Remembering the complications of last month’s tasting, I decided to keep the photography plain and simple.
I was very excited to try the above wine, a 2005 Chateauneuf-du-pape produced by E. Guigal — and not just because I love saying “Chateauneuf-du-pape” in my best “French chef from The Little Mermaid” voice. (Though I won’t front; that is fun as hell.) No, I wanted to taste the wine because it came from an area of France known as the Rhône River Valley.
My curiosity about Rhône wines comes from our time out in California. Our favorite wine spot out there, the Central Coast region, bears a lot of similarities to the Rhône area. Both places have a similar climate and soil quality, which is great for Syrahs in particular (a.k.a. Shiraz, for you backward Aussies in the crowd). Anyhow, my wife and I both love the wines of the Central Coast, so we couldn’t wait to try out the offerings from the much older vines of the Rhône. To my mind, I figured that if Central Coast wines were like a great movie, then Rhône wines would be like the classic novel upon which that movie was based.
So we crack the bottle and pour a sampling. A tip of the glass reveals no legs to speak of. The bouquet has what I think is a hint of leather to it. I take a sip, let it swirl around my tongue. I can feel the bite of the tannins on my palate, but I also taste plum and vanilla. The vanilla is heavier first–I can definitely tell that the wine has been oaked–but the aftertaste is much more weighted toward the plum.
After a single sip, I’m actually not sure whether I like the wine or not. After a second, less academic taste (read: a big-ass gulp), I decide that yes, I do enjoy it. But still, this is not among my favorites.
Chateauneuf-du-pape is a blended wine; this particular one breaks down to be 80% Old Grenache, 10% Syrah, 5% Mourvèdre, and 5% Autres. Either this wine needs more time in the bottle than the makers advised, or the percentages are off. Maybe there is too much Old Grenache by a few points. Of course, that’s a bit above my paygrade. Either way, this particular wine is a bit of a letdown, though it may very well be a case of unreasonable expectations. Let’s be charitable and rate it an 89/101.