Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Tasting Maturing Chateauneuf-du-Pape - Vieux Telegraphe, Beaucastel, Pegau

Chateauneuf-du-Pape wine is powerful in its youth, perhaps too powerful for my palate. That's why I believe it's a great transition wine for new world palates. It's got the rich fruit and texture, plus the extras - spices, tar, acidity. The magic happens though at about 10 year mark, give or take - where the wines mellow out, meld the various components, and start showing wonderfully complex layers of iron, meat, blood, and yet more spices - the package I fondly refer to as "the wild boar" bouquet. They are still "Viking" wines compared to the more civilized brethren from Burgundy and Bordeaux, but nonetheless mature Chateauneuf-du-Pape's are full of character, complexity, depth, and just pure deliciousness. The "soul of the Viking"?

Our local wine shop Vin Vino Wine is known for doing tastings of older wines, particularly older Rhones. Yesterday, I had the pleasure of tasting thru a venerable line-up, my notes below.

1995 Domaine du Vieux Telegraphe Chateauneuf-du-Pape "La Crau" - classic pepper and iron nose. On the palate - smooth, soft acid, "brown" spice & pine, a bit medicinal, very little fruit, a bit austere and unexciting.

1997 Chateau de Beaucastel Chateauneuf-du-Pape - nice ripe nose of stewed cherries and plums. On the palate - juicy and silky, with elegant spice, great acid. I quite like it.

1998 Domain du Vieux Telegraphe Chateauneuf-du-Pape "La Crau" - Quite an improvement, IMO, over the '95. On the palate - sweeter fruit and spices. More juicy than '95, still a bit of tannin, smoked meat, some bitter spices and solidly deliniated structure. A bit like an old Barolo, actually (!) with those brown sugar "tree bark-like" spices. Pretty nice.

2000 Chateau de Beaucastel Chateauneuf-du-Pape - liqueur jammy nose. On the palate - ripe liqueur, pruney aftertaste, spices, plums, marmelade, really sexy slutty stuff. Bottomline: way too jammy.

2000 Domaine du Pegau Chateauneuf-du-Pape "Reservee" - the first bottle was mildly corked. They were nice enough to open a second one, which was infinitely better! Another reminder that many people will not necessarily identify the "cork", and will simply conclude that the wine is not good. In this case, it would have been a massive mistake, because the second bottle was singing and it was my WOTN ("wine of the night"). On the nose and palate - dense generous fruit, great balance of fruit, iron, spices, and acid. Pine, clean iron-tinged rain-gutter water, raw animal and charcoal / tar. Still quite young and certain to keep improving as the formidable fruit density unwinds...

This is not the first time I sized up older Chateauneuf's. For a previous account, read this detailed taste-off from 4 years ago. I have to admit, since then I've grown fonder of these wines, as I've experienced what the better bottles offer with age. And after all, one cannot survive on Burgundy alone!

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