The Best Wine In The World

In early February, the American wine magazine, The Wine Spectator, published its annual list of top 100 wines for 2008. The winner was a châteauneuf-du-pape, the 2005 Clos des Papes from the Avril estate. The best wine in the world is therefore a French wine (bravo!) and what’s more it’s affordable at 35 euros a bottle direct from the estate. The problem is that because this is not its creator Paul Avril’s first success (his 2003 vintage came second in the same list) at this price his entire output is sold before bottling, then dispatched straightaway to 35 countries.

But how is the best wine in the world made? It all starts with an exceptional vineyard established by the Avignon popes in the fourteenth century on the banks of the Rhône. The estate of Paul Avril, who is the latest in a line of winegrowers going back to 1600, owns about thirty hectares divided into 24 plots, some of which are located within the actual precincts of the ancient castle. The soil which is poor, dry and full of pebbles which retain the heat of the Provence sun, is planted with patiently tended old vines most of which are on average sixty years old, although some of them are over eighty years old. They produce a small yield of grapes which are carefully harvested and sorted by hand when ripe. The maximum yield is 25 hectoliters per hectare, although the official French limit allows for 35.

Traditionally, eighteen grape varieties (including one white variety) can be used to blend a châteauneuf-du-pape. The dominant grape in Clos des Papes 2005 is grenache with its powerful, full-bodied notes. According to Paul Avril, “Grenache is no good below 14.5 per cent”. For this reason alone, his wine is a lively natural 15 per cent. Those who have the opportunity to taste it (at least two hours after it has been decanted into a carafe, as you can’t rush a wine of this caliber) praise its powerful concentrated cherry and red fruit flavors, with a hint of licorice.

Are you ready to taste “the best wine in the world” during your stay on St Barts? In order to do this you will first of all have to get your hands on a few bottles of the aforementioned nectar. This is difficult but not impossible. For a price of 60 to 80 euros, a few online stores or auction sites are still offering one or two of the 85,000 bottles produced. This is a very small number of bottles compared to 200,000 bottles of the best bordeaux, Château Margaux.

You will then need to find an appropriate time (preferably in the evening when it is cooler) and a dish worthy of it. Fish can be ruled out. Creole cuisine? Why not, as the Clos des Papes is robust enough to cope with such a daring choice. At the end of the day, however, meat grilled simply on a barbecue will let it demonstrate its full worth. You can be one first-name terms with God and still remain humble…

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