Xavier Vignon Chateauneuf du Pape Anonyme la Réserve VII IX X
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RP 96 points
(Read the full review below)
 
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Robert Parker's Anonyme
2007-2010
Vintage Score Release Price
2007 96 $90
2009 96 $75
2010 95+ $75
Parker's 96 points and the WineAccess Wine of the Year

Over the last three years, super enologist Xavier Vignon has treated WineAccess to three 95-96-point vintages of his ancient-vine Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée Anonyme. In October, we read in The Wine Advocate of an even more ambitious, secret project, an experimental blend Vignon called "La Réserve VII IX X." Two weeks ago, at the dinner table above the tiny hamlet of Le Barroux, we followed in Parker's footsteps, listened to the story of Xavier's mineral-salt research — and tasted what many are already calling the most extraordinary Châteauneuf-du-Pape in 35 years.

The Anonyme "La Réserve" is just as the name implies — an assemblage of the finest, most age-worthy barrels from 2007 (43%), 2009 (21%) and 2010 (36%). Brilliant purple to the edge with ethereal primary-fruit aromas of crushed blackberry, black raspberry, violets and anise, the attack is MASSIVE — a plush, silken mix of black-fruit preserves, blackcurrant, tobacco and sweet spice-box. Tremendously concentrated, silken in texture, like all of Vignon's brilliant Châteauneufs, the finish goes on and on — arguing, as The Wine Advocate does, for an additional 15 years of cellar slumber.

Xavier Vignon's "La Réserve" earned 96 points from Robert Parker's Wine Advocate — and this morning, the award for the 2013 Wine of the Year on WineAccess.


"Eighty-Five Percent of Wine is Water"
Since Vignon established his 100-point winegrowing consultancy in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, and set up the enology lab that would conduct the chemical analysis of the majority of the wines of the appellation, Xavier became fascinated with the mineral-salt makeup of wines grown on the sand, clay and galet roulés of Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

Xavier Vignon"Eighty-five percent of wine is water," the enologist explained as we nursed the luscious Réserve in his preferred Zalto stemware. "The water component is comprised of dissolved non-organic salts. These salts are minerals that attach to the surface of the berry. My hypothesis was straightforward. I posited that the DNA of a finished wine had much do with the soil in which it was grown, that the concentration of potassium, nitrogen, phosphorus, sulfur, magnesium and calcium in the soil could be recognized in the finished wine under analysis."

For those of us who have long listened to Old World winegrowers defend their notion of "terroir" to New World skeptics, Vignon seemed to be touching on the science behind the Old World point of view. The vines of Châteauneuf aren't irrigated. Therefore, all the water that quenches the vine's thirst is infused with the minerals in the soil from which it's drawn. "Within just a couple of years, without ever looking at a label, even I was surprised by the results of the study. I could determine within 300 meters where a wine was grown based entirely on the mineral-salt analysis!"

The research began in 2005, Vignon told us. By 2007, he was convinced that the mineral-salt concentration not only offered clues as to the wine's origin, but to its complexity and longevity. "Beginning with the 2007s, I set aside what the analysis suggested were the best barrels of the vintage. Every three months over the course of the last five years, I tasted each of those barrels to evaluate the wine's evolution. The 2007 fended off oxidation effortlessly. The same was true of the 2009, even if the vintage is riper and more forward. The 2010 is ready to run a marathon."

In May 2010, Vignon, now completely obsessed with his research, returned to Le Barroux from the local Carrefour with 15 cases of bottled water — five each of Evian, Vittel and Contrexéville. Throughout July and August, as his wife watched incredulously, the enologist irrigated the first row of tomatoes with Evian, the second with Vittel, and the last with Contrexéville. In August, Isabelle Vignon began picking.

"The Evian row was delicious," our hostess offered, as she dished out seconds of the veal ragout. "The Vittel tomatoes weren't bad. But the Contrexéville row was a total loss. The tomatoes were inedible. Xavier was proud of himself. He'd proven that the water was entirely responsible for ruining the third row of tomatoes. Me? I was ready to kill him!"

Buttressed by the anecdotal evidence in his wife's garden, Vignon pushed ahead. In late 2012, he began to tinker with blends, assembling wines from 2007, 2009 and 2010. By September 2013, now six years after the experiment began, he settled on a final assemblage that far outdistanced the sum of its parts. One month later, Parker's Wine Advocate came calling.

The "La Réserve VII IX X" is brilliant purple to the edge with ethereal primary-fruit aromas of crushed blackberry, black raspberry, violets and anise. The attack is MASSIVE — a plush, silken mix of black-fruit preserves, blackcurrant, tobacco and sweet spice-box. Tremendously concentrated, silken in texture, like all of Vignon's brilliant Châteauneufs, the finish goes on and on — arguing, as The Wine Advocate does, for an additional 15 years of cellar slumber.



Tasting Notes

Xavier Vignon Chateauneuf du Pape Anonyme la Réserve VII IX X
"Made from a blend of the top barrels of the Cuvee Anonyme from 2007 (43%), 2009 (21%) and 2010 (36%), the Chateauneuf du Pape La Reserve VII IX X is a hedonistic and decadent release that dishes out massive amounts of black raspberry, raspberry, spice cake, licorice and crushed flower-like nuances on the nose. Gorgeously full-bodied and textured on the palate, yet with remarkable freshness and purity, this layered, incredible wine should last for 15+ years. Drink now-2028."
96 points -- Robert Parker's The Wine Advocate

 

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