Profile: Le Clos du Caillou
Le Clos du Caillou
is located in Courthézon, on the eastern border of the Châteauneuf-du-Pape
appellation. The Pouizin family acquired the property in 1956 and
subsequently expanded the vineyards, which are planted with twelve different varieties including a surprisingly high ratio of Clairette Rose among the
whites. Sylvie Vacheron, (né Pouizin)
and her late husband, Jean-Denis Vacheron, took over Le Clos du Caillou in
1995. Today, Sylvie Vacheron is assisted by winemaker Bruno Gaspard and enologist
The Cellar at Le Clos du Caillou
Le Clos du Caillou owns nine hectares of vineyards in the
Châteauneuf-du-Pape appellation and forty-four hectares in the Côtes-du-Rhône
appellation. Initially, the estate was a hunting reserve.
In 1936, its then-owner refused to let the experts in charge of delimiting the
Châteauneuf-du-Pape appellation visit the domaine. As a result, the vines
inside the Clos were classified as Côtes-du-Rhône Villages, although the
terroir is identical to the adjacent lieux-dits in Châteauneuf-du-Pape.
The vineyards include two types of terrain: sandy soils and
pebbly soils. The sandy soils represent a real asset at Le Clos du Caillou and cover
a large share of the vineyards. Located on the lieux-dits ‘Les Cailloux’
and ‘Les Cassanets’ these terrains are precocious and allow the grapes to mature
about two weeks in advance. Another attribute of vineyards rich in sand is that they yield
wines that offer considerable finesse and elegance. Pebbly soils are found in the
hillside lieux-dits ‘Les Cassanets’ and ‘Les Garrigues', the latter
being in Côtes-du-Rhône.
Le Clos du Caillou’s Châteauneuf-du-Papes are made with
destemmed grapes and long fermentations that start with a cold soak that lasts
around two days. As a result, these Châteauneuf-du-Papes are intense and
powerful, aromatically speaking. The most complex cuvées have outstanding
potential, but need a couple of years in the cellar to truly shine. The wines
produced by Le Clos du Caillou all possess a natural finesse and freshness that
balances their intensity and keeps them from feeling over-ripe. The domaine's Côtes-du-Rhônes
are some of the finest of the southern Rhône. First, as previously mentioned, they
come from parcels that could have been included in the Châteauneuf-du-Pape
appellation when it was created in 1936. Second, these vineyards are farmed
with the same care as the estate's vineyards in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. In 2010,
Le Clos du Caillou received its organic certification, and is now experimenting
with biodynamic farming. The domaine also produces one Côtes-du-Rhône cuvée
without any additional sulfur, although Sylvie Vacheron told me this practice
would be limited to the regular Côtes-du-Rhône red.
The Côtes-du-Rhône Rosé is a blend of 70%
Mourvèdre and 30% Counoise from young vines on sandy soils in the Clos, where the yield is only twenty-five
hectoliters per hectare. The whole clusters are lightly pressed for four hours,
and the wine settles overnight at cold temperatures. Vinification takes place
in stainless steel tanks.
The Côtes-du-Rhône Bouquet des Garrigues Blanc is
a blend of 30% Grenache Blanc, 35% Clairette Rose, 20% Viognier, and 15%
Bourboulenc, sourced from both sandy and pebbly soils. The yield is about nineteen
hectoliters per hectare. Similarly to the Côtes-du-Rhône Rosé, the whole
clusters are lightly pressed for four hours, and the wine settles overnight at
cold temperatures. Vinification takes place in stainless steel tanks.
The Côtes-du-Rhône Réserve Blanc is a blend of 65%
Clairette Rose, 15% Viognier, and 20% Grenache Blanc from both sandy and pebbly
soils; the yield is about nineteen hectoliters per hectare. Here, too, the whole
clusters for the Réserve Blanc are lightly pressed for four hours, and the wine settles
overnight at cold temperatures. Vinification,
however, takes place in new demi-muids for the Clairette Rose, in three
year-old barrels for the Viognier, and in stainless steel tanks for the
The Côtes-du-Rhône Bouquet des Garrigues Rouge is Clos
du Caillou’s principal cuvée, and represents thirty hectares of their vines.
This wine is a blend of 85% Grenache, 10% Syrah, and the rest Carignan,
Mourvèdre and Cinsault planted on sandy and pebbly soils that yield about
twenty five hectoliters per hectare. Vinification is done in concrete tanks,
where the wine spends thirty days on its skins. Aging takes place in foudres
of about twelve years old and lasts about fifteen months.
The Côtes-du-Rhône Quartz was created in 2004. Sourced
from the estate’s Côtes-du-Rhône vineyards, the Quartz is a blend of 85%
Grenache and 15% Syrah. The soils are composed of sand and pebbles, and are
very similar to the soils of the lieu-dit ‘Les Cassanets’ where the
Châteauneuf-du-Pape Les Quartz is also sourced. The yield is about twenty-five
hectoliters per hectare. Similarly to the Côtes-du-Rhône Bouquet des Garrigues,
takes place in concrete tanks, where the grapes spend 33-38 days on the skins. The Grenache is then aged for eleven months in cask followed by five months in foudre, while the Syrah is aged for sixteen
months in demi-muids.
The estate's straight Châteauneuf-du-Pape is a pure Grenache that spends seventeen months in foudres.
First introduced in the 2004, the Châteauneuf-du-Pape Les
Safres emerges from vines planted in 1958, in the lieu-dit 'Les
Bédines,’ where the soils are composed of sand and safres (concentrated sand).
Yields are about twenty-three hectoliters per hectare and the blend is 95%
Grenache and the rest Mourvèdre, Vaccarèse, and Cinsault. Fermentation takes
place in concrete tanks and lasts around thirty-seven days. The wine is aged in
foudres for fifteen months.
The Châteauneuf-du-Pape Les Quartz was created in
1999 and is sourced from vines planted in 1956 and 1958 in the lieu-dit 'Les
Cassanets,' which features sandy soils covered with pebbles. The blend is
roughly 85% Grenache and 15% Syrah. The grapes are fully destemmed. Vinification takes place in oak uprights, and lasts around 35 days. The
Grenache is then aged in neutral foudres, whereas the Syrah is aged in younger
(but also neutral) barrels for fourteen months.
The Châteauneuf-du-Pape La Réserve was officially
introduced in 1998. Produced only in the best vintages, this cuvée is a
blend of 60% Grenache and 40% Mourvèdre from sandy soils in the lieux-dits
‘La Guigasse’ and 'Pignan.' Yields are about twenty-five hectoliters per
hectare. The grapes are fully destemmed and co-fermented in oak uprights, where
the fruit spends around 37 days on the skins. The wine is then aged for 18
months in demi-muids for about eighteen months.
2013 Côtes-du-Rhône Rosé,
and 30% Counoise, is quite
showing slightly lactic notes
with tones of strawberry, and a
mouth full of citrus fruits.
This tasty Rosé finishes with notable precision and hints of lime.
The 2013 Côtes-du-Rhône Bouquet des Garrigues Blanc is a terrific entry-level white, with a precise, mineral-inflected bouquet that
some Châteauneuf-du-Papes would envy. With its expressive scents of lemon and
its zest, the 2013 is very punchy, and leaves the mouth with distinctly
blend of 65% Clairette Rose, 15% Viognier, and 20% Grenache Blanc, the 2013 Côtes-du-Rhône Reserve Blanc is an absolutely thrilling wine from Clos du Caillou. Offering a rounder and richer nose, this striking white is ample on the palate yet retains notable precision, focus and freshness. The aromatics include citrus fruits, lemon zest, along with buttery
2012 Côtes-du-Rhône Bouquet des Garrigues Rouge
a velvety, fresh and nicely balanced red.
Offering a lot of cherry notes
and some mara des bois strawberries, the 2012 is underlined by a nice
licorice backbone. There is plenty of quaffable appeal here.
The 2012 Côtes-du-Rhône
Rouge Les Quartz is
a very serious Côtes du Rhône.
Purple and introspective, with a strong sense of Syrah despite its low presence
in the blend, the Quartz offers a ripe profile
notes of blackberry and blueberry. The 2012 is a beautiful wine that could
benefit from a few years in the cellar.
The 2012 Châteauneuf-du-Pape is an inviting, sweet wine. A ripe yet delicate nose of
cherries and plums opens up first. Velvety on the palate, the 2012 shows quite a
bit of glycerin, but not to the point of being distracting. This
gourmand Châteauneuf isn't as light as some other wines of the vintage, but it's
very well integrated with good overall harmony.
wine with that balances intensity with the finesse imparted by sandy soils, the 2012 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Les Safres
offers a serious profile of mara des bois strawberries and red currants, all with
notable delineation from start to finish. With some notes of white pepper in
its backbone, the 2012 is still quite fresh, although the finish loses some persistence. The 2012 Les Safres is beautiful
The 2012 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Les Quartz is much more concentrated than its 2011 counterpart and, as a result, is more on the reserved side. With considerable potential for improvement in the bottle, the 2012 also expresses a stricter side of this terroir and should be cellared for at least 5 years. The aromatics include strawberries, blueberries, some Provençal herbs and a bit of lavender oil.
A brilliant wine that already delivers a
tremendous amount of pleasure, the 2011 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Les Quartz displays a
pure and velvety profile, yet never overwhelms. Beautifully balanced and flat-out delicious,
with notes of strawberries, blackcurrant and blackberry, the 2011 shows off its
distinctive personality. The balance of flesh and structure is absolutely compelling.
A quintessential expression of the appellation, the 2012 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Rouge La Réserve is, not surprisingly, very backward at the moment. The aromatics tend towards Provençal herbs, cherry, blood, fine but strong mara des bois strawberries and incense. There is absolutely no point in opening the 2012 now.
Much more intense and backward than the Quartz 2011, the 2011 Châteauneuf-du-Pape La Réserve ranks among the very best wines
of the vintage. Its grand concentration reveals a craftsman texture that
unfolds into expressive aromatics of pure Provençal character, with some hints of tobacco and cocoa. This blend of 50+ years old Grenache and Mourvèdre is built for the cellar, so there is no point in opening a bottle now.
— César Rivière
César Rivière is the winner of the 2014 Vinous Young Wine Writer Fellowship