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Clos du Val

One of California’s most elegant and ‘European’ wines, the Clos du Val Stags Leap District Cabernet Sauvignon has won the most coveted prize at the Decanter World Wine Awards: the International Trophy for Red Bordeaux Varietals Over £10.

Clos du Val, founded in 1970 by Bernard Portet, whose father was technical director at Chateau Lafite, prides itself on the elegance and delicacy of its cool-climate Cabernets. It’s 1972 Cabernet was chosen to be pitted against the best of Bordeaux in the 1976 Paris Tasting.

There is irony in Clos du Val’s win. It has been derided for its determination to produce ‘classic estate-style wines of balance, elegance and complexity’, as its mission-statement says.

The winery describes itself as ‘Parker-averse’ for a good reason: Robert Parker is famously dismissive of restraint and elegance in Californian wines – believing such wines deny their terroir and suggesting such wines are the result of snobbery.

He accused Mondavi of ‘chasing notions of Euro-elegance’ in its Cabernets, and Clos du Val is certainly – and probably proudly – a member of what Parker calls the ‘anti-flavour wine elite’.

Parker’s reviews of Clos du Val have been lukewarm: he damns the 2005 Stags Leap District Cabernet Sauvignon with faint praise and a low 89+ score:

‘It is an elegant, linear, medium-bodied effort with fresh acids as well as ripe tannin,’ he suggests.

Decanter’s DWWA tasting panel, led by Stephen Brook, described it as ‘Perfumed and spicy, packed with cassis fruit. Supple and restrained with fleshy black fruit and good length on the finish’.

Written by Adam Lechmere

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