main grapes in the Northern Rhone, and most famously in Hermitage Blanc. I always find that the basic cuvee with it’s higher percentage of Clairette Blanc is the most interesting, to my tastes and that is seems have a bit more vitality and intriguing aromatics with a wonderful mineral quality, while the upper end single vineyard/parcel Bel-Arme with much more Marsanne offers a more textural feeling and is fuller, while still fabulous, I much prefer the regular Cassis and its refreshing form, especially this warm vintage. The all organic Clos Sainte Magdeleine Cassis Blanc is all de-stemmed and gravity pressed and then the juice is fermented and aged in 100% temperature-controlled stainless steel tank with some lees contact and with full malos. Aged in total for between 14 to 18 months in tank, Clos Sainte Magdeleine’s Cassis Blanc, as Kermit adds, success lies in an uncanny ability to capture a dichotomous nerve and sun-kissed unctuousness, making it both incredibly food-friendly and delicious entirely on its own, of which I complete agree with. Bright with layers of lime, tangerine, orange blossom, wet and saline rich stones, a touch of almond oil, verbena and unripe peach/apricot along with zippy acidity and clove spice this vintage has a hint of ripe apply creaminess from the Marsanne when in warms in the glass giving the impression of serious intention without taking away from the fantastic energy, this is brilliant wine and perfection on a warm evening, drink over the next 3 to 5 years, though there is no reason to wait.
($35 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive