Domaine Auguste Clape

I saw recently in the news that Monsieur Clape passed away at the age of 93.  This domaine has played a huge role in the renaissance of Cornas and given his death I wanted to take just a minute to reflect on a great domaine and winemaker.  I have not Clape Renaissancehad the chance to visit this domaine, though I would love to.  I was introduced to the Clape wines by the writing and selections of Kermit Lynch.  Cornas is a very small region which I have written about before as it is probably my favorite region for syrah.  Clape was the first Cornas I ever tried which may be why I like it so much!  The Clape family actually used to be winemakers in the Languedoc, however hard times there in the early 1900s forced them to move north into the Rhone.  In the mid-1900s Cornas was nearly extinct given the extremely steep, granite slopes that required extremely hard manual labor to work and plant.  Auguste Clape, however believed in the terroir and persisted.  In fact, I believe he was the first producer in Cornas to domaine bottle his wines!  The wines are traditional, old school Cornas.  Vinified in cement vats and aged in large, old oak foudres.  They are wines that have tons of personality, soul, and purity and I absolutely love them.  Thanks to the work of Monsieur Clape (and a few others for sure), the region is now thriving with expanding vineyard area, increased prices, and talented winemakers like Allemand, Vincent Paris, Franck Balthazar, and Auguste’s son Pierre-Marie who now runs their domaine.  A small domaine at only 8 hectares, these are wines worth seeking out as they truly capture the essence of Cornas.  Dark purple with notes of crushed granite, blackberry brambles, violets, game meat, and smoke, these are powerful wines that can evolve for decades, and yet remain surprisingly elegant.  I love to try the Renaissance bottling, which is their young vines Cornas, on release as the energy and purity of fruit are simply fantastic.  Wine lovers owe much to Auguste Clape as he is one of the great pioneers and winemakers in the history of the Northern Rhone.  So I will certainly raise a glass to his memory and look forward to drinking some of his stellar Cornas in the future.

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