A visit to the Northern Rhone on my birthday started by hitting the road from Burgundy at dawn. The anticipation for the tour's next stop was all the fuel I needed: Domaine Auguste Clape.
The style here has consistently pushed for maximum ripeness, picking at the last moment before the ominous fall rains begin. These fruit-forward Cornas from porous granite soils endow tremendous structure but with a pleasurable side of lusciousness. It's often argued that of the Big Three, including Hermitage and Côte Rôtie, Cornas offers an up-front approachability thanks to its southern and warm amphitheater setting. However, the savage scorched earth quality where Cornas derives its name is the foundation of this fabled domaine, and Clape captures all of that wildness. 
Clape's vineyards in Cornas span over ten parcels, including Allemand's Reynard and Chaillot and Nöel Verset's Sabarotte. This dizzying array of terroir plays a huge role in many decades of success. The wines are produced most traditionally with 100% whole cluster fermentation and aging in old barrels, with the two Cornas cuvées seeing 22 months in large foudre. When the opportunity arises to open Cornas with many decades on it, Clape is simply bulletproof. These young wines should not deceive you by their infancy's charming nature––they will go the distance to be enjoyed by generations to come.

Finding adequate words to place Auguste Clape in the context of Northern Rhone's history is difficult Auguste started bottling under his name in 1955 and stopped all négociant sales in 1968. Sadly, the day after I visited his son Pierre-Marie, he passed away at 93. Auguste pioneered the Northern Rhône in the company of Noël Verset and Raymond Trollat.

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