2020 Clos St Jean La Combe des Fous Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Southern Rhone Valley, France – WS96

2020 Clos St Jean La Combe des Fous Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Southern Rhone Valley, France – WS96



$135 a bottle if this wine is ordered as a set with a bottle of the 2020 Clos Saint-Jean Deus En Machina! 

Because of our success selling the 2021 Clos St-Jean Vieilles Vignes Chateauneuf, the importer has graciously offered an allocation of six bottles of each of the winery’s top tier and rarely found Chateauneuf-du-Pape cuvees.  Both wines are only produced in the finest vintages, and consistently receive top ratings as collectibles..

Clos Saint-Jean is a 48-hectare estate in Châteauneuf-du-Pape run by brothers Vincent and Pascal Maurel. Considered by many critics and wine-writers as the preeminent estate espousing the modern style of winemaking in Châteauneuf, this cellar is one of the oldest in the region, having been founded in 1900 by the great-great-grandfather of Vincent and Pascal, Edmund Tacussel. A short time after its founding and well before the AOP of Chateauneuf-du-Pape was created in 1923, Edmund began bottling estate wines in 1910.

The various vineyards of Clos Saint-Jean are located primarily in La Crau. This plateau is perhaps the most iconic of the many terroirs of Châteauneuf-du-Pape – iron-rich red clays topped with galets. While about 60% of their vineyards are located here, specifically in the lieu-dits of Côteau de Saint-Jean and Cabane de Saint-Jean, another 40% are located in alluvial clay and sandy soils adjacent to the plateau. They also own a small parcel of Mourvèdre in the lieu-dit of Bois Dauphin near Château Rayas planted on sandy, limestone-rich soils.

Combe des Fous literally means, the hill of the fool. The hill, in this case, is located in the far southern reach of Le Crau which was left barren for many centuries because the layer of galets was so exceedingly deep that everyone assumed vines could never survive there. The fool in this situation is Edmund Tacussel, the great-great-grandfather of Vincent and Pascal Maruel who planted a Grenache vineyard on this site in 1905. That old-vine Grenache forms the heart of this cuvée with a small amount of Syrah, Cinsault and Vaccarèse. The primary Grenache is fermented and aged in concrete while the small amount of remaining varieties are fermented and age in French demi-muid, both for 12 months. 15% alcohol.

JD 96

jebdunnuck.com, November 2022

In contrast to the bigger, richer Deus-Ex Machina, the 2020 Châteauneuf Du Pape La Combe Des Fous is all about finesse and elegance, probably due to the inclusion of Cinsault and Vaccarese in the blend. Deeper ruby/purple-hued, it has an exotic perfume of both red and blue fruits, smoked game, spring flowers, and peppery herbs. Slightly darker fruited than past vintages were at this stage, it’s medium to full-bodied on the palate, has gorgeous tannins, a layered, seamless mouthfeel, and a great finish. This beauty already offers incredible pleasure yet will evolve gracefully over the coming 15-20 years. The blend is 70% Grenache, 20% Syrah, and the rest Vaccarese and Cinsault, brought up mostly tank.

 WS 96

Wine Spectator, January 2022

Pumps out heady raspberry, mulberry and blackberry compote notes that keep form and direction, thanks to a roasted apple wood spine and flanking ganache, garrigue and warm earth notes. Seriously grippy finish. Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault and Vaccarèse. Best from 2025 through 2040. 500 cases made, 43 cases imported.

 WA 94+

Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate, October 2023

The 2020 Chateauneuf du Pape La Combe des Fous is an assemblage of 60% Grenache (planted in 1905 on sandy soils and typically raised in concrete), 20% Syrah, 10% Cinsault and 10% Vaccarese (these are normally matured in oak). In 2020, this comes across as slightly smoky on the nose, with plenty of black raspberry fruit but not as much nuance as this cuvée often exhibits. It’s full-bodied and softly tannic, with a mouthfeel that’s deceptively airy and a long, lingering finish, so perhaps the bouquet was just going through an awkward phase. – Joe Czerwinski