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Bois de Boursan, Châteauneuf-du-Pape “Cuvée des Félix: Sélection Jean-Paul Versino”Southern Rhône Valley, France 2015 (750mL)

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Bois de Boursan, Châteauneuf-du-Pape “Cuvée des Félix: Sélection Jean-Paul Versino” Southern Rhône Valley, France 2015 (750mL)

Fruit
Earth
Body
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Acid
Alcohol

Bois de Boursan was already perched at the top of the Châteauneuf-du-Pape pyramid, long before today’s stunning micro-batch cuvée came along. We are avid fans of this estate and its staunchly traditionalist owner, Jean-Paul Versino, who has remained true to the style of wine we overwhelmingly prefer from this region: ripe and powerful without being dominated by syrupy fruit extract and excessive oak. Great Châteauneuf should have lift, energy, and a keen sense of Mediterranean wildness to it, and “Cuvée des Felix” is indisputably great Châteauneuf-du-Pape—a wine that will inspire reverential discussion in the years to come, provided there is any of it left to talk about.


Following the historically great 2015 vintage, Versino was tracking the progress of wines destined for Cuvée des Felix, a selection from the oldest vines on his estate. Normally, this wine is aged for two years in 500-liter casks, but in 2015, at the urging of his importer, Jean-Paul set aside two barrels to age for two-plus years more. It was only the second time in his career that he’d opted for such a long aging regimen (2012 was the other), but he was convinced of the quality of the lot and determined to produce a wine reminiscent of the greats from decades ago: wines not characterized by brute force but by finesse, aromatic complexity, and more red-fruited, herb-slathered expressions of the Grenache grape. This ranks as a once-in-a-lifetime wine for Versino and anyone lucky enough to obtain a few bottles, but look at the price! It’s a small one to pay for a collectible of this magnitude, and we can offer up to four bottles per person until our allocation runs out!



You probably won’t be surprised to learn that we offered that inaugural 2012 vintage of Cuvée des Felix. So, I can confirm that, although I wouldn’t have thought it possible, today’s “Sélection Jean-Paul Versino” ups the ante—and of course the key to the story is heirloom vines planted in the best spots in the appellation. Versino, whose father, Jean, founded the family domaine in the 1950s, organically farms 16 hectares of vines ranging in age from 50-100 years. For the Felix cuvée, he homes in on three special parcels that will be instantly recognizable to seasoned Châteauneuf drinkers: “La Crau” (from vines planted in 1924); “La Nerthe” (planted in 1920), and “Pied de Baud” (planted in 1920). Although soils vary somewhat across the three sites, the composition is predominantly clay-limestone mixed with large river stones and sand. Versino takes a decidedly low-tech approach in the cellar: grapes for the reds are mostly crushed in whole bunches (which appears to help preserve freshness), skin macerations are lengthy, and aging takes place in used, 500-liter demi-muid barrels.


Let’s circle back to those heirloom vines. What people blessed with such plantings will tell you is that older vines are better equipped to regulate themselves. Their roots run deeper, meaning that in rainy years they don’t swell up with surface water and in dry years they’re able to find water reserves deeper down in the earth. Old vines produce less fruit, and what they do produce is more concentrated—and that’s not just “sugar ripeness” but a more complete physiological ripeness that enables wines with elevated alcohols to retain acidity and remain balanced and energetic. In 2015, a vintage described as a “heatwave” year all over Europe, the old vines appear to have done their job: Although the 2015 Cuvée des Felix has lots of concentration and very evident ripeness, it doesn’t overwhelm with alcohol heat or chunky extract.


Cuvée des Felix was never designed to be a large-production wine, but this “Sélection” is truly the tiniest sliver of Versino’s output. Bois de Boursan grows all the 13 authorized Châteauneuf varieties in its multitude of vineyard parcels, but this wine is driven by Grenache (65%) and Mourvèdre (25%), a much larger percentage than in their base-level “Tradition”), with Syrah (5%) and an assortment of other varieties comprising the balance. Like the 2012 before it, the ’15 is plenty delicious to drink now, with lots of juicy red and black fruit and silky tannins, but there’s also a precision to it that bodes well for aging—yes, they’ve done a lot of that for you already, but I would strongly advise laying a few bottles down for 7-10 more years at a minimum. As this wine continues to add new layers of secondary aromas and flavors, it is going to be a truly epic experience. Right now, it displays a deep ruby-black hue and a heady mix of red, black, and purple fruits on the nose: crushed blackberry, cherry, and boysenberry are layered with black licorice, cacao nibs, wild herbs, lavender, warm spices, leather, and braised meat. It is full-bodied but nimble, its richness framed by a lively jolt of freshness. Give it a 45-minute decant, a service temperature closer to 60 degrees, and some big Bordeaux stems, and you’re in for one wild and delicious ride. As with the 2012, this wine made me think of pulled pork and other types of barbecue cooked “low and slow.” Deeply concentrated flavors are the unmistakable theme. Enjoy!





Bois de Boursan, Châteauneuf-du-Pape “Cuvée des Félix: Sélection Jean-Paul Versino” Southern Rhône Valley, France 2015 - SommSelect

  • CountryFrance
  • RegionSouthern Rhône Valley
  • Sub-RegionChâteauneuf-du-Pape
  • SoilClay-Limestone, Sand
  • FarmingOrganic
  • BlendGrenache 65%, Mourvèdre 25%, Syrah 5%, Others 5%
  • Alcohol14.5%
  • Oak500L Demi-Muids

  • CountryFrance
  • RegionSouthern Rhône Valley
  • Sub-RegionChâteauneuf-du-Pape
  • SoilClay-Limestone, Sand
  • FarmingOrganic
  • BlendGrenache 65%, Mourvèdre 25%, Syrah 5%, Others 5%
  • Alcohol14.5%
  • Oak500L Demi-Muids
  • Temp.Serve at 60° F
  • GlasswareBordeaux Stem
  • DrinkingNow-2030+
  • Decanting45 Minutes
  • PairingOven Pulled Pork Barbecue