Xavier Vignon carefully selects his Cuvée Anonyme from among the most promising barrels at his top client estates, each of which (thanks in part to Xavier’s heedful supervision) produces its own benchmark Châteauneuf-du-Pape. The star-studded list includes Raymond Usseglio, Domaine de Marcoux, Château La Nerthe, and Domaine de Beaurenard, among others. Which means that this unique cuvée takes selection to the highest possible level: the cream of the cream of the cream. In the glass, the Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée Anonyme 2017 has a dark garnet color, almost black at the center, yet limpid in natural light, as if it were illuminated from within. Aromas of ripe griotte cherries, black plum preserves, licorice root, and a basket of dried flowers and spices all move in and out of the foreground, sometimes alternating with cracked black peppercorns, roasted tomatoes, and Turkish tobacco as the nose evolves in the glass. On the palate, the wine is plush, opulent, and velvety, with sweet graphite-infused black and red fruit flavors that echo the nose, including sun-warmed black plums, cassis, dates, and dried Mission figs. The palpable mineral extract, voluptuous ripe tannins, and low-pH Mourvèdre all contribute to the wine’s compelling length of flavors, and the wine gains weight over time in the glass. Silk sheet sensuality in a bottle. Drink now–2040.
About this wine producer: As the technical director and head enologist at “Laboratoire Avignon Oenologie Conseil,” Xavier Vignon is the consulting winemaker at more than 300 estates, including most of the best-known domaines in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. In lieu of payment for his laboratory’s service, he sometimes accepts wine, which the micro-négociant company he established in 2002, “Xavier Vins,” uses to produce exceptional wines of the southern Rhône Valley. Originally a physical chemist, Xavier is particularly interested in how the spectrum of dissolved mineral salts in the groundwater of each vineyard, which varies from parcel to parcel, influences the expression of terroir in the grapes. “I’m a trained enologist,” he says. “I’ve examined wine down to the molecular level. Which, in the end, convinces me that what is most important are the vines, the depth of the roots, and the health and balance of the vineyard.”