Deep ruby in colour. Intense and complex nose of black fruits, pepper, minerals, wild herbs, cocoa, licorice and minerals. Based predominately on very old low yielding Grenache vines, the wine is incredibly intense in flavour as opposed to being “big” or heavy. Mixed red fruits (evolving to darker fruits) dominate the flavour in its youth with a sleek mouth-feel, refined tannins and a very long finish. At least 5 years of cellaring is a required to even begin to appreciate the complexity and magic of this wine. The longer you keep it, the better it gets..
Grape varieties:95% Very old Grenache, 5% Others
Southern Rhône wines are almost always blended around Grenache to bring balance, complexity and richness of aroma to the wines. Thirteen varietals are permitted. The main varieties are:
Grenache – Medium ruby colour and high alcohol. Delightfully fruity (red fruits) in youth, spice: prune notes with age. Medium dry tannins that soften with age.
Syrah – Deep colour with purple shades. Very tight but velvety tannins giving good ageing potential. Violet and/ or black fruit aromas. With age the aromas evolves towards wild aromas of leather, truffle, and towards liquorice
Mourvèdre – Dark brick red, high tannin brings additional ageing quality to the blend. Sometimes animal notes in its youth become fruity (dark berries, leather, undergrowth, pine, liquorice) and spicy with age.
Cinsault – High proportion in Rosé. Elegant, fruity aromas, light colour and tannin (in reds).
Grenache Blanc – Low acidity giving smoothness and length on the palate with floral aromas and notes of apple and pear.
Clairette – Brings acidity and freshness to the blend. Floral, complex aromas of rose and acacia with notes of white peach and exotic fruit.
Roussanne – Brings finesse and delicacy and a great deal of elegance. Good acidity in the northern Rhône enabling the wine to age well. Complex aromas of honeysuckle with touches of apricot, hawthorn or narcissus.
Bourboulenc – Brings good acidity to the blend. Floral aromas.
Marsanne – Medium acidity, with high aromatic potential in young wines. Complex and subtle floral aromas of acacia, dried fruit and nuts (almond, hazelnut, walnut).
Viognier – Medium colour with low acidity and very fruity (pear) in the Southern Rhône. In the Northern Rhône, it brings suppleness and smoothness. Great aromatic potential – acacia, honeysuckle, violet, almond blossom, linden, and with age, musk, honey and dried apricot.
Terroir: Very old vines (some exceeding 100 years old) with low yields across several plots of sand, clay, limestone and rolled stones (“galets”).
The vast majority of wines in the Southern Rhône are aged in neutral tanks such as concrete and stainless steel in order to preserve the delightful fruity characteristics of Grenache. Where oak is used, it is often only used for a proportion of the blend. The majority of wines in the Northern Rhône however, are aged in oak.
The amount of oak flavour in the wine depends on:
The following classifications are used for wines listed on this website:
No Oak – The wine is aged in neutral vats or large, old oak barrels that impart no oak flavours. These wines will be fruit-forward and bright in their early years.
Light Oak – Oak flavours are present but do not dominate the wine when young. The wine may only be partly aged in smaller oak barrels and/or the barrels may have been used for one to three prior wines.
Prominent Oak – Oak flavour is a noticeable feature of the wine, particularly when young. Oak also imparts oak tannins into the wine which can increase the ageing potential of the wine, thus allowing the wine to develop complex aromas over many years.
Drinking time: 5 to 25 years
Reviews: RP 96 to 97 pts, JD 97 to 99 pts, WS 95 pts
The ratings of leading reviewers are listed here with their written comments detailed at the bottom of the page.
Remember that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”. Each wine reviewer has personal tastes and, as hard as they try, preferences can be reflected in the numerical score a reviewer gives to a wine. This is why is important to read their comments rather than judge a wine by its numerical score.
JR = Jancis Robinson. Score out of 20 points.
RP = Robert Parker, Wine Advocate. Score out of 100 points.
JD = Jeb Dunnuck. Score out of 100 points.
WS = Wine Spectator. Score out of 100 points.
W&S = Wine and Sprits. Score out of 100 points.
WE = Wine Enthusiast. Score out of 100 points.
VM = Vinous Media. Score out of 100 points.
JS= James Suckling. Score out of 100 points.
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This wonderful, family-run wine domaine was founded by Roger Sabon in 1952 from family vineyards that date back to 1560. Responsibility for the domaine passed over to Roger’s three sons, Gilbert, Jean-Jacques and Denis in 1976.Today they are joined by Denis daughter, Delphine who runs the commercial side of the winery and his son, Julien who works with him the vineyards. Jean-Jacques son-in-law Didier Negron is in charge of the winemaking, having previously worked at other prestigious domaines in Châteauneuf-du-Pape.
The domaine cultivates 46 ha (117 acres) of vineyards, of which 18 ha are in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, 12ha are in Lirac, 6 ha are in Côtes-du-Rhône and 14ha designated as Vin de France. The Châteauneuf-du-Pape vineyards are spread over 14 plots of quite diverse terroir. The reds are therefore, not just blends of different grape varieties, but blends of different terroir which no doubt explains part of the complexity of these wines.
The domaine produces the three different red Châteauneuf-du-Pape cuveés: “Les Olivets”, “Réserve” and “Prestige” which reflect differing blends on grape varieties, terroir and vine ages.
In certain vintages, the domaine bottles very limited amounts of a fourth cuveé called Le Secret de Sabon which is produced from low-yielding vines over 100 years old.
The domaine also produces small quantities of a delightful white Châteauneuf-du-Pape cuveé call “Renaissance” which is fermented and aged in a new 2500 litre oak cask that gives a hint of oak complexity to the wine.
The wine styles are traditional with delicate touches of modernity that do not comprise the unique expression of their terroir. The Châteauneuf-du-Pape reds are fermented in concrete vats. This, and a long maceration on the skins provides for good extraction of colour and tannins without the need for punching down of the skins (“pigeage”).
Large oak barrels (“foudres”) are used for the reds to round out the tannins without imparting oak flavour, thus allowing for a fuller expression of their terroir in the wines.
Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate (RP)
2018 vintage (97 points): Almost entirely Grenache from two old-vine parcels that include more sand than the domaine’s other plots, the 2018 Chateauneuf du Pape le Secret de Sabon is intoxicating just to smell—not because of the alcohol levels, but because of the enveloping aromas that combine rose petals and lavender with apricots and black cherries and drizzles them all with wisps of dark chocolate and coffee. It’s full-bodied but paradoxically light in feel, with silky, gossamer-like tannins that give the wine a pillowy shape and feel on the palate, then linger elegantly on the long finish.
2017 vintage (96 points): Almost all Grenache from two old-vine parcels, the 2017 Chateauneuf du Pape le Secret de Sabon has morphed during its élevage in oak tank to reveal a darker side. While last year it was all red fruit and roses, this year it shows more plum, licorice, cola and cocoa. It remains wonderfully full-bodied yet light in feel, framed by firm tannins but also creamy and rich on the mid-palate, offering an array of conflicting sensations that emerge harmonious on the long finish. Tasted twice (once blind), with consistent notes.
Jeb Dunnuck (JD)
2018 vintage (97 points): While the 2018 Châteauneuf Du Pape Le Secret Des Sabon isn’t going to match the 2016 and 2017, it’s nevertheless a beautiful wine that’s a candidate for the wine of the vintage. A fabulous perfume of black raspberry and cassis fruits as well as notes of peppery garrigue, smoked game, and Asian spices flow to a full-bodied, beautifully concentrated, ripe, yet also seamless 2018 that has more depth, richness, and length than just about every other wine in the vintage. A field blend of mostly Grenache brought up in foudre, this sensational Châteauneuf du Pape can be enjoyed anytime over the coming 15 years or more.
2017 vintage (99 points): On another level, the 2017 Châteauneuf Du Pape Le Secret Des Sabon is stacked and packed and ranks with the top 2-3 wines in this great vintage. A huge nose of blackcurrants, melted licorice, graphite, garrigue and pepper gives way to an uber-full-bodied, concentrated, massively endowed wine that has an insane level of opulence and decadent, sweet tannins, and a huge finish. This is a tour de force in wine that readers need to taste to believe. Given its wealth of fruit and texture, it’s already approachable, yet a solid 4-5 years of bottle age are warranted, and it’s going to keep for 25 years or more. Bravo! As always, this cuvée is a field blend that’s 95% Grenache, with the balance a mix of varieties, mostly from sandy soils, brought up in oak tronconique tanks.
Wine Spectator (WS)
2018 vintage (95 points): This offers a fairly direct core of black currant and blackberry paste flavors mixed with tobacco, warm earth and alder accents. A tarry edge holds the finish in place as the fruit courses through. Best from 2024 through 2038.
2017 vintage (95 points): Ripe, with a good range to the mix of red and black currant, cherry and dark plum fruit compote flavors, all supported by singed alder, leather and licorice root notes. Shows a bit more grip than most in this generally forward-styled vintage. Best from 2020 through 2035.