A vertical of Auguste Clape Cornas "Renaissance" at a local wine shop provided an excellent look at how the recent vintages of the venerable Northern Rhone producer's younger vines are doing. With Clape, even his entry level bottlings - Vin Des Ami and Cotes Du Rhone are seriously good wines if you like old world Syrah, which I think blows the socks off of any new world contenders I've tried. His Cornas is a classic rivaling great Hermitages and Cote Roties. The "Renaissance" cuvee is made from younger vines, and is a notch below his straight Cornas, and therefore still represents relative bargain, as the prices for the flagship wine have recently shot up to $200 bottle after Parker gave them two consecutive 100-points (in 2009 and 2010 vintages).
Here are my tasting notes:
2010 Clape Cornas "Renaissance" - deep, awesome nose. Dark, elegant, slightly roasted (but not unpleasantly) olives, pepper spice, almost Cabernet-like graphite, but just a bit more pepper than a cab, bacon, blue fruits, violets, vivacious, with super clarity and balance, love it, great wine! My favorite of the "Renaissance" lineup, confirming the monumental grander of the 2010 vintage in Europe.
2008 Clape Cornas "Renaissance" - green and white peppercorn spices, super aromatic, greener on the palate, very nice and reasonably approachable, but lacking depth and punch of the 2010. Very refreshing and enjoyable, seems like a great food wine because of its savoriness. Over the course of 30 min, I kept oscillating between absolutely loving it and maybe just a touch greenish. Overall, probably the most aromatically interesting (i.e. beautifully perfumed) wine of the lineup, and very good. Enjoy it or its bigger brother - the main Cornas - with food, and without any other vinous distractions.
2007 Clape Cornas "Renaissance" - ripe, dark, plush, luxurious, mouth-coating, thicker then 2010. Black pepper that becomes more expressive with airing. Reminds me a bit of Dunn Cabernet from the 90's somehow. Not as refined as 2010 or 2008.
2006 Clape Cornas "Renaissance" - the sweet and almost jammy nose jumps out at you, a bit Bordeaux-like on the palate, graphite, olives, but on the riper side, no overt pepperiness, a bit like a zin but with structure and acidity (maybe Ridge zinfandel comes to mind too).
2005 Clape Cornas "Renaissance" - slightly creamy on the nose, super tannic, dense, monolithic and tightly wound, all the elements there, but very young - probably will be the longest lived of the lineup, tons of stuffing, looks like a great, serious wine in the making, but give it a few years.
As an bonus, I also tried the main cuvee:
2004 Clape Cornas - this was my favorite of the tasting, along with the 2010 Renaissance, despite a somewhat weaker 2004 vintage, which was clearly transcended by this producer's older vines. Haunting aromas of spice cabinet. I swear it reminds me of older Dunn and Ridge. Olive, graphite, hint of roast/smoke and distant echoes of bacon. Beautiful, fresh, juicy, brilliantly balanced, and complete. Reasonably approachable now, but will last for years.
The following day, I had a chance to sample two more Northern Rhones.
2010 Clape Cornas - more closed and reserved than the Allemand Chaillot, deep graphite, sweet Bordeaux-like nose with black olive tapenade, distant scents of spice, much darker and blacker than Allemand Chaillot. On the palate: black fruits, smoke and tar, roasted olives, tannins covered by mouth coating bitter rich chocolate but without any sugariness, very dense. More imposing, denser and tighter than the Renaissance. For the ages!