Le Clos du Caillou is ideally located in the commune of Courthézon. The entire estate comprises 44 hectares of Côtes du Rhône, and 9 hectares of Châteauneuf du Pape. Le Clos has the distinction of being located within the boundary of the Châteauneuf du Pape appellation, yet is classified as Côtes du Rhône. Formerly a hunting reserve, the then owner in 1936 refused to have his estate classified by the official regional governing body. Thus, the Clos was not included in the Châteauneuf du Pape appellation. To this day, the Clos du Caillou remains an enclave within this world-renowned wine zone.
The total vineyard holdings (at an average age of over 50 years) comprise Grenache (80%), Syrah (9%), Mourvèdre (5%), Cinsault (1%), Counoise (1.5%), Carignan (2.5%) and Muscardin (1%), as well as Clairette Rose (32%), Grenache Blanc (27%), Roussanne (24%), Clairette (9%), Viognier (6%) and Bourboulenc (2%).
The soil types include sand on a marl sub soil in ‘Les Cailloux’ and ‘Les Cassanets’, making for one of the most interesting terroirs of the appellation. It has the advantage of excellent drainage, thus allowing the grapes to ripen more quickly than in the stonier, pebbly sites. The wines from these soils are characterized by their finesse, elegance, supple tannins and generally are very Burgundian in style. The other key soil type is the famous ‘galets roulés’, especially on the hillsides. The presence is most obvious in ‘Les Cassanets’ and ‘Les Garrigues’ in the Côtes du Rhône.
This terroir is composed of Miocène marine deposits covered by galets, evidence of the past presence of the river Rhône. The galets have a beneficial effect on the quality of the grapes, as they store heat during the day and release it slowly overnight. All vines are tended with the utmost respect for nature: organic treatments only are used, as well as natural composts. Regular ploughing is carried out without the use of herbicides or phytosanitary treatments. Sulphur and copper usage is kept to a minimum. The grapes are harvested exclusively by hand and are sorted carefully before they arrive at the cellar. Vinifications are often preceded by a cold maceration over several days. The red wines are partially or totally destemmed. Fermentation and maceration undergoes manual punching down and pumping over. The wines are then aged in casks and demi-muids for 15 to 18 months in naturally cool underground cellars (13-15°C).
Sylvie Vacheron currently runs this fine estate, helped by the gifted winemaker Bruno Gaspard, producing rich and very expressive Châteauneuf du Pape cuvées alongside consultant Philippe Cambie. The literally “larger than life” Philippe is considered the best oenologist in the Southern Rhône and with his advice, the quality of the estate’s wines has greatly progressed. The unsung hero in Clos du Caillou’s portfolio is the ‘Bouquet des Garrigues’: with the feel and style of Châteauneuf du Pape, it is clearly not a straightforward Côtes du Rhône by any means