Ten 2007 Chateauneuf-du-Papes – The Journey Continues

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

The seminar proceeded rather leisurely; we were provided with plenty of time to enjoy each wine before moving on to the next one.  Also. the Junguenets were generous with their pourings, providing full half glasses of each wine, rather than the usual few ounces I’d found with other seminars.  It meant that most wines were left unfinished on the table (or I wouldn’t have made it home that afternoon), but there was plenty of opportunity to not only taste the wines, but also to revisit them, doing quick side-by-side comparisons of ones that were particular favorites.

After the Reserve Sixtine, we moved on to

Cuvée Vielle Vigne, Domaine de la Charbonnière, presented by Veronique Maret, daughter of proprieter and winemaker  Michel Maret.  Blend 70% Grenache, 30% Mourvèdre grown on two parcels, La Crau and Charbonnière.   The age of the vines averages 65-70 years old, with a few being almost 100 years.  The wine is aged in both foudres and barrels for 12-18 months.  4,000 cases were produced.

The wine itself is a dark ruby color, with an earthy, lightly musty nose that I found really pleasant.  In the mouth, the Cuvée is earthy and spicy, with strong notes of pepper that linger through a very long finish.   Strong tannins and an overall “young” feel to the wine kept it from immediately being one of my favorites of the afternoon, but I was definitely intrigued enough to want to revisit the wine in a few years.  This is one that I may try to track down and cellar a few bottles just to see how it ages.

The Domaine de la Charbonnière will be celebrating their 100th anniversary in 2012.  Originally purchased by current winemaker Michel Maret’s grandfather, Eugene, as a present for his wife, herself the daughter of a Chateauneuf-du-Pape winemaker, the estate has been family owned ever since.  Under the propriertorship of Michel Maret the domain has, in the words of Alain Junguenet, become one “of the upper echelon of Chateauneuf-du-Pape estates.”

Cuvée de Mon Aïeul 2007, Domaine Pierre Usseglio & Fils, presented by John Junguenet.  The Domaine is a relatively new one, founded in the 1940s by Francis Usseglio, who had left his native Piedmont in 1931 to work in the Chateauneuf-du-Pape vineyards.  He produced his first vintage in 1949, and soon was joined by his son, Pierre, for whom the domain is now named.  Francis’s grandsons, Jean-Pierre and Thierry Usseglio today run the estate are the Domaine’s principal winemakers, who designed this wine as an homage to their grandfather.  The age of the vines is 80 years, and the wine is fermented for 14 months in cement tanks, with 10% being aged in 1-3 year old oak barrels. 1,500 cases were produced.

The Cuvée is a blend of 95% grenache and 5% syrah, grown across four parcels: Grand Serres, Les Serres, Esquirons, and Les Bédines.  The is a medium-dark ruby color, a bit more vibrant and not as deep a color as the previous Cuvée.  The nose is earthy, musty, and has light spice notes, particularly pepper and a hint of the toasty warmth of cumin.

With one sip this wine went immediately to the top of my favorites list.  Definitely one of the eyes-rolling-back-in-the-head moments that I tormented Kevin with all day.  This is an absolutely beautiful wine, smooth with deep rich notes of dark fruits particularly black cherry and blackberry.  The mouth feel is lush and satiny, and the wine really expands and blossoms in the mouth.  The finish moves to notes of spice and toast and lingers on the palate.

Unfortunately a bit out of my price range at an average of $150 per bottle, but one I will definitely keep on the list for a future indulgence.

Réserve Personnelle 2007, Le Vieux Donjon, presented by Claire Michel, daughter of proprietor and winemaker, Lucien Michel.   This was one of the highlights of the seminar.  As the name suggests, the 2007 Réserve was produced as a private wine, just for the family.  Only 600 cases were produced, and none were released for sale.  However, because of the Michel’s longstanding relationship with Alain Junguenet, who we were told begged to have the wine included in the seminar, the Michels did agree to release a case.

The blend is 90% grenache and 10% syrah, grown on the Pied-Long (Pielons) parcel, the oldest parcel of the domain.  The vines are between 95 and 100 years old, and the wine was aged for 15 months in foudres.   Described by Claire Michel as a very traditional wine, the color is a lovely jewel-tone ruby.  The nose is earthy with discernible notes of grass and hay.  In the mouth, the wine is soft and fruity with a soft peppery finish.   The oak adds a soft butteriness, rather than the toast or licorice notes I had been finding in the previous wines, and it contributed to an overall soft, silky mouth feel.

I found myself comparing it to the Usseglio Cuvée we had just sampled, and even went back to the previous wine to try a back-to-back tasting.  Both are very impressive wines, but I found the Usseglio just edged out the Réserve for the top spot on my list.

Coming Thursday: The Final Four

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