These wines come from our friend T, who had a very simple answer when I asked why he was selling: “I have too much wine!” He started drinking Chateauneuf-du-Pape when he was fairly new to wine (not to date him, but that was a long time ago, and he now has a lot of tasting and drinking experience!). He immediately liked the wines because they were accessible, distinctive, and identifiable, and just plain delicious. He loves the various expressions of Chateauneuf that reflect the terroir and the style of the producer – what he describes as either red fruit (strawberry and raspberry), or dark fruit (plum, dark berries); for him the best Chateauneuf has distinctive “garrigue” aromas and flavors – the evocative French word for the wild landscape of Provence, redolent of herbs and stone. T is a good cook, and he thinks Chateauneuf is an ideal wintery wine, great with stews and braises, “amazing with lamb and Provencal herbs.”
As is true for many places, T notes changes in Chateauneuf from the days when he fell in love with the wines. While he thinks there are some good producers who continue to make wines in a balanced and elegant style (Brunel, Charvin, Clos du Mont Olivet, Marcoux, Pegau, Vieux Telegraphe, for example), he’s not a fan of the super-ripe, super-rich wines that have been very influenced by the taste of certain wine critics. With the exception of Bonneau Celestins and Beaucastel’s Hommage a Jacques Perrin, he characterized the 100 point super-cuvees as “revolting – not wine to drink with anything.” T doesn’t like obtrusive oak in wine, and he feels the new trophy wines are way over-oaked (and so are a lot of the lower-level cuvees). The question in Baltimore, home town to both T and RP (RP in winespeak means: Robert Parker), is not how good the wine tastes, but “what’s Parker’s score?” But fundamentally T thinks the wines are still very good despite the bad rap they get from some quarters just because Parker loves Chateauneuf. Here I blush… but when I read recently about a sushi dinner that RP reported on, I was amazed that he chose Chateauneuf for the evening…
T likes many of the vintages on offer here – particularly the less structured, somewhat cooler years (in his book, 2001, 2004, 2005, 2000, 2006) that give what he feels are wines that express the best of Chateauneuf. He finds that after the first 2-3 years the wines shut-down somewhat (although Grenache, the primary grape in all of the wines, is always more generous in that regard than some other varieties). After another 5-6 years the wines emerge again in their mature phase when they are the most complex and expressive; the good wines continue to shine for many years. That means that these wines are now in their prime. They should make for great drinking! Jamie Wolff
Another great vintage for one of Chateauneuf's top super cuvees. Ripe, yet not over the top with loads of wet earth and garrigue character.