2018 Domaine Auguste Clape, Le Vin des Amis, Vin de France, Rhone Valley, France.
I love the bright freshness and deep flavors of this 2018 Le Vin des Amis and its quaffable though serious style, this edition is medium bodied and energetic with classic Northern Rhone character, showing blackberries, plum, cherry and blueberry fruits, anise, peppercorns, a hint of game, earth and a quite heady nose of dark violet florals. The “baby” Clape, which is always a savvy treat is 100% Syrah and comes from 40 plus year old vineyard sites that are located close the this classic domaine’s village of Cornas and the Rhône river set on mostly Alluvial soils with a littering of galets, the rounded river stones found throughout the Rhone basin. The mouth feel is less intense, when compared to the more tannin structured top Cornas cuvees at Clape, but this one gives a very fine account of itself with an edgy stemmy intensity that is compelling to fans of Pierre-Marie’s wines and the Clape family’s legendary offerings, many of which were crafted by the now 94 year old Auguste (Pierre-Marie’s famous dad) himself, who was one of the very first to bottle an estate wine in the Cornas region. Now, as Kermit Lynch, Clape’s long time American importer, notes, Pierre-Marie and his son Olivier, carry on Auguste’s legacy with honor and integrity, as well as hand crafting wines that are some of the world’s most desirable Syrahs. While the Le Vin des Amis comes from just outside the Cornas zone, the Clape’s farm a number of prime parcels, some of the greatest Syrah sites in Cornas, including Reynards, La Côte, Geynale, Tézier, Petite Côte, Les Mazards, Patou, Pied La Vigne, Chaillot, and Sabarotte, the latter purchased from Cornas legend Noël Verset, and they save the best and oldest for their top bottling.

The reds wines at Clape, all made from 100% Syrah, are almost without fail vinified using whole bunches and this Le Vins des Amis shows that vibrant and herbal crunchiness as well as a transparent flavors and a nice textural quality, I used to buy a lot of this wine when not everybody and their brother knew about it and the price was almost half what it is now, but this wine still is a good deal and while not as guiltless on the wallet as it once was it still impresses for the price and is impeccably made. The Le Vin des Amis saw a natural whole cluster fermentation with indigenous yeats in open top cement tanks with about a two week maceration and primary fermentation with pilage and pump overs twice a day before aging in concrete, as well as seeing just two months in foundre (old large oak casks) prior to bottling, which as per normal here unfiltered. The Clape’s pick by hand and concentrate on full ripeness, which give these wines their expressive and dense nature, but as their fans you, these wines always give you a rigorous savory underpinning and have exceptional balance, especially in difficult vintages. The Le Vin des Amis is a gateway wine and a little tease, though these days it has a frenzied cult following itself, which this new 2018 release will continue to elicit with its seductive qualities. This very food friendly Syrah is a fine companion for country and rustic cuisine from grilled pork, chicken and red meats to wild mushroom dishes. The Le Vin des Amis is the entry level Rouge, just one rung down from their Cotes du Rhone and looking way up to the two main Cornas, the Renaissance and the signature offering, that like a top Hermitage or Cote-Rotie needs a decade or more in the cellar to fully mature. So, for no waiting pleasure this inky purple wine is the way to go!
($50 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

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