Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Chateauneuf du Pape, France

Oh what joy it is: a long summer evening, a reason to celebrate, and good friends to celebrate with. Last night was such a night.

 Mrs Astudentofwine & I went to the St Street Grill in Port Moody with friends and family for an impromptu birthday dinner. It was divine. True enough, perhaps we did wait a bit longer then usual for our orders to be taken, perhaps we did wait a bit for our drinks, but the service was warm and informed and the food was cooked with skill and attention to detail.

 Seeing as how it was a special occasion (more or less), I decided to splurge on a very nice bottle of wine. Both of the special women that evening have a penchant for Chateauneuf-du-Pape and so I made my way down to Marquis Wine Cellars (http://www.marquiswines.ca/ ) to see what they could do for me. I had been fortunate enough to have the 1999 Chateau de Beaucastel just a few months ago & wanted something in the same vein, if not the same price-point. This was what we savored last night:

2004 Domaine La Roquete, Chateauneuf-du-Pape
by Frederic & Daniel Brunier     (http://www.brunier.fr/ )
14.5%, $50 @ http://www.marquiswines.ca/ **EXCELLENT VALUE**
  • soft brickish rim with a deep plum centre
  • fully intense bouquet of garrigue (savory herbs, especially in this instance wild thyme), baie rouges  (little red berries especially in this case red currants and cherries), chalky terroir and old leathery oak barrels
  • full acids, full tannins, fully intense flavors that completely mimicked the nose; the red currants were very sharp on the palate, the garrigue opened the palate and then returned for a very very long finish which was immensely pleasurable to savor. The end of the palate also came with a strong presence of old fashioned black licorice
  • moderate body, full alcohol was still a touch hot on the nose (don't serve with spicy food), and an incredibly strong and developed structure
     What a delight to share with friends and family, especially as they all truly appreciated it so much, and especially for me as I came to sense that this wine still has not peaked. Lots of room left for this wine to grow and develop still into more: huge structure, long acids and tannins - brilliant balance... I look forward to more of this winery in the future.

PAIR WITH: traditional cassoulet, steak with a compound butter (the wine needs the fat still) such as a foie gras butter or truffle butter, consider also duck!

2007 Domaine La Roquete
13.5% ABV, $47 CAD ( http://www.marquis-wines.com/ ) **Good Value**

label courtesy http://www.thewinedoctor.com/
tasted: 08 January 2011

visual:     clean; fully intense garnet core with slight cherry rim
  • nose:      clean; moderate+ to fully intense; showing age and development; of leathery oak, red currants, black currants, blackberries, black and red raspberries, some baked earth notes and light floral-vanilla-lavender at the finish
  • palate:    clean, 0 dryness, fully intense red currant acids, moderate+ tannins, moderate+ body, moderate++ alcohol *(it tastes hotter then the 13.5%), moderate+ intense flavors; showing signs of age and development; palate mimicks the nose well - with the addition of a significant white pepper finish from the 20% Syrah
  • conclusion:   very good balance, excellent structure, very good length. This wine is really coming into its own right now - but buyer beware! Decant this a minimum of one-hour; I tried it after 20 or 30 minutes and found it far too tight to really enjoy and savor. Drink now to 2014
  • pairs with:     bright red currant acids make me want to pair this with cream, cheese and/or poultry. I've considered a smoked chicken agnelotti with a mild sun-dried tomato & leek cream reduction
      So, in addition to the tasting notes, let me say a bit about AOC Chateauneuf du Pape.

     Chateauneuf du Pape is arguable one of the most popular and well known wine making regions in the world. There are multiple reasons for this; (1) when the Popes lived in Avignon (1308-1378), this was the region that produced wine for them and continued to do so for centuries (2) it became the role-model for the AOC system under the guidance of Baron Pierre Le Roy (1923) and thus came under scrutiny by wine drinkers the world over (3) there is a history of wine making here for 2000 years.

     The popes came into a region that had a reputation for mediocrity in its wine making. The popes gave it love, attention and massive amounts of hard work (by others). Because of this, the wines grew in depth and complexity - eventually being called "du Pape" under Pope John XXII. Obviously, with their immeasurable resources, the papacy would not have lent their name to something of mediocre quality.

      Then in the early 1900's there was a "wild west" feel to the wine industry... anyone could call a wine by any name and no one was around to tell them not to. People would mix beet juice with cheap wine from Algeria or Bulgaria and call it Chateauneuf du Pape. Well, the winemakers who had been in the area around Chateauneuf (in the Southern Rhone) for in some cases centuries - were understandably miffed. They almost literally begged Baron Pierre le Roy to help them systematically organize their region to enforce and regulate quality. After the passing of these regulations, people the world over knew they could count on consistent quality from the winemakers of Chateauneuf. Ask MacDonalds or Starbucks how important consistency is to business.

     And then there is the little matter of over two millennium of wine making in the region. Even if, at times, it was less then perfect wine making, it created a culture. In this region, people celebrate the vineyard; they design food around it, they build "siesta" into the afternoon so they can relax in it, they feel it in their bones because it is a part of their day-to-day life. Any culture that lives like this will naturally produce excellence over time.     

     Out of the three reasons listed above, none is more (or less) responsible for the quality produced within. True enough the prices are somewhat steep in comparison with for instance the Languedoc, but still reasonable compared to Burgundy. I digress. Chateauneuf reds are perfumed from the wild thyme and lavender that grow along the roads, baked by the long hot summers and sharp from the currant and raspberry flavored Grenache that abounds in the region. Explore. Enjoy.

 CIN CIN ~!!!    SLAINTE ~!!!   CHEERS ~!!!

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