2007 Xavier Vignon Chateauneuf-du-Pape Cuvee Anonyme
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RP 96 points
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Robert Parker's 2007 Chateauneuf Honor Roll
Wine Price Score
Chateau Beaucastel Hommage $800 100
Domaine la Barroche Pure $350 99+
Domaine Marcoux Vieilles Vignes $225 98
Chateau Beaucastel $150 96
Xavier Anonyme $90 96
Chateau Raya Pignan $185 93
Chateau de la Nerthe $75 93
Forty-Eight Months in Barrel: Parker's 96-Point Anonyme

In October 2008, Robert Parker published an exhaustive vintage report, one in which he described the long, drawn-out 2007 vintage in Châteauneuf-du-Pape as "the greatest vintage I have tasted in my 30 years working in that region." Even with the world mired in the Great Recession, importers snatched up every bottle they could get their hands on. It would be the fastest selloff in the appellation's history.

Nearly every top cellar in town garnered rave reviews, with the likes of Clos Saint Jean, Beaucastel, Giraud and Clos du Caillou leading the charge with 95-100 point scores. The summer was unusually dry but mild. Then, beginning in early September, and for three weeks thereafter, the Mistral gusted, concentrating Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre clusters. At harvest, natural sugars were sky-high without any sign of desiccation. Parker found in the 2007s "an aromatic dimension and freshness that I have rarely witnessed. Combine that with wines that are substantial, powerful, and relatively high in alcohol," Parker raved, "with super depth of fruit!"

But that fall, as we perused that Wine Advocate issue, reading up on many wines we'd already tasted from puncheon or barrel earlier that summer, there was one Châteauneuf-du-Pape that escaped Parker's coverage. While super-enologist Xavier Vignon presented barrel samples of his old-vine Châteauneuf-du-Pape (94 points) and Gigondas (91-93) to the most influential critic the Rhône has ever known, he made no mention of his most precious 2007.

In what is surely the most astonishing story of the historic 2007 vintage, it wouldn't be until the fall of 2011 that both Robert Parker and WineAccess would get the first whiffs of Vignon's voluptuous 2007 Cuvée Anonyme.

4.33 out of 5 stars!Here's why.

In late August 2007, Xavier Vignon was trekking through the rows of his Châteauneuf-du-Pape. The summer had been full of blue-sky days, as highs stayed in the 80s. Sugars were climbing steadily in early September, and the 10-day forecast spoke of more sun-bathed afternoons. If the weeks before harvest played out as Vignon expected, 2007 had the making of a vintage much like the monumental 1978 campaign.

But even as French critics prematurely proclaimed 2007 to be the harvest of their lifetimes, Vignon worried. As sugars spiked in the old-vine Grenache and Syrah, pH would rise in tandem, and acids would slip. The secret to 2007, Vignon reasoned, would be in low-pH, ancient-vine Mourvedre.

In the second week of September, Vignon began breaking stems and chewing them, an old-school technique for detecting the maturation cycle of the plants. "You taste many things when you chew on the stems. Mostly, you're tasting for under-ripeness. If the stems are green and sappy, the plant isn't ready. But in September 2007, I tasted something I'd tasted just once before, in 2005. The Mourvedre stems tasted like licorice!"

For his tête-de-cuvée Châteauneuf-du-Pape Anonyme, Xavier brought in five varieties from three vineyards, each set in a different quadrant of the appellation. Thirty percent of the final blend would be drawn from 100+-year-old-vine Mourvedre. After a long, cool vinification, the juice was purple/black and fabulously concentrated. But despite the high natural sugar content, acids remained firm, and Vignon made a winemaking call he'd never made before. "There was so much richness. The stems were brittle with no sign of sappiness. So I went for it and decided not to de-stem. The brittle stems would impart structure and backbone without imparting any green-ness to the Châteauneuf."

When we — and a certain wine writer who resides in Monkton, Maryland — stopped in on Xavier Vignon in the fall of 2011, every component of the 2007 Anonyme was still in barrel!! After 48 months of aging, the ancient-vine components continued to fend off oxygen effortlessly. Finally, in the summer of 2012, Vignon assembled and bottled the most extraordinary Châteauneuf of his now-storied career.

Inky purple to the edge, infused with ethereal aromas of black raspberry, kirsch, blackcurrant and underbrush, the attack is powerful yet beautifully focused, almost Burgundian in its precision. Packed with a gorgeous mix of red-fruit preserves, licorice, and high-toned anise, Parker called it "full, thick, unctuously textured and even flamboyant," before suggesting that this one will hit full stride sometime in 2032!

96 points from Parker — making today's offer of the 2007 Anonyme the greatest bargain of the vintage. Offered to Châteauneuf loyalists last year. 393 buyers rated. 193 came in at a perfect 5 stars, one of the highest totals in WineAccess history (see histogram above).

Tasting Notes

2007 Xavier Vignon Chateauneuf-du-Pape Cuvee Anonyme
"Except for Henri Bonneau's 2007 Reserve des Celestins (which is still in barrel), the last 2007 Chateauneuf du Pape to be released will be Xavier Vignon's Anonyme. This sensational wine spent three years in a combination of demi-muids and small oak. It boasts an inky/purple color along with a sweet nose of underbrush, garrigue, licorice, blackberries and black currants. Full, thick, unctuously textured and even flamboyant, this stunning 2007 should drink well for another 15-20 years."
96 points -- Robert Parker's The Wine Advocate


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