Rhone Tasting… Chateauneuf-du-Pape

One of the best ways to understand a wine region or vintage or varietal better is to taste a group of wines that have something in common.  This way you can tell the differences between them.  Recently we had a group of friends get together for a wine group trying to do just that; we tasted our way through  six different Chateauneuf-du-Pape's.  The assignment started out as purely an 06 vintage tasting, but this proved to be a little challenging because it isn't the current vintage on most shelves.

We did two flights, with three wines in each flight.  Below are the notes on each wine from the first flight, then a note on the vintage.

The first flight consisted of three wines from 2007.

Chateauneuf-du-Pape1. Domaine de Cristia 2007 Chateauneuf-du-Pape:  The nose shows redder fruit, and has an interesting fresh baked ice box cookies nose.  Something like baked brown sugar... the wine is nice and light, and the palate fills in nicely as it has more exposure to air.  This was the most dynamic wine of the first flight and migrated towards a medium bodied wine.


2. Cuvee du Vatican 2007 Chateauneuf-du-Pape: The nose is a little more austere, but has more depth and shows stewed cherries.  The palate is lighter and shows nettles, chalky tannin and mineral.  We felt that this wine might have been exposed to heat at some point because the fruit seemed to have been subdued and there were strange high tones in the aromatics.

Chateauneuf-du-Pape3. Domaine Monpertuis 2007 Chateauneuf-du-Pape: This wine showed a darker more mineral driven nose, and is a little more 'funky' than the rest.  The palate shows off deep blue fruit and is gamey!  It has large blunted tannins and great length.  There is good acidity and balance in this wine that gives it a nice fresh character.  As the wine gets a chance to breathe it shows a mint (spearmint) character and nutmeg spice on the nose.  The palate gravitates towards glycerine raspberries.

The 07's all came across as very approachable and nice.  The wines were well balanced, showy, but not overdone or lacking in any way.  Definitely enjoyable now with moderate aging potential.  There was a similar thumb print to the first flight that helped us get started with noticing the subtle differences between each wine.

The second flight had two 2005's and one 2006 vintage wine. As to be expected, there was quite a bit more diversity amongst these wines than there was with the first flight.  The two 05 wines were more ripe and fruit driven than the 2006 wine was, which is a fair broad stroke generalization to make.  However, it is too small a sample size to say with certainty that vintage observations weren't somewhat related to the producer's own impact on the wines as well.

4. Paul Autard 2005 Cuvee La Cote Ronde Chateauneuf-du-Pape: The nose came across with strong raspberry character, and was a little tart on the nose, with a hint of cardboard dust, and it felt a little flat on the nose.  The palate came across with a saw dust/wood character, which some people appreciated.  My personal feeling is that it was a somewhat uncouth use of new wood-which this house apparently uses.  The palate was leaner with drying tannins under red cherry fruit.  The wine was benefited by having some time to breathe and showed off a lavender nose and a richer palate after opening up.  This wine has a higher Syrah content, so comes across as richer.

5. Domaine de la Milliere 2005 Chateauneuf-du-Pape: This wine came right out with a Bretty nose, a nice palate, good tannins and a cherry fruits; evenly balanced between red and dark fruits.  The wine was medium bodied and had nice balance.  Sometimes Brettanomyces  has a lead goblet effect on wines for me, and this wine is a prime example of that.  This wine did spark a great debate about Brettanomyces, its benefits and detriments and nuances.  There is enough material in that discussion to constitute its own entry... keep an eye out.

6. Le Vieux Donjon 2006 Chateauneuf-du-Pape: This wine had an interesting feature on the nose that came across as burnt rubber.  It may have been reduced because as the wine had time to breathe the burnt rubber character dissipated.  This may sound strange, but the burnt rubber was accompanied by some wet horse, funky, tarry, savory braised meat smells.  It was awesome.  It had a big palate that was rich with drying tannins and is showing right now that it should be aging well for the next 5-10 years without too much trouble.  On the palate the wine is dark and brooding , tarry, black and mineral driven with leather and cassis flavors.

Towards the end of the tasting, my palate was getting a little fatigued and I'm sure to have missed some nuances in the later wines.  It was a great idea to start with the three 2007 wines; they were all very similar and very approachable.  If we had tasted them second it would have been difficult to identify the subtle differences between the wines.  With that being said, my personal favorites were in the second batch, and I found it more interesting to wander through different vintages.

The pick of the liter (for me) would have to go to Le Vieux Donjon.  This wine was just getting rolling when we were wrapping things up and heading home.  Give it a couple more years and some time in the decanter and it would be a complete knockout, assuming that it isn't reduced and wouldn't sustain damage from being reduced.  I put an email in to my cousin who said that reduction does show some of the characters that our group identified in the Vieux Donjon.

Be well and enjoy a good bottle soon.

One Response to “Rhone Tasting… Chateauneuf-du-Pape”

  • Fun region to explore via wine. However, I can't wait to take a trip there to really experience it- this tasting may cost me more than a few bottles of wine.

February 2010
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