Cornas Benchmark: 2011 Clape Cornas Renaissance

Posted by Ian McFadden

Cornas Benchmark
2011 Clape Cornas Renaissance

"There should be a stone to Auguste Clape in the northern Rhône... For this is an exceptional person."
-John Livingston-Learmouth

Clape is synonymous with Cornas, in all its rugged, rocky glory.

This domaine has absolutely been a reference point in Rhône since Auguste Clape first started working his now famous vineyard in 1949. With Thierry Allemand, he is one of the two rockstars of Cornas.

Pierre-Marie, Auguste's son, has been at the helm since 1989 and has proven to be just as exceptional as his father. Since the 2009 vintage, Clape's notoriety has simply exploded. And, of course, that has made finding Clape in any quantity an extremely painful exercise.

The 2011 Renaissance is something that I've been seeking out. For me, 2011 is a really, really compelling vintage for this wine. In this vintage, Renaissance can hold its own against Clape's regular Cornas and comes in at a much more affordable price.

Renaissance is a bottling that I always look out for - in the right vintages, it's one of the best Cornas deals out there. And 2011 is certainly one of them.

Renaissance is a younger vine selection. If the signature of Clape's Cornas is dark, wonderfully bone-crushing and savory, Renaissance is slightly more yielding while still delivering a stern spine of crushed rock minerality.

Clape's Cornas transforms in the cellar, tamed by age to reveal a refined core of herbal elegance. Compared to Clape's regular Cornas, Renaissance gets to this point more rapidly, but we're still talking after a decade plus in the cellar.

There are only a handful of traditionalists left that can hold court with Clape in the Northern Rhône - namely J.L. Chave and the Jamet brothers. Amid the current craze for traditional Rhône, Clape is not just benchmark in Cornas, but for all Syrah.

As I mentioned above, the 2011 Cornas Renaissance is a bottle that I've been hunting down for some time. Clape really just nailed it with this bottle. I found a small parcel last fall and had to wait over six months before finding more. This is likely the last of it.

To order, reply to or call the store at (212) 980-9463.

Ian McFadden
Director, Fine & Rare Wine
Crush Wine & Spirits

Robert Parker: "As with the 2012, the 2011 Cornas Renaissance (22 months in foudre) is more approachable than the straight Cornas. Inky purple in color, it exhibits gorgeous black raspberry, cassis, ground herbs, spring flowers and underbrush to go with a rich, full-bodied, voluptuously textured profile on the palate. Still packing a wallop of tannin that emerges on the finish, it will benefit from a year or two in the cellar and cruise for 10-15 years."