Product information

Sabon Châteauneuf-du-Pape ‘Le Secret des Sabon’ 2016

Rhône Blend from Châteauneuf du Pape, Southern Rhône, Rhône Valley, France


$400ea in any 3+
$385ea in any 6+
Closure: Cork


Unquestionably the deepest, richest wine in the lineup, the 2016 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Le Secret des Sabon offers sensational notes of blackberries, cassis, crushed rocks, graphite, and bouquet garni. Full-bodied, ultra-fine, seamless, and pure, it has more elegance and purity than the 2010 and is reminiscent of the 2001. It’s a gorgeous, extraordinary, layered, seamless Châteauneuf-du-Pape to drink over the coming two decades or more.

Jeb Dunnuck

95% Grenache & 5% odds and sods. This is Sabon’s flagship made in minuscule quantities.

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Why is this Wine so Yummy?

When I’m tasting Châteauneuf-du-Papes I’m always looking for freshness, or, perhaps, better put, wines that show no sign of being cooked or using raisined, jammy fruit. I want to see the fruit, harmony, balance, particularly in a region where potential alcohols can rocket up very quickly in the vineyard. Finally, in a region that has been prone to Brett, I want clean wines.

Sabon is ticking the boxes. I had the 2016 Reservée over a couple of nights and it’s brooding, and, dark, the palate has excellent flow and fine texture. I can see it developing beautifully as a little of the youthful puppy fat drops off and gives us a wine of increasing transparency. By all accounts with a much higher percentage of Grenache, as you move up to the ‘Secret’ you get a wine of increased elegance.

Made from vines older than 100 years. It hales from the famed La Crau sector of Châteauneuf. You will have seen the name on Vieux-Télégraph’s label.

About Domaine Roger Sabon

Roger Sabon is a terrific source of traditional Châteauneuf-du-Pape whereby the expression of fruit and terroir is everything and oak is applied judiciously. Sabon makes velvety wines with silky concentration, flesh and finesse utilising modern foudrés and some casks for elevage. Jean-Jacque’s son-in-law Didier Negron has been in charge for nearly a decade now and has raised the bar at this already first-class benchmark Châteauneuf-du-Pape producer.

“I continue to love the wines from Didier Negron at Roger Sabon, yet I always feel they’re underappreciated in the market. While they can certainly be big, rich wines (especially the Secret des Sabon), these are always classic, elegant wines that have beautiful Provençal charm. There are four Châteauneuf-du-Pape releases: the entry level Les Olivets (first made in 1955) from younger vines and completely destemmed; the Cuvée Reserve from a single vineyard and 70-80% Grenache, and the rest Syrah and Mourvèdre, aged in foudre and oak tanks; the Cuvée Prestige based on 70% Grenache, 20% Syrah and the rest mostly Mourvèdre that’s aged in foudre, oak tanks, and demi-muids; and the smallest production cuvée (there’s normally just 100 cases produced), the Le Secret des Sabon based mostly on Grenache.”

Jeb Dunnuck

In the Vineyard

In the Winery

The winemaking here sees the Châteauneuf’s on skins for around a month. Elevage is in large foudrés and old barriques, there’s no oak character to be seen. The blends vary with Grenache the mainstay. The 3 main wines have 70-80% Grenache with the balance Syrah, Mouvèdre, Cinsault and a few bits and pieces of other varieties depending on the wine. The ‘Secret’ sees the % of Grenache up at 95% with the balance co-planted odds and sods.

The style here is one of intensity with refinement and fine tannins.

The 2016 Vintage at Domaine Roger Sabon


As autumn is drawing to a close and the wine presses have been washed and put away, the first wines tasted before being blended confirm what had been sensed: 2016 is going to be a fabulous vintage! And if some compare it to the magnificent 2010, some others do not hesitate to go as far as the famous star-vintage 199 Either way, the evidence that we are witnessing the making of a great vintage is clear.

After a rather mild winter and a dry and cool spring, the vineyard had to resist a hot summer –hotter than average with several days exceeding 35°C, including in early September. A hot –albeit not blistering hot summer, characterized as soon as early August, over the Véraison ripening time, by wide temperature variations between day and night, a positive factor that encourages polyphenol synthesis. Summer was also particularly dry; the total rainfall barely reached 70mm, with 17.8mm in July, 8.4mm in August and 44.6mm in September. It was precisely the thin drizzle that fell continuously on 14 and 15 September that allowed the grapes to reach full maturity, without hampering the quality potential of a harvest that can -in all respects- be qualified as exceptional (perfect sanitary state, optimum phenolic ripeness…).

The harvest started on 12 September and spread over 6 weeks and more. The consequence of this dream weather was that the sorting of the grapes –although mandatory- was made hardly necessary. From a general point of view, the wines of the 2016 vintage are very aromatic, complex, frank and crisp. The average yield should be close to 32hl/ha, compared to the 35hls authorised.

The Châteauneuf-du-Pape whites are fine and full-bodied. They reveal an optimum ripeness and at the same time, thanks to a naturally low pH, a beautiful freshness. The Grenache grape expresses aromas of white and yellow fruit (peach, pear, quince) and white flowers. The Roussane grape is very expressive and reveals scents of exotic fruit, peach and apricot. Thanks to a beautiful autumn, the Clairette and Bourboulenc grapes, both late varietals, were picked at full ripeness, thus contributing to the final blending by their elegant notes.

The 2016 reds are characterised by very crisp, frank, intense and complex aromas. Depending on where they grew and their “terroir”, the Grenache-based wines give off scents of raspberry, liquorice, garrigue, candied ginger, black fruit and citrus fruit. The blending of the various varietals allowed in the AC gives birth to a magical complexity, the subtle result of the interaction between the inherent characteristics of the grape variety and the influence of the “terroir”. The red wines show dense, dark colours, with very high levels of anthocyanins. In the mouth, the wines are intense, full-bodied, with a beautiful freshness. In a word, they are powerful! The tannins are there, but they are extremely fine and already very silky.

2016 marvellously embodies what can be called an exceptional vintage.

Where in the World is Domaine Roger Sabon?

Roger Sabon’s home is Châteauneuf-du-Papes in the southern Rhône.

A bit of History

Châteauneuf-du-Pape literally translates to “The Pope’s new castle” and, indeed, the history of this appellation is firmly entwined with papal history. In 1308, Pope Clement V, former Archbishop of Bordeaux, relocated the papacy to the town of Avignon. Clement V and subsequent “Avignon Popes” were said to be great lovers of Burgundy wines and did much to promote it during the seventy-year duration of the Avignon Papacy. At the time, wine-growing around the town of Avignon was anything but illustrious. While the Avignon Papacy did much to advance the reputation of Burgundy wines, they were also promoting viticulture of the surrounding area, more specifically the area 5–10 km (3–6 mi) north of Avignon close to the banks of the Rhône. Prior to the Avignon Papacy, viticulture of that area had been initiated and maintained by the Bishops of Avignon, largely for local consumption.

Clement V was succeeded by John XXII who, as well as Burgundy wine, regularly drank the wines from the vineyards to the north and did much to improve viticultural practices there. Under John XXII, the wines of this area came to be known as “Vin du Pape”, this term later to become Châteauneuf-du-Pape. John XXII is also responsible for erecting the famous castle which stands as a symbol for the appellation.

The Chateauneuf appellation is 15km long and 8km wide, consisting of 3200ha, and was officially delimited in 1930. All the hills of Chateauneuf have the same geology – Miocene soil covered by Alpine diluvium-composed of a layer of marine limestone from the Miocene period, covered by a blanket of rounded stones (or “galets”) which contribute much to the wines of Chateauneuf: they retain the intense heat of the Mediterranean sun during the day then slowly disperse it to the vines during the night.

The Mistral plays a crucial role in the quality of wines from the area and blows cold and dry wind from the north through the Rhone to the Mediterranean. These winds often blow at speeds greater than 100km per hour for more than 100 days of the year and are instrumental in keeping disease at bay in the vineyards.

Click to enlarge 🔎

The Grape Varieties of Châteauneuf

Châteauneuf-du-Pape is traditionally cited as allowing thirteen grape varieties to be used, but the 2009 version of the AOC rules in fact list eighteen varieties, since blanc (white), rose (pink) and noir (black) versions of some grapes are now explicitly listed as separate varieties. Also in the previous version of the appellation rules, Grenache and Picpoul were associated with different pruning regulations in their noir and blanc versions, bringing the number of varieties previously mentioned from thirteen to fifteen.

Red varieties allowed are Cinsaut, Counoise, Grenache noir, Mourvèdre, Muscardin, Piquepoul noir, Syrah, Terret noir, and Vaccarèse (Brun Argenté). White and pink varieties are Bourboulenc, Clairette blanche, Clairette rose, Grenache blanc, Grenache gris, Picardan, Piquepoul blanc, Piquepoul gris, and Roussanne. (The varieties not specifically mentioned before 2009 are Clairette rose, Grenache gris and Piquepoul gris.)

Both red and white varieties are allowed in both red and white Châteauneuf-du-Pape. There are no restrictions as to the proportion of grape varieties to be used, and unlike the case with other appellations, the allowed grape varieties are not differentiated into principal varieties and accessory varieties. Thus, it is theoretically possible to produce varietal Châteauneuf-du-Pape from any of the eighteen allowed varieties. In reality, most Châteauneuf-du-Pape wines are blends dominated by Grenache. Only one of every 16 bottles produced in the region is white wine.

99 Points

Unquestionably the deepest, richest wine in the lineup, the 2016 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Le Secret des Sabon offers sensational notes of blackberries, cassis, crushed rocks, graphite, and bouquet garni. Full-bodied, ultra-fine, seamless, and pure, it has more elegance and purity than the 2010 and is reminiscent of the 2001. It's a gorgeous, extraordinary, layered, seamless Châteauneuf-du-Pape to drink over the coming two decades or more. (8/2018)

Jeb Dunnuck

97 Points

Gorgeous, with warm ganache and steeped plum aromas enlivened by bright anise and floral hints, leading into a core of raspberry, blackberry and plum fruit that is pure and racy through the lengthy finish. Dense but sleek, showing great cut and drive. (JM) (6/2018)

Wine Spectator

96+ Points

I tasted the 2016 Chateauneuf du Pape le Secret de Sabon blind, alongside the other 2016s from this fine estate, and failed to discern a huge difference between it and the impressive Prestige or Reserve bottlings. I don't doubt that time will prove my rating to be conservative, hence the + sign. Winemaker Didier Négron retained some stems in this cuvée, and they show for the moment in its slightly herbal-minty notes, but they're balanced by ripe Grenache fruit that suggests apricot and plum. Lavender and thyme join in on the creamy, lush finish of this full-bodied but elegant offering. (JC) 96+ (8/2018)

Robert Parker's Wine Advocate

95 Points

Aromas of wild strawberry, violets and raspberry - classic Châteauneuf Grenache fruit expression of detail and freshness. It's full-bodied, flowing and concentrated, with piercing acidity and good density of ripe tannins. Perfect balance and great harmony, with a long, pure, mineral finish. Drinking Window 2020 - 2033 (MW) (10/2017)


95 Points

Outer quote mark Lurid ruby. Ripe red berries, cherry liqueur and hints of musky herbs, vanilla and potpourri on the highly perfumed, mineral-accented nose. Palate-staining Chambord and cherry flavors show excellent clarity, supple texture and a hint of spicecake that builds slowly as the wine opens up. The energetic, seamless, impressively long finish repeats the floral and red fruit notes, while rounded tannins add shape and gentle closing grip. (JR) Inner quote mark (7/2018)


Where in the world does the magic happen?

Domaine Roger SABON, Avenue Impériale, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, France

Châteauneuf du Pape
Southern Rhône
Rhône Valley