What’s in the glass tonight April 9th – Châteauneuf du-Pape


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Off Topic – Barton & Guestier Châteauneuf du-Pape 1978

When L was helping her folks tidy up their place recently, she unearthed an old bottle of CdP that they didn’t know they had! I was dead keen to try it, so we arranged a dinner at their place as an excuse to pop the cork. And pop it did, with a bit of encouragement.

And the wine was absolutely splendid. Still showing plenty of fruit and freshness. A real mark of quality of the terroir and winemakers, and careful cellaring. It was a pleasure and a treat to enjoy such a piece of oenological history.

This took me back to a tasting of 1978 reds I attended a few years ago hosted by Geoff Kelly. I recall being thrilled by a Vieux Télégraph Châteauneuf du-Pape 1978. While not as powerful or refined as that wine, today’s bottle shows the quality of the appellation, and just adds to my regard for the wines of the Rhone valley.

La-La land


e-guigal-la-mouline-2006

E.Guigal Rhone wine tasting

I was pleased to attend a wine tasting of selected wines from the noted producer E.Guigal a little while ago. It was hosted by Negociants rep Brett Crittenden, and Meredith Parkin of Glengarry Wines and Spirits. A small crew were in attendance, including a few rogues from the MS.

Brett Crittenden is a very engaging raconteur, and set the scene for us well.

Guigal was established in 1946 by Étienne Guigal, who had worked for Vidal Fleury for 15 years before setting up his own business. It has been managed by his son Marcel Guigal since 1961.

Guigal, under Marcel Guigal, came to international fame in the early- to mid-1980s when Robert M. Parker, Jr. followed by other wine critics heaped praise on Guigal’s top Côte-Rôtie wines, in particular the three single vineyard wines La Mouline, La Landonne and La Turque.

The Rhone valley is divided into Northern and Southern zones. The north has a cool climate, well suited to Syrah. The South has a Mediterranean climate, and better for Grenache, Carignan etc. E. Guigal source grapes from their own properties, from contract growers, and from other suppliers as juice. The area boasts many appellations, and we were fortunate to try wines from several over the course of the session.

E.Guigal make a lot of wine…

We started off with a heavy-weight white, a complex and concentrated way to begin the tasting:

Guigal Lieu-Dit St Joseph Blanc 2014 – $88 – an exceptional vintage. 95% Marsanne with 5% Rousanne, grown on granite soils, and aged in 100% new oak. 100 years ago this wine was France’s most expensive white, and is still a ‘cheffy’ favourite with food.  My notes say: oak, vanilla and honey on nose. Lifted, perfumed. Lovely fruit expression. Remarkable. To taste: packed, structural, power and tension, with mineralite. On sitting, I saw viscosity and spice emerge from the glass, like a Viognier from nearby Condrieu. 94 points.

Side Note: From Wkipedia: Lieu-dit (plural: lieux-dits) (literally said-location) is a French toponymic term for a small geographical area bearing a traditional name. The name usually refers to some characteristic of the place, its former use, a past event, etc. English speakers seem to have discovered the concept through oenology and have considered it as a wine term which in its typical usage translates as “vineyard name” or “named vineyard”. Typically, a lieu-dit is the smallest piece of land which has a traditional vineyard name assigned to it. In most cases, this means that a lieu-dit is smaller than an appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC).

Guigal Côtes du Rhône Rosé 2014 – $24 – Light and fruity – red apples. Good acid, crystal clear finish, no bitterness.  86 points.

Guigal Côtes du Rhône Rouge 2012 – $22 – Can you believe this? 4,000,000 bottles of this wine was made from a blend of some 40-odd parcels. Incredible, and to get such uniformity across the bottling, and across the vintages as well. Apparently 7000 bottles are shipped to the restaurants of Lyon daily. Cleaner than previous vintages, this wine still displays typical character. Warm, enveloping nose. Plummy, soft, with medium tannins. A great food wine, and for everyday drinking. Holds its shape well in the glass. The winemakers rightly take great pride in this wine.  89  points.

Guigal Chateauneuf du Pape 2010 – $79 – From the Rhone’s original appellation: 3000 hectares. 28 growers. 60-100 year old Grenache vines. Elegant and spicy. Aroma notes of pencil shavings, graphite and herbs. Shows a clear identity. Nervous. Dense. Showing richness of the Grenache. Plums, sour cherries, raspberries. A grainy textural finish. Delicious. 92 points.

Guigal Crozes Hermitage 2012 – $50 – From off 1200 hectares arrayed around the base of the hill of Hermitage. 100% bought-in juice. Fermented in 3rd-use oak. Funky on the nose, feral and almost gamey.  A cool climate style – lean, light, with lighter ripeness of fruit, with cutting acid, sour cherry, celery leaf and capsicum. Burgundian in its expression. 87  points.

Guigal St Joseph Rouge 2012 – $59 – 100% Syrah, from bought-in fruit and own grapes. Soft and fruity on nose, and immediately more attractive to me than the preceding Crozes Hermitage. There was depth of ripe fruit, soft, with plenty of flavour and richness, along the lines of the CdR Rouge, but with more character. 90 points.

Then we got into the three heavyweights reds of the tasting….

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Guigal Hermitage Rouge 2010 – $149 – From a stunning vintage. Wines aged in 60% new oak for 36 months. I saw power, opulence and richness. Silky, spicy. Sweet entry, acid balance, amazing fruit intensity, tight grained. Long, long. Absolutely amazing. 96 points.

Guigal Cote Rotie 2011 – $145 – From the Côte Brune and Côte Blonde. Own vineyards. Again aged in 60% new oak. Perfumed, ethereal, such grace! It explodes in the mouth, then shows tight and linear and refined. Perfect physiological ripeness. Silky tannins. Absolutely amazing again. 97 points.

Guigal La Mouline 2006 – $250-450 – One of the famous La-la vineyards, along with La Landonne  and La Turque. La Mouline is a vineyard-designated wine from a parcel inside the lieu-dit Côte Blonde. A blend of 11% Viognier and 89% Syrah and therefore often the most floral of the three top wines. Produced from 100 year old vines, aged for 40 months in new oak. 6000 bottles made. This particular bottle was ferreted out from Glengarry’s store rooms for the tasting. A repeat tasting would be likely impossible. It was feminine, oh so rich and oh so opulent. Enveloping. Mouthcoating. It went on and on. An exemplar of what heights a Rhone rouge can attain. 98 points.

MS Tasting – 2007 Chateauneuf du Pape


Magnum CDP 2007 1

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…

Magnum CDP 2007 2

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.

Hurrah!