Northern Rhône pioneer Auguste Clape dies

Northern Rhône pioneer Auguste Clape, a leading light of the Cornas appellation, has died aged 93.

Cornas pioneer Auguste Clape (centre) with his son Pierre-Marie (right) and grandson Olivier (left)

Clape, who helped put Cornas on map, died peacefully on 13 July surrounded by his family. His domaine, A. Clape, propelled Cornas into one of the world’s most revered sites for Syrah.

“Like Noel Verset, he was one of the true greats of Cornas, making wines of great complexity and ageing potential that brought great notoriety to the appellation,” Clark Terry, marketing director at Kermit Lynch, told Wine Spectator.

Hailing from a long line of grape growers, Clape’s ancestors were based in the Languedoc but made the move to the Rhône Valley at the turn of the 20th century.

Born in 1925, Clape starting working at his family wine estate in the 1940s.

In 1949 he married Ariette Frugier, who inherited four hectares of vineyards from her family, which Auguste revived.

In 1957, the Clapes became the first vintners in Cornas to bottle their own wine.

Over time his wines gained a reputation for quality abroad, particularly in the UK and US. During his career, Clape’s winemaking approach remained the same.

Keen to capture the character of Cornas’ sloped granite soils, Clape whole bunch fermented his wines in cement vats and aged them in used oak foudres.

Clape’s son Pierre-Marie, began working with him in 1989 and now oversees the estate with his son Olivier, who joined the family domine in 2002.

A tireless defender of Cornas terroir, Clape made two wines: Cornas, from old vines up to 90 years old, and Renaissance, made from young vines.

His legacy lives on in his son Pierre-Marie Clape and grandson Olivier.

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