2010 Xavier Vignon Chateauneuf-du-Pape Cuvee Anonyme
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RP 95+ points
(Read the full review below)
 
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Xavier Vignon 2010 Xavier Vignon Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée Anonyme

If you listened to the retirees in the cafes around Châteauneuf-du-Pape in October 2010, the conversations began with the just-completed "miracle harvest," before winding back into time, searching for other comparable vintages. Some compared the ultra-concentrated, high-toned 2010s to the superbly structured 2005s. But in the end, those arguing for the 2005s were shouted down and dismissed.

Others pointed to the warm summer of 1990, when the greatest names in the appellation turned out plush, elixir-like old-vine reds that have held up surprisingly well. But this debate lasted just a few minutes. Even the best 1990s lacked the exquisite vibrancy and piercing purity of the top 2010s.

Then it was back to 1978 or 1959, both vintages of historic significance in the region. Still, the rigor currently practiced in the vines and cellars of Châteauneuf bears no resemblance to the practices of four to six decades ago. Even if those two growing seasons offered similarly lavish recipes, neither, they concluded, could hold a candle to 2010.

The critics mimicked the octogenarians' opinions. Stephen Tanzer of International Wine Cellar wrote: "There's not much to say about 2010 that hasn't been intensely discussed already. It's almost universally regarded as one of the epic vintages of this generation, with growers comparing it to legendary years like 2005, 1990, 1978 and 1959." Robert Parker then piled on, calling 2010 one of the two greatest vintages of his critical career.

But for the world's collectors, the good news came with a troubling caveat. Yields were down significantly in 2010. The poor set made for small clusters. And while a magnificent Indian summer punctuated an otherwise cool growing season, incrementally nursing small berries to perfect physiological maturity, the tiny crop — and the weak dollar — set the stage for eye-popping sticker shock.

The old-vine micro-cuvées from the most heralded names in town — Beaucastel, Vieille Julienne, La Janasse, Pegau, Usseglio and Clos du Caillou — would be released at $150-$300/bottle, only to see prices double on the auction market.

For the most part, even if we've never tasted a vintage quite like 2010 after 25 years of barrel tasting in the southern Rhone, we were nearly obliged to skip the vintage. Not only did prices seem out of touch, but cellars were bare days after release.

In the end, we locked into just one of the most extraordinary wines of the vintage. Crafted by super-enologist Xavier Vignon, the 2010 Xavier Vignon Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée Anonyme finished near the top of Robert Parker's honor roll for the third time in four years. Parker described this 100+-year-old-vine powerhouse as having "an off-the-chart level of extract, lots of glycerin (nearly 16% natural alcohol) and copious black cherry, blueberry, forest floor, lavender and graphite characteristics" — before he lobbed on the 95+ point score that sent international collectors scrambling.

This is one of the true masterpieces of the great 2010 campaign. It's also, far and away, the greatest bargain in town. $75 on release.

Tasting Notes

2010 Xavier Vignon Chateauneuf-du-Pape Cuvee Anonyme
"The powerful, rich 2010 Châteauneuf du Pape Cuvée Anonyme reveals an off-the-chart level of extract, lots of glycerin (nearly 16% natural alcohol) and copious black cherry, blueberry, forest floor, lavender and graphite characteristics. This full-throttle red requires 3-4 years of cellaring and should keep for two decades."
95+ points -- Robert Parker's The Wine Advocate

"Xavier Vignon considers the 2010 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée Anonyme, along with the sensational 2007, to be the two greatest wines he's ever made. Deep purple to the rim, with explosive aromas of crushed raspberry and dark plum, the attack is terrifically concentrated, packed with red-fruit preserves, though still marvelously high-toned and compact. While the finished wine came in at a whopping 15.3% alcohol, you'll never know it. In this one-of-a-kind harvest, even as sugars spiked, acids remained firm, pH a riveting 3.45. Drink now-2025."
-- WineAccess Travel Log

 

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