A Jewel in Chateauneuf – Bosquet des Papes Cuvee “A la Gloire de Mon Grandpere”

Captivating Chateauneuf

Captivating Chateauneuf

I adore Chateauneuf du Pape – the place, the wine, and everything about its history and local quirks (a municipal decree in ’54 banned the overhead flying, landing or taking off of flying saucers). The wines are beyond unique. For those who have spent time studying the world’s finest vinous treasures (I’ve been at it three decades plus) it usually comes down to a choice between Bordeaux, Burgundy and Chateauneuf – in terms of selecting a favorite wine from France. Sure, there are fabulous wines made by a handful of superlative growers sprinkled throughout the Languedoc, Roussillon, Loire Valley, and such, but overwhelming majorities of truly phenomenal wines are most often concentrated in the aforementioned Big 3. Burgundy tugs at my heart, but a glance at my collection clearly indicates my adoration for Chateauneuf.

And when it comes to selecting some of my favorites, consistency across vintages is part of my criteria. Nicolas Boiron and family – Les Bosquet des Papes – immediately come to mind. In this century alone, across all of their various cuvees and vintages, I can think of at least 20 individual bottlings worthy of the “outstanding” descriptor. These are wines of extremely high caliber, wines which scream of their cepage and terroir, and which may be identified from one another across vintages; they are not homogenous, uniqueness is their calling card.

At the top of the list for me is their pure Grenache cuvee, which honors current winemaker Nicolas Boiron’s predecessor. Grown in the Gardiole lieu-dit (sandy soils; which seem to produce a lot of my top choices) and fermented 50% whole cluster, Nicolas Boiron and family introduced this mind-bending offering in 1998. Parker has consistently lauded the wine, rendering the tiny production all the more difficult to acquire. Moreover, Jeb Dunnuck recently pegged it as a “Best of Chateauneuf” selection in his 2014 report (may not ever find another bottle, now).

Simply put, in the words of Parker,

“Consumers should be looking out for this domaine’s wines as the quality has soared even higher than it already was.”

 

2012 Les Bosquet des Papes Chateauneuf du Pape

A la Gloire de Mon Grandpere

The finest vintage of this cuvee I’ve tasted, the inky 2012 Châteauneuf du Pape a la Gloire de Mon Grandpere comes from old-vine Grand PereGrenache vines planted in mostly sandy soils of the Gardiole lieu-dit. Aged in a combination of concrete tank and older, larger barrels, it’s a drop-dead gorgeous 2012 that reveals tons of sweet red and black fruits, lavender, pepper, licorice and hints of garrigue. Beautifully concentrated, seamless and textured, with extraordinary elegance and polish to its tannin, it’s up with the top 2-3 wines of the vintage and will have two decades or more of longevity.

97 points – (JD) Wine Advocate

This may take some special effort to locate (at a price that’s not outrageous), but it’s a truly special bottle from a truly gifted estate…

 

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Xavier Vins Chateauneuf du Pape Cuvee Anonyme – One of the Best & Latest Released 2007s

Xavier

Xavier, the man behind the late released, phenomenal “Cuvee Anonyme”

Along with Henri Bonneau and his notoriously difficult to acquire, always last to market Reserve des Celestins, Xavier Vignon’s Cuvee “Anonyme” requires immeasurable patience on the part of passionate Chateauneuf lovers. This stuff is legendary – for those lucky few to have tasted it. The 2007 vintage was (and remains) the greatest vintage for the wines of Chateauneuf du Pape in generations. Parker declared it was “the vintage of a lifetime.” Following up with his in-bottle summary, “this is a truly historic and profoundly great vintage.” (emphasis his)

Taking full advantage of the bounty set before him, Xavier Vignon patiently nurtured his top cuvee for a full 36 months, allowing the elevage to take place in a combination of demi-muids and seasoned, small oak casks. So complex is the cuvee for “Anonyme” that Xavier prefers to discuss the cuvee by parcels – no less than 120 individual plots contribute to the blend; many vines from the best sites have seen their 100th birthday. This is very truly and without exaggeration one of the most unique, difficult to acquire and staggeringly exotic wines ever made in Chateauneuf.

It’s no wonder Xavier is as famous and in demand as Cambie. Some of the most famous wines in the village would not be what they are today without Xavier – Marcoux, Grand Veneur, Usseglio, Beaurenard – all these domaines utilize Xavier’s direction as consulting winemaker. Once the 2007 “Anonyme” caresses your palate, it will all make sense…

Except for Henri Bonneau’s 2007 Reserve des Celestins (which is still in barrel), the last 2007 Chateauneuf du Pape to be released will be Xavier Vignon’s Anonyme. This sensational wine spent three years in a combination of demi-muids and small oak. It boasts an inky/purple color along with a sweet nose of underbrush, garrigue, licorice, blackberries and black currants. Full, thick, unctuously textured and even flamboyant, this stunning 2007 should drink well for another 15-20 years.

96 points – Robert ParkerAnonyme

This may require a special effort to acquire; I’ve got mine, you should have yours…

Chateauneufs & More from the Incomparable Jaume Brothers – Tops in 2012!

Alain Jaume et Fils

The modern-day Jaume facilities

On one my early trips to the region back in the 1990s, I encountered the wines of Grand Veneur in Chateauneuf du Pape. M. Alain Jaume was still very much in charge, but his sons – Sebastien and Christophe – were eagerly in training. I’ll never forget that day, as it confirmed them as being among the elite of Chateauneuf and the Rhone.

By the early 2000s, I heard that the brothers had taken more control of things, adding their now-famous Lirac, “Clos de Sixte”. A wine which can easily out “Chateauneuf” many CDPs, the debut of that wine added an exclamation point to a history of superb wines.

Originally established in the early 1800s, Grand Veneur was singled out by Parker as

One of the most brilliant estates in Chateauneuf du Pape,”

for their killer track-record.

Along with such overachievers as Janasse, Marcoux, Clos Saint Jean and CGrand Veneur VVlos des Papes, Grand Veneur consistently tops the charts – vintage in, vintage out – with gorgeous and exciting wines.

For 2012, I bought the range. From their Lirac “Clos de Sixte”, to the “Les Origines” (a selection of the best barrels), to the VV, each wine is here for you to explore. And if there was ever a vintage worth exploring to the max, 2012 is the one…

Available here:Jaume Clos Sixte

http://www.b-21.com/searchwine.asp

(search producer: Grand Veneur)

Chateau Sixtine Chateauneuf 2010 | Vatican’s “Top Wine of the Vintage” RP

Cuvee Vatican

Ah those 2010 Chateauneufs! Wish I had a buck for each request!

Parker made sure the world was paying attention, declaring:

“2010 is a great vintage that is extremely close in quality to 2007”, finishing with: “the two greatest vintages I have ever tasted in thirty-three years of visiting the region [are] 2007 and 2010.”

Prices for the “big 10” skyrocketed overnight. Ferreting out any semblance of sanity in terms of pricing has been nearly impossible. But my perseverance pays off from time to time…

Take this exquisite beauty for example, Chateau Sixtine Chateauneuf du Pape 2010, one of Chateauneuf du Pape’s most ancient estates. Their first estate bottling took place in 1902. This place is a treasure trove of gnarled old Grenache vines, a large section of which are reported to be nearly 100 years old.

The Diffonty family has owned the place for generations, with Jean-Marc (I think he’s a visionary) now firmly in control. Where once there were several cuvees, he is focused on producing only one estate wine – christeneChateau Sixtined Chateau Sixtine as of this brilliant vintage 2010.

And what a profound effort indeed! Black and blue fruits, minerals and graphite that go on for miles. Alas, as limited as you’d expect, too…

Available here

 

Guigal’s Condrieu la Doriane – A Monumental 2012! Vinous Nectar!

guigal-condrieu-la-doriane

As with the Perrin’s Hommage, Laurence Feraud’s Cuvee da Capo and Chapoutier’s Ermitage Le Pavillon – Rouge AND Blanc – Guigal’s exquisite vinous expression (this one in Viognier) is a work of art.

As with the 2010 version, this absolutely irresistible bottle of pure hedonism flirts with perfection – to coin the phrase used so eloquently by Jeb over at the Wine Advocate. Of all the hundreds of variations on Viognier I’ve tried in my career, there have never been any which can summon such verbose discussions as this one.

Drinking this wine is the liquid equivalent to driving one’s dream car, owning one’s fantasy sailing vessel or discovering one’s perfect obsession across any number of desires. This stuff is that damn good! Aromas of the wildest, perfectly indescribable floral nuances freeze you in your tracks… you don’t want to do anything but smell the stuff. Then the first wave of the most luscious, palate saturating, mélange of exotic wild island fruits blows your palate away, with wave after wave of penetrating complexity. As the wine gains its momentum, the second, third and subsequent tastes waft through your senses, leaving you spellbound in their perfect mysteries. Guigal 2012 Doriane

Sound too good to be believed? You’ll believe me, believe me! This is liquid gold; the likes of which very rarely see the light of day.

This treasure is available HERE

Chateauneuf du Pape 2012 – First Release – Low Yields, Excellent Wines!

CDP

There’s a word you need to memorize: coulure. It’s the French vinous term for a condition which results in low yields for the wine-makers. Grapes fail to develop after flowering, leaving growers weeping. This condition has wreaked havoc across France. Remember the 2010 Burgundies? Well, it’s happened again! But what spells sorrow for growers equates to sheer joy for quality conscience consumers.

Coulure lowers yields and concentrates flavors. Cut to the chase, these 2012 Chateauneufs are packed with flavor! The Grenache harvest alone was cut by 60% at some places, the resulting wines as juicy as I’ve tasted in quite awhile. As reported in Tanzer,

Vincent Avril [of Clos des Papes] quipped sardonically that ‘maybe we need to come up with a new definition of “normal” for yields because this is getting to be sadly consistent.’”

But here’s the downside to all this: allocations will be slashed. One of my suppliers actually laughed when I tried to order 25 cases of our best seller. “I’ll give you 5”, he replied. These are sublime folks. But when they’re gone, that’s it. With that in mind, here’s round one (watch this space for more to come)…    clos-des-papepegau-cdphillaire-cdp-l

First release offers may be found here

 

As 2012 Approaches, Thoughts on what Consumers should consider – Rhone-wise

 

There is no doubting that among the world’s most treasured wines, Chateauneuf du Pape is rightfully positioned as among the most sought after and adored wines consumers and collectors routinely seek out. The multi-dimensional examples from this region’s top producers compete with the most elite wines from Europe’s premium Chateaux, Domaines and Estates, yet often times fetch prices that seem paltry by comparison. Moreover, tasting a mature Chateauneuf alongside vinous piers from Bordeaux or Burgundy offers the taster a truly unique cornucopia of flavors, which once experienced further establish the region’s dominance.

 

But just as it is with all other wine regions throughout the world, Chateauneuf du Pape experiences vintage variations. As a professional who has followed this region’s wines since the 1980s – additionally tasting older examples dating to the 1960s – I can personally attest to this regions highs and lows. Through the 1980s, for example, there was the otherworldly vintage 1989, a harvest whose wines continue to be a reference point even for modern day efforts. And while the 1980s witnessed such disasters as the back to back wash-outs of 1986 and 1987 in Chateauneuf, even those years offered consumers some worthwhile treasures from the leading producers – Henri Bonneau, anyone?

 

Fast forwarding to modern times, the 1990s gave us 1990, 1995, 1998 and 1999 as some of the greatest vintages this region had yet experienced. Yet it would be the modern era, these 2000s, which would set a new course for Chateauneuf and its wines. With a new generation taking over, and a consistency in weather unmatched in times past – with the exception of the disastrous 2002 vintage – the region of Chateauneuf du Pape has enjoyed an unparalled string of top-flight harvests and exceptional offerings from an ever increasing number of producers than practically any other appellation in France, perhaps Europe. To say that this sun-drenched part of France is enjoying its time in the sun is indeed absolutely appropriate.

 

Taking a step back, though, it is wise for consumers to recognize that Mother Nature has a way of bringing all things back into balance. So it is with the currently available set of vintages now entering the market from this wonderfully sun-baked area of France. I’m speaking specifically of the 2008s and 2009s. A recent tasting of dozens of the 2009s, most specifically, offered a sobering and eye-opening experience. While most folks familiar with this region were long-ago made aware of the inconsistencies of 2008 – to put it nicely – consumers and professionals alike were led to believe that 2009 was going to bring along our much needed relief. I’m here to announce: not so fast.

 

What prompted me to begin pulling corks on these newly arriving 2009s was the also newly arrived Parker review, issue 197. While Parker DID dub the finished wines “great” (whatever that means), he also went on to reiterate that they resemble a “hypothetical blend of 2003 and 2000.” Considering the former of these two vintages produced a bevy of stewed and “hot” examples, while the latter was Parker’s vintage of a lifetime (until the 07s rolled around), one can understand the mixed messages and need for personal understanding; hence my pulling of roughly 2 dozen corks this week past.

 

In conclusion, after tasting through a wide cross section of “in the market” 2009s from Chateauneuf, my advice to consumers is to begin back-filling with 2007s. Furthermore, it is my opinion that Parker’s greatest piece of wisdom regarding the currently available Southern Rhone is one bit of advice I’ve been preaching for a few years now. Hidden within the crevices of his most recent article on the 2009s, Parker had this to say:

 

“While all appellations have done well in this consistently fine year, one AOC that is exceptional is Vacqueyras. This is an up-and-coming star in the southern Rhône. Chateauneuf du Pape has already arrived, and the younger generation that has emerged over the last two decades has made it one of the great winemaking appellations of France as well as the world. Vacqueyras is not far behind and the overall quality of the 70-80 domaines I tasted was impressive as well as consistent. Moreover, Vacqueyras sells for less than half the price of Chateauneuf du Pape.”

 

That’s right readers, Vacqueyras; the one region whose wines fill nearly as many spaces in my personal collection as do those from Chateauneuf!

 

As for a 2007 from Chateauneuf to seek out, here’s this week’s tasting note:

 

2007 Chateau de Vaudieu Chateauneuf du Pape

Stunning, nearly opaque, purple in color. A cornucopia of the most exotic fruits on the nose: super ripe plums, macerated black cherries and a whiff of dates. The fruits are combined with sweet spices and a penetrating perfume that captivate the senses. What an aromatic profile! On the palate, this is very full bodied, sweet, exotic, complex, mouth coating, packed with sweet black fruits, seamless, and the tannins are totally buried by the fruit. The power of the fruit and expressiveness of this wine speak volumes as to the superiority of the 2007s over their 09 counterparts! This is both silky as well as grippy on the tongue and the finish goes on for minutes. This wine has filled out since bottling and is even better today than a year ago! Opened and decanted for 48 hours, this wine never oxidized.

Outstanding! 93 points