Châteauneuf-du-Pape: Traditional and Affordable!

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Our thanks to Eric Asimov for another excellent article about wines from the Rhône Valley!  In this article Eric discusses his love for the traditional Chateauneufs that he drank in the eighties and nineties: "wine with all the sort of mossy idiosyncrasies that might charactrize the old castles that dot the region... a wine of fruit flavors, yes, but also aromas of leather, tobacco and Provençal herbs." Old-fashioned Chateauneuf has largely been replaced by more "modern" wines. Instead of whole-cluster fementations, the fruit is totally de-stemmed, there is more extraction of fruit and color and aging is frequently in small, new barriques, rather than in old barrels or foudres. The resulting "fruit bombs" receive high scores from many writers and sell for high prices, so it was a pleasure to see two quite traditional and affordable wines receive the top review and best value rating from the Times tasting panel.

First-place on their list was the very traditional wine from Domaine Moulin Tacussel. The estate was created in the late 19th century by Henri Tacussel, taken over by Annette and Robert Moulin in 1976. Relatively small, at 7.5 hectares, the estate is comprised of 10 small parcels in different areas of the appelation. The wine is made from average 45 year-old vines; 70% Grenache, with small percentages of Mourvedre, Syrah, Cinsault, Counoise, Muscardin and Vaccarèse, harvested by hand. There is a whole-cluster fermentation (retaining the stems) of three to four weeks, followed by aging in cement vat, used barrels and foudres for 12 to 14 months. The wine has the complex aromas of old-school Chateauneuf; peppery ripe cherry and plum fruit with herbal notes, smoke, leather and tobacco. "This is a wine of quiet pedigree, unhurried winemaking, authentic...a traditional 'wine of terroir' not at all in the weighty, made to impress school." (DrinkRhône) At a case price of $28.79 per bottle, this is a sensational value - drink over the next ten to twelve years. (Only 660 cases made in the 2010 vintage.)

"Best Value" on the Times' list is the lovely Cuvée Classique from Domaine Monpertuis. Made from old vines in Mont Pertuis, La Crau, Le Pellous and La Croze, hand-harvested, fermented in cement vats and aged 70% in old foudres and 30% in 2 to 5 year-old barrels. The cuvée for Neal Rosenthal was 20% destemmed, and only lightly extracted, giving a wine of supple fruit with all the complexity of old-style Chateauneuf. The wine shows lovely pure red currant and cherry fruit with rosemary, pepper and smoky notes with good length of ripe fruit in the finish. Lovely to drink now, this will improve over the next 5 years and hold well until 2026.

Although not tasted by the panel at the Times, our vote for the most complex and traditional Chateauneuf-du-Pape would go to the brilliant wines of Domaine Pierre André. The estate's vines are from 60 to 110 years-old and have been organically farmed since 1980, Biodynamic since 1992. Whole-bunch fermentations are done in concrete with aging in concrete and old foudres. The wines are deep, rich and full of the spice, smoke and herbal complexity we love in Chateauneuf. They are not inexpensive but are quite worth the price and they cellar beautifully for 15 to 25 years - we urge you to try the excellent reds from 2004 and 2009 and their unique white as well.

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Monpertuis 2010 Chateauneuf-du-Pape Classique

Made from old vines in Mont Pertuis, La Crau, Le Pellous and La Croze, hand-harvested, fermented in cement vats and aged 70% in old foudres and 30% in 2 to 5 year-old barrels. The cuvée for Neal Rosenthal was 20% destemmed, and only lightly extracted, giving a wine of supple fruit with all the complexity of old-style Chateauneuf. The wine shows lovely pure red currant and cherry fruit with rosemary, pepper and smoky notes with good length of ripe fruit in the finish. Lovely to drink now, this will improve over the next 5 years and hold well until 2026.

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Pierre Andre 2004 Châteauneuf-du-Pape

The 2004 vintage shows lovely, developed aromas of sweet tobacco leaf, bing cherry, rose water, and cinnamon, with a palate of cranberries, orange spice, wild strawberries and blackberries on the finish. A fantastic experience for lovers of Pierre Andre's younger wines or those in search of an elegant Chateauneuf with some age at a great price. As always, grapes are biodynamically farmed and fermented whole cluster. -AR

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Pierre André 2009 Châteauneuf-du-Pape

2009 Pierre Andre is a triumph of breadth over brawn. Aromas of cedar, cinnamon, cassis and clove on a light caramel cloud. Stately tannins, roundly dispersed, envelope a palate of sweet purple plums, warm blood orange, extra ripe raspberries, and brambly boysenberry with a shake of fresh black pepper.  A sultry puff of cigar smoke follows on the finish. An open bottle of this wine drank beautifully over 9 days with no sign of fatigue... A valedictorian quarterback! 80% Grenache, 10% Syrah, 8% Mourvedre, 2% Muscardin/ Counoise/ Picpoul/ Vaccarese. Domaine Pierre Andre has been farmed organically since 1980, Biodynamic since 1992. -AR

 

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Pierre Andre 2011 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc

This is young Rhône white at its most arresting and balanced. Much like Jacqueline Andre's reds, the 2011 blanc possesses a serene strength that grounds the alcohol and attitude of these varieties with finesse. Aromas of Granny Smith apple and dill fronds, with dried apple, green almond, Asian pear, cool raw fennel and a sprinkle of sweet cinnamon on the palate. 40% Clairette, 30% Bourboulenc, 20% Roussanne, 10% Grenache blanc. Delicious now, this will develop nicely over the next ten years. -AR

 

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