Domaine Roger Sabon is one of the Southern Rhone’s most important estates, producing largely traditional-styled wines that are a benchmark for Châteauneuf du Pape
Founded in 1952, Domaine Roger Sabon is a reference point for traditional Châteauneuf du Pape. Didier Negron, son-in-law of Jean-Jacques Sabon, has been winemaker since 2001 and achieves terrific quality across the board with admirable consistency. This middling-sized estate of 17 hectares produces four red wines and one white. The only wine to see any new wood is the cuvée Prestige: all the others are aged in old foudres, demi-muids and barrels, typically from 12-16 months. The grapes are mostly destemmed. These wines are never acidified, which makes the balance they achieve in solar vintages like 2009 all the more impressive.
This Domaine’s most famous wine is the special cuvée Le Secret de Sabon, of which only slightly more than a thousand bottles are produced each year from very low-yielding, old vines. This is certainly one of the Southern Rhône’s most compelling wines, but it shouldn’t distract attention from the impressive quality of the other cuvées. The Cuvée Les Olivets is the admirable basic bottling, and contains a notable 10% of Cinsault. The Cuvée Reservée boasts more structure, as well as more Syrah in the blend. The Cuvée Prestige is a more concentrated and layered wine that can often compete with many of the great wines of the appellation. All the wines are bursting with Provencal character.
2011 Cuvée Reserve
With its aromas of blood, smoked meats and garrigue, this wine displays what my notes describe as ‘a bit of Pegau’. It is an impressive classic Châteauneuf, and not far from the level of the 2010. (90-92 points)
2011 Cuvée Prestige The superiority of its 2010 sibling is less in doubt when it comes to the Prestige, but this too is a beautiful wine with a lovely layered texture and lots of mulberry fruit overlayed with some compelling nori characteristics. (91-93+ points)
2011 Le Secret de Sabon Darker and deeper, and along with Marcoux Vieilles Vignes the most impressive 2011 of the tasting, aromas of blackberry, cassis, tar and some attractively floral fruit candy notes, this will be one of the most long-term 2011s thanks to its huge endowments of fruit and tannin. (94-96 points)
2010 Les Olivets Smooth and accessible, the 2010 Les Olivets boasts appealing aromas of plums, raspberry and earthy garrigue. With good concentration and freshness (a trait share by all the 2010 wines from Domaine Roger Sabon) this is an outstanding wine. 90 points
2010 Reservée Darker and richer than the Les Olivets, the Reservée offers up lots of ripe black cherry, figs and warm asphalt. It displays more flavour authority, but it is also more backward at present. 91+ points
2010 Prestige What a compelling wine! Aromas of lavender, rosemary, tar and pepper complement lashings of black cherry fruit, and on the palate this wine coats the mouth with layers of sweet fruit. Everything is in balance, with fresh acids and ripe fruit married in harmony. There is plenty of tannin, and this wine will, as Didier Negron puts it, ‘be interesting’ with bottle age, but it is not so forbiddingly backward as it seemed when I tasted it twelve months ago. 96 points
2010 Secret de Sabon Even bigger and thicker than the Prestige, the glass-staining 2010 Secret de Sabon includes scents of cassis, liquorice, lavender, charcoal and blackberry in its complex aromatic profile. Nothing here is over-ripe, and the tannins are abundant, but what finesse this wine shows on the palate! This wine will surely reward a decade of cellaring. 99 points
2009 Secret de Sabon Warmer and more easygoing than the 2010 Secret de Sabon, the voluptuous 2009 already gives up a heady bouquet of smoked meats, spices, mulberry and blackberry liqueur. With a great deal of inner sweetness and a sumptuous texture, but lacking some of the complexity and potential of the amazing 2010, this wine manages the vintage character very well. Didier Negron does not acidify his wines, so the freshness of this 2009 is even more impressive. 95 points
2007 Secret de Sabon Wow! While some 2007 Châteauneuf du Pape are closed at present, this wine is not one of them. Aromas of plum sauce, smoked meats, liquorice, black raspberries, cassis, fig jam and camphor soar from the glass, and layer upon layer of beautiful fruit follows through on the palate. Fresher than the 2009, and just as compelling as the 2010, this wine is already surprisingly accessible, and a real joy to taste.99 points
2006 Secret de Sabon While clearly outstanding, there was just so much competition from the other wines at this tasting (in particular the 2010, 2009 and 2007 Secret de Sabon, and the 2010 Prestige) that I may have underscored it. More evolved than the other wines, offering classical aromas of beef bood, kirsch, roasted herbs and licorice, this wine doesn’t have the same volume on the palate as the other vintages of Secret alongside which it was tasted. Most of the tannins have melted away but this wine clearly still has a long life ahead of it. 94 points