Another Wine Experience: Châteauneuf du Pape Tastings
Another twosome of Jim’s Disciples, not to mention their also being members of the “Hiking Group”, celebrated one of those even decade important birthdays. Well, important enough to justify spending a little extra celebrating the milestone. Those of us attending the party, dedicated to toasting the couple with Châteauneuf du Pape (CdP) wines, were appreciative of the opportunity to help usher in their next 50 years. [Wikipedia has a brief but informative history of the Châteauneuf du Pape, literally, "New House of the Pope." - APB]
So many of us in attendance had come to think of CdPs as amongst our favorites (along with another half dozen or so appellations). Each attendee was asked to bring a bottle of CdP from one of several good recent vintages. My tasting notes describe 13 such entries. Couples, and selected single pairings, were asked to bring two bottles of whatever, so there might be sufficient volume of each wine to accommodate an expected group of about 20+ partygoers. Unfortunately, the venue did not permit an exchange of information regarding pricing, so that tidbit will be lacking in my descriptions. It is safe to assume that the typical price for the wines tasted would have been in the $28-$45 range.
There were two white CdPs amongst the offerings, ostensibly to be tried during the appetizer phase. I particularly enjoyed having them with the spanokopita (spinach, onion and feta cheese pie in filo dough, for those unfamiliar with this Greek treat). The Ch. La Nerthe (Yr?) blanc was smooth and mouth-filling, but not remarkable. Perhaps it lacked sufficient acidity, but it just didn’t have any pizzazz. In contrast, the 2003 “La Crau” Domaine du Vieux Telegraphe blanc was better balanced and the hands down favorite of the crowd between the two white wines.
While there were to be differences noted amongst the next 11 red CdPs tasted, they were fairly consistent with regard to all being crowd pleasers. A few would not be anything I’d consider buying (at their likely price level), but there weren’t any bad wines.
The first red tasted was a 1999 Boisrenard Louis Bernard. It was to be my favorite of the evening. I know, you think my taste buds probably were firing on all cylinders this early in the party; that wines sampled later would have suffered from my over indulgence. Ok, you may have a point. But I did go back and try some more of the Boisrenard side by side whenever a new wine I tasted seemed like it might supplant the leader. I still prefer the Boisrenard, with its pleasant nose followed by soft, caressing, mouth-filling wine with just the right mix of tannins and plumy fruit, but a few others tried did “make the first team”.
The 2000 Bosquet des Papes, Chante le Merle (Maurice Boiron et Fils) made many of us sing. It was tannic without being rough, and with sufficient fruit to match up with the hints of pepper or spice. A good, solid representative CdP.
Three Guigals came marching by next. A vertical tasting beginning with a 2000 that was ready to drink now, with a great nose, soft tannins, and mild acidity. Nice. The 2001, soft, no rough edges, but perhaps not quite bold or forward enough to truly please. And the 2003, a little young with its fruit and tannins just beginning to meld. Let’s try this one again in a few years. Of the three, I preferred the 2000 for dinner this weekend.
A 2003 “Les Combes de Arnevel” was pleasant, gentle, with soft tannins and a fruit presence. But, I thought it was a bit thin for a CdP.
And then came the 2003 “Le Cedres” from Paul Jaboulet Aine. This CdP had pepper and spice and everything nice. The soft, velvety tannins I prefer coupled with good fruit, and perfume on the nose. It may not have received outstanding scores from the trade magazines, but it was one of my favorites of the evening, and one that I had to keep comparing to the Boisrenard.
Chappelle St. Arnoux Vieux Vignes Millesine, 2003, was next on my list. Described simply as “good”, “nice but exceptional”. I suppose my tasting and writing abilities were beginning to weaken at this stage.
The next CdP tasted was ok in my notes, but a distinct minority of the party attendees had this listed as their favorite. It was described as woodsy and soft, with both pepper and chocolate notes, and was a 2003 Domaine du Pere Pape La Crau de Ma Mere. I was happy for them that I had brought this wine, but it didn’t really do much for me.
My least favorite CdP of the evening was a 2003 Domaine du Pere Caboce, from Boisson, their cuvee Elisabeth Chambellan Vielles Vignes. I had written that it wasn’t bad, just wasn’t worthwhile (compared to some others tasted).
The last wine was also amongst my favorites of the evening. A wine with wonderfully soft tannins, fruit-laden, and with a mix of pepper and something else (licorice, chocolate?) to go with a great nose. It was a 2004 Domaine Monpertuis Classique CdP.
Châteauneuf-du-Pape – its hard to go wrong with these wonderful wines.