I recently attended another much-anticipated Society wine tasting, this time of a selection of 2007 Chateauneuf du Papes…
The first and only CdP I have tasted thus far was done so only a few weeks ago at the Game of Rhones. So I had a lot to learn.
AE hosted the tasting, and compiled the excellent accompanying notes. I was tapped up to provide the supper, and thus prepared boeuf bourguignon avec grillés purée au fromage, et pain avec fromage. I was glad to receive all gold scores for the supper, thanks…
AE writes, “John Livingstone-Learmonth notes that the Southern Rhône’s seductive 2007 vintage has been rapturously received, with merchants trumpeting its wares. The wines are good, but do they have the structure to age.
Most of the experts agree. Robert Parker notes that the 2007 vintage shows purity, extraordinary concentration and remarkable freshness – despite the fact that the wines are big. He commented that these factors have resulted in very aromatic wines of laser like focus, and amazing purity as well as depth. Parker stated that 2007 Châteauneuf-du-Pape was “the vintage of a lifetime” and even suggested that, it may be the most compelling vintage of any viticultural region he has ever tasted.
He says further, it is important to recognize how much has transpired in the Châteauneuf-du-Pape appellation over the last two decades. When he first began tasting Châteauneuf-du-Pape seriously in 1978, there were no more than 8-10 estates making world-class wines. Today, there are 60-75 doing so, and several new estates arrive with each new vintage. The newer generation of winemakers has greater appreciation of the terroirs and they also possess a more worldly view concerning the competition they confront. Consequently, they have raised the bar of quality dramatically.
Parker gave 100 points to two of the wines we are tasting (RPscore below)! But then, Jeb Dunnuck also scored all these wines between 96 and 100.
So what has made 2007 so special? The great vintages of Châteauneuf-du-Pape are like great vintages anywhere in the world. Full phenolic maturity is achieved over a long period of time, not retarded or rushed by excessive heat, but built slowly and incrementally. The factors in Châteauneuf-du-Pape that can change maturity include excessive heat as well as how many days the Mistral winds blow, and whether the nights in August and September were cool. In fact, 2007 had more days of Mistral during September than any other year except 2001, 1990, and 1978, three other years which produced superb wines. It was also a drought year, but some of the most stunning statistics are that while the average daytime temperature was well above average, the average night-time temperature, when the grapes have a chance to recover and develop aromatics, was among the lowest of any vintage measured in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, particularly for the month of September. That month also had a record number days of Mistral.
This weather scenario produced a vintage with depth of fruit, brightness, and exceptional purity. In short, it was a hotter than normal year overall, but it was also a much cooler than normal year in terms of night-time temperatures. Moreover, despite being hotter than normal, the year rarely had any days over 30 degrees Celsius. For example, in 2003, during the critical months of July and August, there were 55 days where the temperature exceeded 30 degrees Celsius. In 2001, there were 37 days, in 1998, 39 days, and in 2007, there were only 24 days, again dramatically less than in any other vintage. Moreover, in the month of September, 2007, there were no days above 30 degrees Celsius, which was the first top vintage since 2001 where this occurred. The other characteristic is that 2007 set an all-time record for hours of sunshine during the course of the year. It was also a record year in terms of the lack of rain in both August (none) and September (just over 2 inches). In contrast, 3+ inches fell in both 2001 and 2000, 4.5 inches fell in 1998, and nearly 3 inches fell in 1990. Only 1989 had less rain in the month of September than 2007.
Châteauneuf’s success, like that of Bordeaux, has traditionally been due to its age-worthiness and the fact that, as a blend, the traditional mix of grapes can balance out any unevenness in the wine, but things have changed. Châteauneuf-du-Pape is still permitted to use all 13 grapes in the appellation in their wines but many Châteauneuf producers are taking the easy way out and making blockbuster-style, Grenache-based reds that can be easily over-oaked, high in alcohol and one-dimensional that disintegrate with age. Some are just there to be massive and impressive early on, and to score points. But do they age as well as more traditionally made styles?
Now to the wines…
2007 Vieux Donjon Châteauneuf du Pape – $69.99 – RP96 – Dark brown carmine colour with garnet rim. Smoky nose, green wet earth, savoury funkiness. Hint of dirty antiseptic, dark red raspberry fruits slightly stewed. I saw a quite lively attack, jammy flavours, salad lettuce leaf, mayonnaise finish (oddly). 92 points
2007 Vielle Julienne Châteauneuf du Pape – $115.00 – RP96 – Dusty dark brown carmine colour. Aniseed on nose, lean with jasmine florals. Dense deep flavours, secondary complexity emerging, strong aniseed, and quite alcoholic. Spicy, hot and soapy. 92 points
2007 de Cristia Chateauneuf du Pape VV – $145.00 – RP96 – Dark brown carmine colour. Medicinal nose, powerful, with depth and tension. Aniseed again, with wild flower scents, cherry plum and chocolate. It was quite sweet to drink, delicious, complex, concentrated and muscular. 94 points
2007 Clos des Papes – $130.00 – RP99 – Dark brown carmine colour. Medicinal again. Sweetness. Vanilla. Funky.This was a challenging at first but I have rarely met a wine I didn’t like (at least a little). Very ripe in the mouth. Port-y. HOT. Jammy. Intense. 89 points
2007 de la Mordoree Châteauneuf du Pape Reine des Bois – $89.00 – RP96 – Dark brown carmine colour. Perfumed, sweet, with honey, very appealing. It was a heavy wine to taste. Big big big! Ripe red fruit, herbal, black olives, powerful and intense. 95 points
2007 Usseglio Châteauneuf du Pâpe Mon Aieul – $165.00 – RP100 – Dark brown carmine colour. Lean and somewhat dumb in this company. That medicinal undernote is apparent, aniseed and leather. Sweet and involving to drink, which was a surprise. I saw cinnamon. It was long, and oaky, with tannic heft, and a drying finish. It turned out very lovely. Very complete. 96 points
2007 Janasse Châteauneuf du Pape Vielle Vignes – $155.00 – RP100 – Dark brown carmine colour. This was a classic wine to finish. Complete, poised. Layers of subtle scent, violets. Powerful. There is a hit on the palate of intense fruit, bright acid, savoury over sweet, and long. Quite dazzling and intoxicating…(but as all the wines were very hot, this effect may have been cumulative)…My WOTN (wine of the night)… 96 points
Well, that was a fascinating look at a range of top Chateauneuf du Papes. My fellow tasters were in agreement that the style is evolving in a disagreeable manner. Getting hotter. Becoming alcoholic fruit bombs. Losing the CdP terroir typicity they were used to. Is the the result of Climat Change?
Me, I saw some gorgeous, distinctive, hot and flavoursome reds that go remarkably well with rich cheeses, roast chicken and stewed meats. Get over it. The Aussies have. No problems at my end.