Firm ruby color. Blackberry jam and a strong scent of fennel. This pushes right up against the boundary between very ripe and too ripe. A big unctuous wine with a bit of heat, although not as objectionable as I found when I last tasted the wine in 2010. Strikingly deep core of tarry black fruit, some herbal complexity, and surprisingly strong acidity. The tannins are subservient to the volume of fruit. This is hardly the style of wine I seek in terms of size or subtlety, but as predisposed as I am to bash it for following a heavy-handed southern Rhône formula, it is gutsy, serious, and genuinely impressive in this almost larger than life mold since it manages to have enough verve and structure to keep it from being overwhelming. Who knows which components will win out in the end or how long it will last, but an excellent, swashbuckling mouthful tonight.
The remainder of the bottle was even better the second night, showing more restraint, Mourvedre structure, and distinctly blueberry tinged fruit.
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(Clos des Papes Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Rhône Valley, France) Clos des Papes is a traditional estate that has been producing wine in the region for more than 200 years. Although proprietor Paul Avril died this year, his son Vincent carries on his legacy. Refusing to create a special cuvée, as many of their competitors in the region have done, the Avrils produce a delicious Grenache-based wine aged in large wood foudres. The 2007, from a forward, ripe, and rich vintage, is full-bodied, with kirsch, licorice, and blackberry flavors; a lush, supple texture; and a long, balanced finish. Sommelier's Choice: Top Releases of 2009
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