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DOMAINE AUGUSTE CLAPE - Fact sheet

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Owner
Auguste Clape and his son, Pierre-Marie
Products
Red wines :
Cornas
Cornas, Renaissance
Côtes-du-Rhône
Vin de Table de France, Le Vin des Amis
Size of the Vineyards
7.5 hectares total, comprised of 5.5 ha of A.C. Cornas, and 1 hectare each of Cotes du Rhone and Vin de Table.
Location of the Vineyards
The inconspicuous cellars are on the main N86 road that runs through the village of Cornas, hidden away behind a grey garage door.
Their Cornas vineyards are planted on various of the best hillside sites in the appellation - Coteau de Tezier, Les Renards, La Cotes, Les Mazards, Chaillot and Sabarotte. The Cotes du Rhone and Vin de Table come from vineyards planted at the foot of the hills.
Soil
The Cornas vines are situated on classic crumbly granite based soils with a favourable clay content. The Cotes du Rhone and Vin de Table come from stony alluvial valley floor soils.
Grape Varieties
All red wines : 100% Syrah.
(The domaine also make miniscule quantities of white St Peray from 100% Marsanne)
Average age of the vines
Cornas : mainly 30 to 60 years old, some 80 year old vines too
Cornas, Renaissance : 16 years old
The Côtes-du-Rhône Rouge and 'Les Amis' vines are 25 to 30 years old.
Average production
30 to 35 hectoliters per hectare.
This represents an annual production of:
Cornas : 2 000 cases
Côtes-du-Rhône Rouge : 400 cases
VDT Les Amis : 400 cases
Vinification and ageing
Monsieur Clape is a true traditionalist when it comes to wine making, taking the utmost care and attention at every stage of the process. Following manual harvesting, the grapes for the Cornas are placed immediately in cement vats for fermentation, without de-stemming. The fermentations take place at between 30 and 34°C, with a maceration period of 12 to 13 days, depending upon the vintage. During the fermentation Monsieur Clape performs "pigeage", breaking the cap of "marc" with his feet, as well as using the more conventional pump-over technique twice a day. The combination of these two techniques, ancient and modern, ensures a maximum extraction of colour, tannins and aromas. The different parcels of vines are vinified and aged separately to be selected and blended at a later date if thought to be compatible. All the wine is aged in large old oak "foudres", for a period of 22 to 24 months. Monsieur Clape has remained impervious to the fashion of using new wood, disliking the effect of the stereo-typed oak flavours on the Syrah. He prefers to keep the pure, traditional style, respecting the true qualities of the grape variety and the greatest expression of "terroir". Monsieur Clape tastes and selects the wines for the final blend one month before bottling. Having passed two winters in cask, most of the wine's natural deposits have fallen and therefore filtration is unnecessary. The wines are lightly fined with egg white before bottling at the property in the spring or summer.

White wine :
Following manual harvesting, the grapes are taken to the cellars for direct pressing. The musts are left to clarify naturally for 18 to 24 hours. Fermentation takes place in a small lined concrete vat at a controlled temperature of 20 - 22°C, lasting for about 2 weeks. Depending upon the vintage, the malo-lactic fermentation is allowed to take place. Ageing takes place in vat, with a small proportion in oak, for about 10 months. Bottling takes place at the property following fining and filtration.
Tasting notes
Red wines :
Monsieur Clape's Cornas is systematically considered the best in the appellation, constantly attaining the most amazing levels of excellence. There is always a extremely deep purple, almost black colour that exudes a never ending array of rich complex aromas of dried fruits, liquorice, spice and pepper. The sheer power and concentration of the wine on the palate is overwhelming. The attack is sensational, followed with an incredible volume of extract that saturates the palate in rich, concentrated fruity tannins that last through a magnificently long, stunning finish. These wines need at least 5 or 6 years in bottle before they will open up, but are at their best after 10 years.
The Côtes-du-Rhône Rouge, with it's rich purple Syrah colour, boasts a wonderfully intense bouquet of lush, ripe blackcurrents and spicy pepper. On the palate the wine is rich, smooth and full bodied with intense fruit and classic Syrah peppery flavours, reflecting perfectly the bouquet. The soft, round tannins are ever present giving rise to a very well polished balance and a superb long, elegant finish.

Le Vin des Amis, also 100% Syrah, is closely related to the other Clape wines, with it's deep purple colour and rich opulent blackcurrent fruit and peppery aromas. The palate is medium to full bodied with soft, round and fruity tannins. This is a recent addition to Monsieur Clape's range of wines, with typical Syrah flavours, worthy of a control of origin which it does not possess because of the location of the vines.

White wine :
The Côtes-du-Rhône Blanc exhibits the classic Marsanne characteristics. Whilst young the wine has fresh apple and pear fruit aromas, devoloping into a more honey and floral based bouquet, most notably of acacia and hawthorn blossoms. On the palate the wine is full bodied, unctuous and extremely harmonious with the bouquet. The balance is impeccable with a fine acidity persisting throughout.
Marketing
Export: 65 to 70%, mainly to the United States., the United Kingdom and most other European countries.
In France: 30 to 35%, sold mainly to private clients, specialist wine shops and restaurants including: Pic in Valence, Gagnaire, Georges Blanc, Michel Bras in Laguiole, Loiseau in Saulieu and Alain Chapel.
Notes on the property
Whilst many of the younger, more profit minded wine makers have tried to extend the boundaries of the Cornas appellation and increase the permitted yield of the vines, Auguste Clape has strongly resisted their proposals, continually defending the quality and good name of Cornas.
In his fifties, Monsieur Clape went back to school to study viticulture at Beaune. He learnt and accepted many of their theories, but refused to accept the "new oak" philosophy, keeping to his traditionalist stand point. He agrees that the Syrah needs to be aged in wood to allow it to loosen up and age steadily, but fervently insists that his wines do not need wood tannins, and therefore the wood used must be neutral. He continues in his traditionalist philosophy that the expression of "terroir" is the most important factor when looking to make a great wine, and that the use of new oak masks and modifies the identity of the "terroir". For Auguste Clape's purposes, the use of older oak barrels is paramount.
Traditionalist he may be, but Monsieur Clape is in no way out-dated. He is forever experimenting in his cellar with new ideas and concepts that might improve his wine. He has amassed a wealth of wine making knowledge and has become one of the very rare wine makers in the Rhône, along with Chave and Guigal, who are now capable of making a good wine every year, no matter the vintage. Over the past few years he has acquired a following of ardent supporters from all over the world, fanatical about his wines, but the friendly Monsieur Clape remains extremely modest and un-pretentious, always interested and ready to accept other peoples viewpoints.
In 1989 Monsieur Clape was joined by his son Pierre-Marie, who shares the same enthusiasm and wine making philosophy as his father. He should guarantee the continuation of this great wine making property for the years to come. Without hesitation Domaine Clape is a leader in the Nothern Rhône, the best grower in Cornas and one of the finest wine makers in France.