2019 Clos Cibonne, Tibouren “Cuvee Speciale” Rouge, Cru Classe Cotes de Provence AOP, France.
This Clos Cibonne Rouge, from the Cotes de Provence region and made with the rare ancient Tibouren grape, is one of the coolest and most unique wines in France, it is a medium bodied wine with firm tannins and vibrant acidity that shows an almost Nebbiolo, though more delicate, like character, it is impossible not to be thrilled here, especially when it is as tasty as this 2019 version is. We have much to thank this estate for, especially their incredible and iconic Rosé, which is extended lees aged under flor, like sherry and made with this unique varietal that they helped resurrect. It was Clos Cibonne’s André Roux who, in the 1930s and with a leap of faith, planted his estate almost exclusively to Tibouren, instead of the more common imported Grenache and Mourvedre that came to the region in the 1800s, also creating these iconic labels which remain unchanged to this day. This Tibouren revival, according to local lore, ignited an era that brought fame for the Rosés of Clos Cibonne, which led to their inclusion in a 1950’s classification of 18 Cru Classés in Côtes de Provence, which is still going strong today. André Roux, the winery adds, was also instrumental in the creation of the Côtes de Provence appellation in 1973 and responsible for the inclusion of his beloved Tibouren grape into the region’s list of official and accepted grape varieties. This riveting aromatic 2019 Rouge is bright, crisply detailed and starts tight and youthful with tart cherry, plum, cranberry and currant fruits along with a slowly developing, but deep perfume with rose oil, geraniums and lilac notes as well as an array of spices and warm climate herbs with hints of rosemary, thyme and lavender(y) sage. This wine is ever changing in the glass with a surprising grip and release that, especially with food and slightly chilled, allows a seductive textural mouth feel, an absolutely fantastic experience.
The Tibouren grape is believed to be an ancient variety, maybe originally grown in Mesopotamia, that was propagated by the Greeks, though it is odd that it doesn’t look to have survived in their own territory, before being transported by the Romans to Italy, where it found a great home in the Liguria region just south of Genoa and not far from Portofino, where it is known as Rossese and makes some of the most underrated and divine wines in Italy. In an interesting side note, legendary American winemaker and Rhone Ranger Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon fame, loves this grape and is planting California’s first plot of it at his new Popelouchum estate vineyard near San Juan Bautista, and it is widely known he loves the wines of Clos Cibonne and intrigued by this wonderful grape. Clos Cibonne has became synonymous with Tibouren ever since it received special permission from the Provence appelation governing body to list the grape on its labels and as noted, allowed Clos Cibonne in the elite Cru Classe group there. The estate’s vineyards, all farmed organically and set on clay and calcareous soils are located a stones throw from the blue Mediterranean sea, a mere 800 meters from this famous coastline and are surrounded by hillsides that faces the sea, a perfect southern exposure to capture the sun in what is a natural amphitheater. This provides conditions and an air circulation that is perfect getting the Tibouren ripe, but also keeping refreshing acidity that leads to their wonderful balance and vivacious personality. After the Tibouren grapes are harvested, all by hand, they are directly cool pressed and fermented in stainless steel, then the Rosé wines are then aged under fleurette (as explained by the winery, as a thin veil of yeast, known as Flor, similar to what is seen in Sherry or even some Jura wines that protects the wine from oxidation) in 120-year-old oak casks, 5,000L foudres for one year, while this one (the red wine) crafted from 90% Tibouren and 10% Grenache, was macerated for under a week and then saw a short lees aging, usually just 4 to 6 months, in used barrels. This is so good, I want more, it is fabulously geeky stuff that rewards the adventurous.
($30 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive