Châteauneuf-du-Pape. One famous wine.
Today’s wine is a Châteauneuf-du-Pape from the southern Rhône Valley. Unlike many of its competitors, physical bottle has no distinguishing characteristics but I won’t that against it. The vineyard has been in the family hands since 1905 and the average vine is 60 years old. The winemaker used no fertilizer or chemicals and has started to use biodynamic techniques. The grapes were harvested by hand. This wine is a blend of Grenache (60%), Syrah (15%), Mourvedre (10%), Counoise (10%), and Cinsault (5%). Châteauneuf-du-Pape vineyards are known for their large stones that retain heat and hasten ripening. The companion wine is also organic and comes from the neighboring Languedoc region. It’s a Marselan, a cross between Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache.
There are no marketing materials and the front and back labels are essentially silent. So let me quote one of my favorite wine writers, Tom Stevenson, on red CdPs. “Due to the variation of terroir (roughly surroundings, my addition) and almost limitless permutations of encépagement (roughly grape blends, my addition), it is impossible to describe a typical Châteauneuf-du-Pape, but there are two categories – the traditional, full, dark, spicy, long-lived style and the modern, easy-drinking Châteauneuf-du-Pape, the best of which are unashamedly upfront and brimming with lip-smacking, juicy-jammy fruit… (In The Sotheby’s Wine Encyclopedia)." And now for my review.
Châteauneuf-du-Pape Vineyards. The stones are also famous.
At the first sips this wine was very rich and multi-layered. But it did taste sour. The first meal centered on a first-cut veal chop coated with parsley flakes and thyme and fried alongside brown mushrooms and garlic. The wine was long and mouth filling. It tasted of chocolate but its sour acidity remained. Shaking the wine vigorously seemed to reduce its sour aspect. With the mushroom and garlic mixture the Châteauneuf-du-Pape deepened and chocolate remained predominant. The wine’s acidity dealt well with the grease in the the accompanying side of potatoes roasted in chicken fat. Hopefully the sourness is a thing of the past. Dessert was fruit juice candy that somewhat muted the wine. But it was still powerful.
My next meal was a broiled Atlantic Salmon perked up by Cajun spices and fresh lemon. The wine presented liquidy tannins and had good length and black fruit. The microwaved redskin potatoes gave the wine harsh, not sour, acidity and took away most of its fruit. Cold beets weakened this Rhône Valley native but it had pleasant tobacco and was balanced.
The final meal was a lamb blade chop coated with a mixture of black pepper, onion powder, and ground basil leaves and fried alongside brown mushrooms and garlic. The wine was long, very long and balanced. It dealt well with the fatty meat. When paired with the mushroom and garlic mixture this Châteauneuf-du-Pape was long and mouth filling. In the presence of a moderately spicy tomato-based Turkish salad the wine remained powerful. Its tannins were soft and it was really omnipresent.
The first cheese was a rather bland provolone. In response the wine was very long, powerful, and multi-layered. It tasted great but was perhaps wasted with a pedestrian cheese. Things were about the same when the CdP faced a yellow cheddar which managed to add a taste of tobacco to the mix.
Final verdict. I don’t intend to buy this wine again. While some of the pairings were fine I was often disappointed. I want a Châteauneuf-du-Pape that meets Stevenson’s description but perhaps $55 just won’t do it. Needless to say, I won’t be repeating this experience every week. By the way, the producer recommends aging this bottle for 8 to 15 years so perhaps I hit it a bit too soon.
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Levi Reiss has authored or co-authored ten books on computers and the Internet, but to be honest, he would
rather just drink fine Italian or other wine, accompanied by the right foods. He teaches classes in computers at an Ontario
French-language community college. His wine websites include
www.theworldwidewine.com and http://www.wineinyourdiet.com
Visit his website devoted to Italian travel www.travelitalytravel.com
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