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Blonds have more fun

Maurel “Les Galets Blonds” 1995 Châteauneuf-du-Pape (Rhône) – Despite being fairly tight, there’s enough excellent, raw, herbed-meat quality here for enjoyment, and the gravel underbelly is enjoyable. Still, I think things will improve over the next few years, though I don’t know if the long haul remains in this wine’s future. (1/08)

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Brunel “Les Cailloux” 1995 Châteauneuf-du-Pape (Rhône) – Open 24 hours, partially consumed, and the air is to the wine’s benefit, which shows a sweet, keening quality to the “fruit” (the usual distilled meat juice that passes for fruit in CdP), an open and generous texture. If CdP can ever be termed “pretty,” this might be a candidate. But it’s still very authentic. (1/08)

TN: White pope

Perrin “Château de Beaucastel” 1993 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc “Vieilles Vignes” (Rhône) – Dark bronze. Stunningly creamy and concentrated. Cinnamon and nutmeg-sprinkled blood oranges, tarragon and lavender honey. It feels almost sugary, but it’s not; instead, the utterly gorgeous smoothness turns to enveloping velvet, which then softly fades away. Insistent despite its initial apparent feebleness, it nevertheless needs to be consumed soonish.. Truth be told, it’s not all that far removed from a fine oloroso, once you subtract the alcohol. (5/07)

TN: The pope’s new white

Perrin “Château de Beaucastel” 2001 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc (Rhône) – Flat and moderately oxidized at first, with cashews, roasted spices and toasted white and green peppercorns emerging. Then: shiitake mushrooms. The finish is monotone and as flat as the nose. It’s like a sun-baked, dry oloroso without the extra character. And yet, somehow, it’s mildly appealing. (12/06)

TN: Pégau my heart

[label]Feraud “Domaine du Pégau” 1989 Châteauneuf-du-Pape “Cuvée Réservée” (Rhône) – Black pepper, dark blueberry-infused leather and meat juice, with a strong undercurrent of iron-rich blood. Fantastic balance. The wine pulses and squeezes the palate, a heartbeat of stunning Châteauneuf character. Stunning. And, for those who are interested, ready to drink…though I don’t think there’s any danger of immediate declination. (3/07)

TN: Châteauneuf-du-Pape (BWE notes)

[vineyard stones]Tasting notes from the Boston Wine Expo. These were difficult tasting conditions, where speed and distraction were the norm rather than the exception. Thus, notes are brief at best, somewhat superficial, and cannot in truth be otherwise.

As a generalization, the 2005 Châteauneuf-du-Papes tasted here are fruit-forward but balanced, bringing out the strawberry bubblegum character of grenache over other typical characteristics of the appellation, though perhaps at the expense of youthful complexity. This is not to suggest that there’s anything wrong with the wines, just that they’re showing in a very particular way right now. I’m not sure anything more specific or useful can be said at this stage and from this limited sample.

(Unless otherwise noted, the wines are red.)

Moulin-Tacussel 2005 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc (Rhône) – Balanced stone fruit (apricot & peach) with pineapple, melon and a clean finish. Excellent in a fruit-dominated style. (2/07)

Baron le Roy de Boiseaumarié “Château Fortia” 2004 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc (Rhône) – Slightly skunky, showing sour banana and slightly rotten pineapple. A very, very strange wine. (2/07)

Mestre “Domaine de la Côte de l’Ange” 2005 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc (Rhône) – Fresh fruit salad (mostly melon) drizzled with honey. Very pretty. (2/07)

Diffonty “Cuvée du Vatican” 2005 Châteauneuf-du-Pape (barrel sample) (Rhône) – Dense, hard and short, with strawberry and earth. Solid but bitter on the finish. (2/07)

Diffonty “Cuvée du Vatican” 2005 Châteauneuf-du-Pape “Réserve Sixtine” (barrel sample) (Rhône) – Rounder than the normale, with strawberry and burnt walnut dominated, but also a lot of sour dill infusing the mix. (2/07)

[grenache]Hillaire “Domaine des Relagnes” 2005 Châteauneuf-du-Pape (barrel sample) (Rhône) – Clean and pure, with strawberry bubblegum to the fore. Light but nice, though I’m not quite sure it rises to the level of a CdP. (2/07)

Hillaire “Domaine des Relagnes” 2005 Châteauneuf-du-Pape “Les Petits Pied d’Armand” (barrel sample) (Rhône) – Very aromatic and floral, with pink peppercorns spicing up big strawberry fruit, and good acidity. Really nice, in a fruit-forward idiom. (2/07)

Hillaire “Domaine des Relagnes” 2005 Châteauneuf-du-Pape “Vieilles Vignes” (barrel sample) (Rhône) – Fun strawberry, earth and tangerine…a strange character to find in a CdP…with earth and spiky acidity. Good, if sharp. The nicest of the trio. (2/07)

Baron le Roy de Boiseaumarié “Château Fortia” 2004 Châteauneuf-du-Pape “Cuvée du Baron” (Rhône) – Bubblegum, bacon and biting strawberry seed with grey earth…promising, all of it…but marred by a flattened finish. (2/07)

Baron le Roy de Boiseaumarié “Château Fortia” 2005 Châteauneuf-du-Pape “Cuvée du Baron” (barrel sample) (Rhône) – Strawberry, dark plum and black earth. Longer and purer than the 2004, with much more promise. (2/07)

Mestre “Domaine de la Côte de l’Ange” 2005 Châteauneuf-du-Pape (barrel sample) (Rhône) – Harder than one might expect. It’s a hollow metal cylinder, grooved and sprinkled with molten iron spice, blackened strawberry and black pepper. It’s very long, but the form is an unusual one. It may turn out great, or it may be a disaster. It’s hard to say right now. (2/07)

Mestre “Domaine de la Côte de l’Ange” 2005 Châteauneuf-du-Pape “Vieilles Vignes” (barrel sample) (Rhône) – Peanut butter on toast with some sort of anonymously sour jam. Finishes hard, with sour cherries. This tastes overworked, but maybe age will resolved things. (2/07)

Chaussy “Mas de Boislauzon” 2005 Châteauneuf-du-Pape (barrel sample) (Rhône) – The nose is gorgeous, full or soft, rich, ripe red and purple fruit. However, it falls completely apart after that, with a dry, dead palate and a hard, absent finish. What happened? (2/07)

Chaussy “Mas de Boislauzon” 2005 Châteauneuf-du-Pape “Cuvée du Quet” (barrel sample) (Rhône) – Hard, bitter and nasty, with huge tannin. Blech. (2/07)

Lafond “Roc-Epine” 2005 Châteauneuf-du-Pape (barrel sample) (Rhône) – Plum bubblegum, red cherry and strawberry. Fun and pleasurable. (2/07)

[bottle etching]Jeune “Domaine de Saint Paul” 2005 Châteauneuf-du-Pape (barrel sample) (Rhône) – Strawberry, raspberry and salty earth with moderate bubblegum character. Nice, clean, straightforward stuff. (2/07)

Jeune “Domaine du Grand Tinel” 2005 Châteauneuf-du-Pape (barrel sample) (Rhône) – Stonger, fuller-bodied, and more sharply-delineated than the Saint Paul…at first, but then some soupy characteristics emerge, vanilla crests the palate, and the finish slams on the brakes. Almost. (2/07)

Jeune “Domaine du Grand Tinel” 2005 Châteauneuf-du-Pape “Alexis Establet” (barrel sample) (Rhône) – Big, rich and ripe, with plum and mixed berries at the core of an intense, modernistic take on CdP. The long finish shows vanilla and dark chocolate coating dense raspberry liqueur. Very, very good in its idiom, though it is certainly not classic or traditional in any way. (2/07)

Pierre Usseglio 2005 Châteauneuf-du-Pape (barrel sample) (Rhône) – Simple strawberry and raspberry with a soft, sour finish that edges towards dill. (2/07)

Pierre Usseglio 2005 Châteauneuf-du-Pape “Cuvée de Mon Aïeul” (barrel sample) (Rhône) – Big but balanced, showing strawberry softened with milk chocolate. It’s smooth and clean, but I expect a little more strength and body from this cuvée. (2/07)

Lucien “Le Vieux Donjon” 2005 Châteauneuf-du-Pape (barrel sample) (Rhône) – Pure elegance, showing strawberry and raspberry on a beautiful bed of gravel. Long and beautiful. The absolute class of this lineup. (2/07)

Moulin-Tacussel 2005 Châteauneuf-du-Pape (barrel sample) (Rhône) – Big chocolate, peanut butter and chewy fruit jam, not unlike a children’s sandwich in this regard. The palate shows sourness from sharp acidity, with little lacings of vanilla. This is not one of my favorite producers, as a rule, but I like this one more than usual.(2/07)

Boiron “Bosquet des Papes” 2005 Châteauneuf-du-Pape (barrel sample) (Rhône) – Balanced but gauzy, showing bark, sand and long-lasting structure. What there’s not much of is fruit, in any sense. (2/07)

[vineyard]Boiron “Bosquet des Papes” 2005 Châteauneuf-du-Pape “A la Gloire de mon Grand-Père” (barrel sample) (Rhône) – Charred black cherry with a soft, powdery aspect. Nice and balanced, but with a flat finish. (2/07)

Boiron “Bosquet des Papes” 2005 Châteauneuf-du-Pape “Chante le Merle” “Vielles Vignes” (barrel sample) (Rhône) – Strawberry bubblegum, chocolate, coffee and blueberry in balance with firm structure. Intense. A good wine, with a fine future. (2/07)

Laget-Royer “Domaine Pontifical” 2005 Châteauneuf-du-Pape (barrel sample) (Rhône) – Bark, strawberry seed and hay with a thick, dense, one-note finish. There’s good structure, but the whole thing is rather obvious and even a little bit boring. (2/07)

Courtil-Thibaut “Clos des Brusquières” 2005 Châteauneuf-du-Pape (barrel sample) (Rhône) – Big mixed cherries, strawberry liqueur and black pepper with granite and herbs in the mix. Dense and forceful, this is long, balanced, and terrific. (2/07)

Guigal 2003 Châteauneuf-du-Pape (Rhône) – Classic blended meats and baked plum, though with the heavy, hard tannin so typical of the vintage. (2/07)

Brunier “Vieux-Télégraphe” 2004 Châteauneuf-du-Pape “Télégramme” (Rhône) – Soft and elegant, showing mostly herbs and rocks and the moment. It’s likely somewhat closed. (2/07)

TN: Avril, not in Paris

Avril “Clos des Papes” 1989 Châteauneuf-du-Pape (Rhône) – Gorgeous, satiny and elegant, with moderate and soft meat liqueur balanced by a proportional amount of smooth black/blueberry fruit and a timid bass note of vanilla. This may be the most “sophisticated” Châteauneuf I’ve tasted in ages, more fitting for the table of its namesake than for the country daubes of the peasantry, yet still carrying all the qualities either audience would want. Gorgeous wine, nowhere near full maturity but drinking beautifully right now. (2/07)

TN: More old notes

Jean Claude Thévenet Brut Blanc de Blancs (Mâcon) – Soft suggestions of white apricot and gentle chalkiness; pleasing and inoffensive in form. The finish lingers nicely, but this is a very restrained wine. (9/06)

Reynaud “Château des Tours” 1998 Vacqueyras “Réserve” (Rhône) – Dense smoked plum concentrate with wet leather and meat-like components. However, the texture is lush and creamy, it’s quite heavy, and there’s an intense, heavy sweetness to the palate. Is there residual sugar in this wine? The owner says that half his bottles have undergone a secondary fermentation in their bottles, so I guess we know the answer to that question. Anyway, it’s very good in strict moderation, but less so in quantity, and sweet Vacqueyras is crossing too many borders of typicity for me. This tastes like show wine, rather than something one would wish to drink at table. (9/06)

Sabon “Clos du Mont-Olivet” 1990 Châteauneuf-du-Pape “La Cuvée du Papet” (Rhône) – Corked. (9/06)

Domaine Michel Cheveau 2005 Saint-Amour “En Rontey” (Beaujolais) – Surprisingly gentle: delicate red berries and ethereal floral notes dance right on the edge of perception. Surprisingly firm: a strong, granitic structure adds a pillar-like rigidity to matters. Between these two incompatible notions lies a slightly schizophrenic wine. The results are, on the surface, quite nice…as the wine functions both as light-bodied quaffing Beaujolais and something firmer and crisper that stands up to food, but one yearns for something a little more focused. (9/06)