From Châteauneuf’s Holy Grail La Crau
The La Crau lieu-dit is unquestionably the defining site of Châteauneuf-du-Pape — where some of the greatest wines in the world originate, like those from Vieux Télégraphe and Henri Bonneau. This 2011 Tardieu-Laurent Cuvée Spéciale was produced from grapes plucked off 110-year old vines in La Crau that snake down through layers of round, heavy galets roulé to reach a layer of red clay molasse. That ancient clay is what gives wines from here their unmatched complexity, and thanks to enologist Philippe Cambie’s whole-cluster fermentation this Tardieu-Laurent shows off all La Crau has to offer — rich aromatics, muscular textures and flavors teeming with red and black fruits. Robert Parker called it an “outstanding, spicy Chateauneuf [that] should drink well for over a decade,” in his 90-93 point review. At just $55 per bottle from Wine Access, this is Southern Rhône at its most elegant and powerful.
The paperweight on my desk is a two-pound round stone that I call “the Holy Grail.” Why? It’s been with me ever since I lifted it up off the hallowed grounds of the famous windy La Crau plateau in France’s Southern Rhône Valley. Few plots express the greatness of CdP as well as La Crau.
Michel Tardieu is among France’s most acclaimed negociants, boasting “a penchant for locating excellent parcels of vines,” says Wine Spectator. Joined by his son Bastien and famed enologist Philippe Cambie, the Tardieu-Laurent team releases stunners that eloquently showcase the Rhône Valley’s wind-streaked terroir.
At the southeastern edge of the appellation, the La Crau lieu-dit is a rugged, galet-strewn place, the elevation exposing vines to blistering sun, heavy rains, and the cruel Mistral. The century-old vines that have managed to survive here eke out fruit with thrilling intensity and concentration. Those that occupy the few sandy plots are the most sought-after of all, lending grace and purity to the Grenache’s deep, dark core — those are the plots from which this wine’s grapes were harvested.
Editor-in-Chief, Wine Access