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Domaine Clos du Mont Olivet

History oozes from every corner of the ancient cellars at Mont Olivet. Bottles of old and noble wine rest peacefully between the old foudres. ‘A cellar rat’, was how one grower once referred to me, since I am unable to resist being nosey, poking my wine-stained hands into every nook and cranny to sneak a look at the ancient bottles that may reside there. I have the fondest of memories of Mont Olivet, drinking their wines from the early eighties when I first started to visit the region. Here is one of the appellation’s finest estates that, for reasons I fail to comprehend, has become overlooked and forgotten. The founder of Clos Mont Olivet (there is a lieu-dit of the same name in Chateauneuf-du-Pape) was Romain Jausset, the father-in-law of Seraphin Sabon, who inherited his vineyards. The next generation was Joseph Sabon, who had three sons: Jean-Claude, Pierre and Bernard. Somewhere along the line of inheritance, the estate was split and so became Clos Mont Olivet and Roger Sabon. The three brothers have virtually retired and the estate in now in the hands of the softly spoken and erudite Thierry, who is responsible for the wine making, the wiry and amusing David, whose has a preoccupation with Rugby (shame we beat them recently) and his charming sister Celine. The estate covers 25 hectares of Chateauneuf-du-Pape, including parcels in Le Pied de Baud to the north and a chunk of the Clos du Mont Olivet, where their 80-100 year old parcel of Grenache forms the backbone to their spectacular Cuvee Papet. Tradition here is with a capital ‘T’, but Thierry is certainly modernizing, earlier bottling, later harvesting and selective elevage and blending. He is determined to fully understand his vineyards and wines. Sharing older vintages with the family and one can literally taste history come alive. These wonderful wines evolve at a snail’s pace, revealing layers of complexity and flavour that you thought would not be possible.

That being said, Clos Mont Oliver continues to raise its game. Thierry has made important changes to improve the quality here, but has ensured that the wines of Mont Olivet have not lost any of their charm, retaining their hallmark finesse and fragrant aromatics. Although he still wants his wines to have the potential to age, Thierry wants them to be enjoyable in their youth too. He does not want to produce wines that need a decade to evolve.
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