Saturated ruby. Ripe, spice-accented blackcurrant, kirsch, olive paste, candied flowers and smoked meat on the expansive nose. It offers deeply pitched black and blue fruit, exotic spice, olive and liquorice flavours, and a strong mineral underpinning. Steadily building tannins add shape and grip to an impressively long, smoky finish that emphatically repeats the floral and mineral notes.
Olivier Clape told me that he thinks his family’s 2020s, which were still not bottled when I visited in April, deserve patience. If one thing is for sure at Domaine A. Clape, there’s no rush to get the wines into bottle or out in the market, at least for the two Cornas. I have found that Renaissance is inching closer and closer to the grand vin in quality, especially if one puts value on earlier drinking. That was definitely the case with the 2019 and 2018 vintages, but, as usual, the “classic” Cornas can be a tricky wine to judge early on.
Drink 2026 - 2036
Josh Raynolds, Vinous.com (December 2022)
Bottled late in 2020, the 2018 Cornas is another exceptional vintage for this cuvée, drawn from the family's older vines, largely in the lieux-dits of La Côte, Sabarotte and Reynard. Yes, it's from a hot, sunny vintage, it's rich and ripe, with plenty of red plum fruit up front, but there's a solid underpinning of crushed stone to provide balance. Full-bodied and velvety in feel in the mouth, it lingers elegantly on the lengthy finish. Complete, balanced and fine, it should drink well through at least 2040.
Drink 2023 - 2040
Joe Czerwinski, Decanter.com (January 2022)
A remarkably fresh nose, considering that August 2018 was so hot in the Rhone. Stunning aromas of bitter chocolate and perfectly ripe wild blackberries. I love the generous but not expansive body, where there’s a sensational interplay of fine tannins and mineral freshness that drive the very long and exciting finish.
Drink or hold
James Suckling, JamesSuckling.com (April 2022)
Blueberry and liquorice are on the nose at this stage, and there's a little touch of acetone that is typical of Clape, along with some thyme and rosemary. Full-bodied but not massive, this has plenty of immediate impact and drive; it really packs a punch on the finish. Powerful ingrained acidity drives the wine forward, as does an inner salinity and ripe but sharply pointed tannins. Ripe and approachable for Clape but still very Cornas, this is delicious now but will reward cellaring, too. Harvest started on the 12th of September. No destemming as usual, fermented in concrete, aged in large old oak barrels.
Drink 2021 - 2040
Matt Walls, Decanter.com (August 2021)
The 2018 Cornas is a classic wine from this renowned estate that's 100% Syrah, mostly from the Reynard lieu-dit, brought up all in ancient foudre and casks. This is as classic and old school as they come, and the 2018 is as Clape as it gets with its bloody blue fruits, liquid violet, smoked game, pepper, bay leaf, and iron-like aromas and flavours. More medium to full-bodied on the palate, it doesn't have the sheer richness of the 2015 or 2017, and if anything, reminds me slightly of the 2016 with its incredible purity, balance, and finesse.
The structure and tannins, which were more up-front and present from barrel, have a more round, seamless feel that gives this some up-front appeal. Granted, I followed this bottle for multiple days, and it certainly benefited from lots of air. This is a vintage that could certainly continue to offer pleasure over the coming decade and never really shut down, yet I suspect this will firm up quickly over the coming 2-4 years and require at least a decade of bottle age to really show its true potential.
I promise, you will not be disappointed to have this in your cellar.
Drink from 2034 onward
Jeb Dunnuck, JebDunnuck.com (February 2022)
About this WINE
Auguste Clape produces unquestionably the finest wines in Cornas from his minute cellars located on the RN98 in the middle of the appellation. He has 11 acres of vineyards, the majority being superbly well sited on the steep hillside surrounding the village. The average vine age is high, with some being over 100 years old.
The wines are vinified traditionally and are then matured in wooden barrels for 18 months. No new oak whatsoever is used. Clape`s wines tend to be opaque in colour, impenetrable on the nose and densely tannic when young. However, with age, the tannins soften and they develop a seductive perfume of creamy, peppery, black fruits, leading on to complex flavours and nuances on the palate. The best examples can last for 20-30 years. Auguste, who is now in his late 60s, is gradually passing over the reins to his son, Pierre-Marie.
Cornas is a small appellation, just 150 hectares, located south of St Joseph. It’s on the west side of the river. The name “Cornas” comes from an old Celtic dialect term, meaning “burnt land”, so it’s no surprise that on the steep terraces here, facing south, temperatures are significantly higher than those in Hermitage, which is just 7km away.
The granite soils are home to the Syrah grape, producing reds that sit somewhere between those of Hermitage and Côte-Rôtie. These are strong and powerful wines, with nervy acidity and a robust, rustic charm to them. Their prominent tannins mean that they often demand time in the cellar to express their underlying elegance and complexity.
A noble black grape variety grown particularly in the Northern Rhône where it produces the great red wines of Hermitage, Cote Rôtie and Cornas, and in Australia where it produces wines of startling depth and intensity. Reasonably low yields are a crucial factor for quality as is picking at optimum ripeness. Its heartland, Hermitage and Côte Rôtie, consists of 270 hectares of steeply terraced vineyards producing wines that brim with pepper, spices, tar and black treacle when young. After 5-10 years they become smooth and velvety with pronounced fruit characteristics of damsons, raspberries, blackcurrants and loganberries.
It is now grown extensively in the Southern Rhône where it is blended with Grenache and Mourvèdre to produce the great red wines of Châteauneuf du Pape and Gigondas amongst others. Its spiritual home in Australia is the Barossa Valley, where there are plantings dating as far back as 1860. Australian Shiraz tends to be sweeter than its Northern Rhône counterpart and the best examples are redolent of new leather, dark chocolate, liquorice, and prunes and display a blackcurrant lusciousness.
South African producers such as Eben Sadie are now producing world- class Shiraz wines that represent astonishing value for money.