Exploring Bordeaux

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

Picking up where I left off on Tuesday

Like any good tasting menu or flight, the Bordeaux seminar progressed along a crescendo of increasing complexity and robustness.  Unlike traditional tasting menus where the progression typically follows a change in grape, Merlot remained the primary grape through 10 of the 12 reds.  The grapes that the winemakers blended with the Merlot differed; the first half of the seminar featured primary Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon Blends.  By the second half, the wines were also including Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc.  To my mind, it wound up being a more interesting seminar because of this, providing an opportunity to experience the range and depth of Merlot.

Château Coutet 2009.  AOC St. Emilion Grand Cru.  60% Merlot, 26% Cabernet Franc, 6% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Malbec.  This, as Jean-Christophe Calvet was quick to point out, was very much a sneak preview as the wine won’t be available until September.  Calvet encouraged us to approach it as a barrel tasting. The nose is subtle with deep rich notes of cherry.  In the mouth, the wine is not as robust as the previous wine, although I suspect that additional aging will bring out some additional depth.  The wine is nicely fruity with light tannins on the finish.  The finish lingers, but I found it to be a bit chalky.  The wine shows a lot of promise, and I’ll be interested to see how it turns out once it’s released.  Scheduled for release in September, this wine will likely retail for $26-$28/bottle.

Château Picque Caillou 2009.  AOC Pessac Leognan.  45% Merlot, 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc.  Another 3-star wine in my tasting notes, and one of my top three wines of the seminar.  The nose is rich and deep, but quite discreet with notes of  soil and dark cherry.   The nose hides, and you have to breathe deep to really pick it up, but to my mind that made it all the more interesting.  In the mouth the wine has a silky, smooth mouth feel.  There are hints of spice on the front of the wine, which then opens up to stronger notes of earth and dark berries (definitely blackberry).  The finish lingers for well over a minute, providing an overall satisfying experience.  This wine will be bottled in May and will retail for $25-$35/bottle.

Château L’Argenteyre 2009.  AOC Médoc Cru Bourgeois.  35% Merlot, 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Petit Verdot.  This wine was an interesting contrast to the previous wine.  Where I found myself using words such as “rich” and “deep” with regards to the previous wine, here the adjectives that predominate my notes are “fresh” and “lively.”  The nose is loamy with subtle notes of dark stone fruits, perhaps plum?  In the mouth the notes of loamy earth are strong, but balanced with bright notes of cherry.  The finish has light notes of pepper which provide a nice balance to the brightness in the front.  This wine will be released in April and will retail for $16-$18/bottle.

Château Trois Moulins 2009.  AOC Haut Médoc Cru Bourgeois.  50% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Cabernet Franc and 2% Petit Verdot.  According to Calvet, this is regarded as the best wine produced in the history of the vineyeard.  It’s a lovely wine with a soft fruity nose with notes of black currant.  In the mouth the wine is rich and fruity with notes of black currant and blackberry.  The mouth feel is soft and silky and light tannins give it a nice balance and a beautiful finish.  I really liked this wine, and it definitely made it into my top five of the seminar.  Available now, the wine retails for $20-$22/bottle.

Château Mongravey 2009.  AOC Margaux Cru Bourgeois.  70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot.  With the last two reds, the primary grape shifted to Cabernet Sauvignon.  Another sneak preview tasting, Calvet described this wine as being in the “feminine style of the Medoc.”  I have no idea what “feminine style” means with regards to wine – perhaps it’s lighter, more delicate?  A quick Google search turned up several references to “feminine style” but no real explanations.  Now I’m intrigued, so the research will continue and hopefully become a post here on Vino Verve at a later point.  And if any of you know, please leave me a comment here or send me an email at marguerite@vinoverve.com

But, today is about the wine, not my research.  Another one of my top five, this one has two stars in my tasting notes, the wine is very fruit-forward with lip-licking notes of lush, ripe berries that develops in the mouth to interesting notes of licorice at the end.  The wine is very well balanced with a velvety mouth feel, and quite delicate, surprisingly so given it’s predominately Cabernet Sauvignon, which in my experience generally produces heavier wines.  This wine will be bottled in April and May and is definitely on the list of wines to add to the cellar.  When it is released, it should retail for $30-$40/bottle.

Château Fonbadet 2009.  AOC Pauillac.  70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 10% Petit Verdot and Malbec.  Hands down my favorite wine of the seminar – four stars in my tasting notes!  The nose is subtle and discreet with notes of loamy earth and black currants.  In the mouth, the word that first came to mind was gorgeous.  Rich and silky with lush notes of black currant and earth.  Described by the winemaker Eric Boissenet as cassis-style, this wine will cellar for years.  The most expensive of the wines presented that day at $40-$50/bottle, it is definitely worth picking up as many bottles as you can afford.

Château Bel Air 2009.  AOC Sainte Croix du Mont.  100% Semillon.  The seminar concluded with a lone dessert wine.  Medium-gold in color the nose is rich and lightly sweet with strong notes of honey and honeysuckle.  In the mouth the wine is soft and sweet, but not as strongly sweet as many dessert wines, and lightly floral with lovely notes of honey.   A very nice finish to an excellent – and quite extensive – seminar.  The wine is available now and retails for $12-$15/bottle.

2009 Bordeaux – In Boston

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

The Boston Wine Expo seems to have become my venue for exploring French wines.  Last year it was the 2007 Chateuneuf-de-Papes, and this year the Terroir of Burgundy and the 2009 Bordeaux.

2009 was a record year for Bordeaux, hence the seminar title, “2009 Bordeaux – A Record Setting Vintage.”  The weather produced near perfect conditions that year: sunny days and cool, dry nights, a warm and relatively dry July and August followed by rains at the end of the summer produced grapes that have all the hallmarks of the greatest vintages.

The seminar was led by Jean-Christophe Calvet, President of the Aquitaine Wine Company.  Jean-Christophe Calvet is a sixth-generation wine merchant, and Aquitaine Wine Company can trace its roots back to the 18th century.  Today the firm distributes in 47 states and focuses exclusively on the wines from the Bordeaux region.  In addition to the “Classified Growths,” the superstars of Bordeaux which command the highest prices and the greatest prestige, Aquitaine Wine Company also features the “Discovery Wines,” or as they refer to them on their website, the “challengers.”  Aquitaine has formed partnerships with more than a 100 families who produce quality wines at more affordable prices.  For this seminar, Calvet selected 14 Discovery Wines, the most expensive of which was only in the $40-$50 range (as compared to $1200-$1500 for the Classified Growths); most fell in the $10-$20 range.

Château La Freynelle 2009, AOC Bordeaux Blanc.  50% Sauvignon Blanc, 50% Semillon.  This was the only white table wine of the 14 wines presented that day.  A lovely light yellow color which sparkled among the denser reds of the other glasses, the wine had a floral, lightly fruity nose with soft notes of honeysuckle and lemon.  In the mouth the light citrus notes continue, with the sauvignon blanc providing notes of grapefruit so common to the grape, and the semillon bringing a touch of honey sweetness to balance the citrus.  The wine opens up in the mouth, with the grapefruit building slightly to a sweet/tart finish.   This wine is available now and retails around $12.99/bottle.

Château La Freynelle 2009, AOC Bordeaux Rouge.  65% Merlot, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon.  The color was a medium garnet.  The nose quite subtle.  In the mouth however, the wine was quite fruity with lovely notes of berries and plum.  Medium-bodied, the wine felt a bit young, and while nice, I would definitely cellar it for a few years to see how it develops.  Available in March, the wine should retail for $12-$14/bottle.

Château Mylord 2009, AOC Bordeaux Rouge.  70% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon.  This is a very drinkable, very nice wine.  Medium garnet color with a bright, very cherry nose.  In the mouth, the wine is fruit-forward with strong notes of cherry and soft tannins on the finish.  Aged in stainless steel, the wine has a clean, smooth mouth feel that is quite charming.  The wine is definitely a “drink now” wine, but should also age well for another few years.  Also available in March, the wine will retail for $12.99/bottle.

Costes du Château Feret Lambert 2009, AOC Bordeaux Supérieur.  90% Merlot, 10% Cabernet.  From St. Emilion, “Kingdom of the Merlot,” according to Calvet, as it was one of the first areas to cultivate Merlot grapes.  The region’s wine history dates back to the Romans in the 2nd century (Source: Wikipedia).   While predominately a Merlot, th ewinemakers add the 10% Cabernet Sauvignon to provide acidity to the wine.  A darker, yet still medium garnet color, the nose is earthy and quite subtle.  It was a distinct difference from the first three wines which had much stronger fruit and floral notes.  In the mouth, the wine has strong notes of damp earth, some light notes of blackberry and plum, and a lightly spicy finish.  The wine is available now and retails for $10-$14/bottle.

Château Haut Colombier 2009, AOC Premières Côtes de Blaye.  90% Merlot, 10% Malbec.  One of my early favorites, this is a really nice wine.  The nose has rich notes of black cherry and currants, notes which carry over onto the palate as well.  The wine has charmingly sweet notes of fruit with a nice pepper finish.  This will drink well now and also should cellar well, and I made a note to buy several bottles, some for now and some to age for a few years.  The wine was released in January and retails for $10.99/bottle.

Château Roland La Garde 2009, AOC Premières Côtes de Blaye.  67% Merlot, 33% Cabernet Sauvignon.  Another favorite – I have the word “gorgeous” circled next to my tasting notes – this is another lovely, very drinkable now wine.  The color is a ruby-garnet, and the nose is earthy with lovely notes of cherry.  In the mouth the wine is supple, rich and surprisingly robust with notes of black cherry and light notes of spice on the finish.   The tannins give the wine a nice bite of acid on the finish which gives the wine a bit of a kick that balances the velvety smoothness of the mouthfeel.  Calvet recommends bottle aging this wine an additional 3-5 years, although it is quite lovely now.  Available today and retailing for $13-$15/bottle, this is a wine that I will definitely add to the cellar.

Château Saint Andre Corbin 2009, AOC St Georges St. Emilion.  75% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Franc.  Another favorite – this time I have three stars next to my notes, as well as notes to buy a case!  The nose is deep and rich with lovely notes of cherry.  In the mouth the wine is rich and velvety with soft tannins and rich, complex, but not sweet notes of cherry and dark berries.  The finish is soft and lingering.  The wine is produced by one of the oldest estates in Bordeaux, dating back to the 4th century.   Calvet recommends cellaring this wine for an additional 5-6 years.  The wine will be released in May 2011 and should retail for $20-$28/bottle.  Definitely one of the pricier of the wines featured this afternoon, but it is worth it.  I’m already making plans to order a half-case, if not a full case for myself.

Coming Thursday, 2.24 – the second half of the seminar wine list.

The Final Four

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

We could easily have stopped with the Réserve Personnelle, and I would have felt I had gotten more than my money’s worth from the seminar, but there were four more wines lined up in front of me.

Change le Merle Vielles Vignes 2007, Bosquet des Papes, presented by Nicolas Boiron, proprieter and winemaker.  Blend 88% grenache, 8% Mourvèdre and $% syrah grown on three parcels, Gardioles, Montredon and Cabriéres.  The vines are 90+ years old, and the wine is aged 14 months in a combination of demi-muids and foudres.  Only 750 cases were produced.

The Chante le Merle Cuvée was first produced in 1990 by Maurice Boiron, the third generation of the Boiron family to helm Bosquet des Papes, and since then he, and now his son Nicholas who took over the winemaking in 2000, produces the Cuvée only in those vintages that he feels deserve it.

The color is a dark ruby color with some lovely deep red notes when the wine catches the light.  The nose is very soft with light notes of fruit, particularly cherry.  In the mouth, the wine is soft, lush, lightly fruity and very spicy with strong notes of pepper and cumin.  This is a very big, robust wine, a “steakhouse wine,” if you will.  The finish lingers with the warm toasty spiciness of the cumin.  Soft tannins help give the wine a nice balance and complexity.  Overall this was another one of the eyes-rolling-back-in-the-head, wish-I-could-afford-these-wines moments and I immediately texted Kevin, who, I am sure, was heartily sick of my taunting him with “you should be here” texts.

Vielle Vignes 2007, Domaine de la Côte d l’Ange, presented by John Junguenet.  Blend 90% grenache, 5% syrah, 5% Mourvèdre, grown on the parcel for which the domaine is named: Le Coteau de l’Ange.  the age of the vines is 95 years, and the wines are aged for 12 months in foudres and 2-3 year old barrels.  600 cases were produced.

The Vielle Vignes gave the Domaine Pierre Usseglio & Fils Cuvée du Mon Aïeul a run for it’s money for the top spot as my favorite of the day.  Even revisiting the Cuvée in a back-to-back tasting, I was hard pressed to choose between the two.  I’d call it a tie, but as I tasted and compared, I realized if I was going to recommend one wine to Kevin from the entire group, this would be it.

The color is a dark garnet, not as bright as the previous wine, but still a lovely color.  The nose is soft and very light with notes of sea air – that bright salty crispness you often find in sea air.  In the mouth, the wine is smooth and fruity, although I found it difficult to isolate particular notes.  The finish is also smooth and lightly fruity and while another robust wine, it lacks the spice found in the Chante le Merle.  It was a very interesting contrast to taste the two back to back.

Cuvée du Quet 2007, Mas de Boislauzon, presented by Daniel Chaussy, proprieter and winemaker.  The blend is 80% grenache and 20% Mourvèdre, grown on the Bois Lauzon parcel.  The wine is aged for 16 months in a 50/50 combination of foudres and 3-year old barrels.

Daniel Chaussy, who runs the winery with his sister Christine, first produced the Cuvée in 2000 as a showcase for the Mouvèdre, with the base of the wine (60-70%) being old-vine Mouvèdre.  In 2007, he flipped that and increased the percentage of grenache.  The result earned the Cuvée 100 points from Robert Parker.

The color is a deep ruby/garnet.  The nose is earthy, rich and almost loamy – a really lovely nose with a much stronger presence than that of the previous few wines.  In the mouth, the wine is dry, earthy and elegant – lovely notes of grass and a lot of spice, particularly the sharper heat of pepper.  The finish lingers on peppery notes.  The wine still has the feel of a young wine, and while definitely drinkable now, I very much felt the potential, and think that this will really transform and blossom with aging.  Overall, while not a bad wine, I found it not as strong or as interesting as some of the other wines in the selection.

Les Petits Pieds d’Armand 2007, Domaine Olivier Hillaire.  Presented by Olivier Hillaire and translated by John Junguenet.  Blend, 100% grenache grown on a single parcel, Le Crau.   The vines are just over 100 years old, and the wine is aged 14 months in demi-muids.  330 cases were produced.

The color is a dark ruby, with a dense opaque tone.  While a lovely color, the wine doesn’t catch the light in quite the same way as a number of the other wines.  The nose is absolutely gorgeous – soft but complex; earthy, spicy and notes of dark berries.  In the mouth the wine is smooth with lovely, soft, rich notes of dark plum.  The sharp spicy heat of pepper comes with the finish providing an interesting complement to the soft plumminess.  Very, very nice wine, and like all the wines I tried that day, will definitely grow in depth and complexity as it ages.

That concluded the seminar, 10 Chateauneuf-du-Papes from the remarkable 2007 vintage, that near-perfect year.  Since returning from the seminar, I’ve been doing some hunting via Google to see if I can pick up at least a couple of bottles to cellar for a few years.  Even as young as they are, these are not cheap wines – most start in the low $100s and move up from there.  They also are not widely available, due both to the relatively low number of cases produced and limited distribution here in the US.  Luckily I live on the East Coast, near New York, and am sorely tempted to head down to the city, cruise the wine shops, and see what I can find.

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

Ten 2007 Châteauneuf-du-Papes

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

If there was one theme we kept hearing throughout the seminar it was “2007 was as perfect a year for growing wine as one could hope for.”  Despite experiencing one of the worst droughts in more than 20 years (only 1.38″ of rain between June and mid-September), the consistently mild temperatures (average of 73ο F) and over 20 days of strong, cool Mistral winds blowing across the Rhone Valley which kept the vines from drying out after the rains, resulted in near-perfect growing conditions across the region.  As a result, the 2007 vintage is consistently one of the best across all Châteauneuf-du-Pape producers.

Joining Alain and John Junguenet in leading us through this exploration of the 2007 vintage were many of the winemakers or winery owners.  A couple only spoke French, but it was a rare and fascinating treat to hear their impressions of the wines we were tasting.  We kicked off with the

Hommage à Henry Tacussel 2007, Domaine Moulin-Tacussel.  Presented by Didier Latour, the cellarmaster and winemaker at Henry Tacussel.  Blend: 93% Grenache, 7% Syrah; Parcel: Charbonnière.   The Charbonnière parcel has a mix of Galet (rocky) soil in the higher elevations and sandy in the lower.  The vines are between 80 and 90 years old and were planted by Henry Tacussel, who created the domaine in the late 19th century.   The wine is aged in oak barrels for twelve months, and only 1800 bottles were produced.

The color is a rich, dark purple.  The nose is earthy with very discernible notes of pepper.  In the mouth, the wine has light notes of cherry, and the mouth feel is smooth, rich and full.  There’s a slightly sharp finish that I felt primarily in the top and back of the mouth, but that should soften with cellaring and when paired with food.

Réserve Spéciale, Château Fortia.  Presented by winery manager, Pierre Pastre.  The domaine was founded by Baron Le Roy de Boiseaumarie, the man credited with organizing the region’s winemakers in 1936 and creating France’s first AOC, and is now owned by his son, Bruno Le Roy, who is also Fortia’s winemaker.   The domaine, and the parcel, are named for the castle, Château Fortia, that sits on the land, and the estate is one of the few whose vines and cellar are all within the same parcel.

Blend: 85% Syrah, 15% Mourvèdre; Parcel: Fortiasse.   This average age of the syrah vines is 35-36 years, with the Mourvèdre averaging just over 50 years. Château Fortia vinifies the wine in cement tanks before aging for 14 months in oak barrels.  While not a common blend for a Châteauneuf-du-Pape, I found this one of the more interesting wines of the seminar.  The color is a very dark purple/dark ruby color, almost black.  The nose was very soft with deep rich notes of blackberry and black currant.  In the mouth, the flavors are layered but well balanced, with notes of blackberry, black currant and a gaminess which I found quite interesting.  Pastre described the gamey notes as touches of venison, and I must say they provided an interesting richness and depth.   The wine opens in the mouth, and finishes with notes of black licorice.   While definitely drinkable now, the wine was designed to be aged 10-15 years, and production was limited to only 250 cases in an attempt to improve the overall quality.

Réserve Sixtine 2007, Cuvée du Vatican.  Presented by John Junguenet.  Cuvée du Vatican is owned by Jean-Marc Diffonty, who is both proprieter and winemaker, heir to a long family history of winemaking which dates back to the 17th century.   Diffonty’s father, Félicien, also served as Châteauneuf’s mayor for more than 30 years.   Jean-Marc Diffonty took over the winery from his father in 1993, and since then has been credited with bringing “the estate a very long way in the last 14 years” (source: Alain Junguenet Selection Seminar Notes).  He was the first winemaker in the appellation to have a punch-down machine, designing his own machine.

The Réserve Sixtine 2007 is a blend of 55% Grenache, 30% Syrah and 15% Mourvèdre grown on three parcels: La Crau, Barbe d’Asnes, and Rayas.  The age of the vines is roughly 60 years, and a blend of grapes are gown in each parcel, allowing for a blend of terroir in addition to the blend of grape.   The Réserve Sixtine is a relatively newer wine for Diffonty, who first began producing it in 1998.  Diffonty also uses a relatively high percentage of new oak in his wines, aging the wine for 12 months in a combination of  foudres (40%), new oak barrels (30%) and stainless steel tanks (30%).  2,009 cases were produced.

Like the previous two wines the color is a dark purple, but leaning more towards shades of dark plum rather than ruby.  The nose is soft with very discernible notes of cherry.  In the mouth, the wine is bright, but elegant with a lush mouth feel.  The cherry is also present on the palate and there are notes of pepper on the finish, which lingers beautifully in the mouth.  While I liked the wine, I did feel it was still young, and would definitely benefit from cellaring.

Tuesday, 4.20.2010 – the exploration of the 2007 Châteauneuf-du-Papes continues.

Alain Junguenet Selection: Châteauneuf-du-Pape

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

Leaving the Corton Grancey/Corton Charlemagne seminar that beautiful January morning, I was hard-pressed to imagine that anything could top the experience of those Burgundies.  Until I arrived at the afternoon seminar, that is, and got to spend 90 minutes with 10 Châteauneuf-du-Papes.

The seminar was hosted by Alain Junguenet and his son John from Alain Junguenet Selection, Wines of France, Inc., New Jersey-based wine importers since 1984.  Alain Junguenet has been dubbed “Mr. Châteauneuf-du-Pape” by Robert Parker, who also has named him “Wine Personality of the Year.”  The seminar wines were all chosen personally by Alain and John Junguenet from the 2007 vintage.

Châteauneuf-du-Pape, in the Southern Rhone Valley, was founded in the 12th century when the Bishop of Avignon began planting vines in his fief.  By the end of the 13th century others had followed his example, and more than 300 hectares were under cultivation across the region surrounding the town of Châteauneuf-du-Calcernier.  In the 14th century, the Catholic Church experienced upheaval and schism and seven popes lived in exile in Avignon from 1305 until 1378.  The first “French pope,” Clement V (1305-1314), actively embraced wine making, developing even more land across the region for wine cultivation, a practice continued by his successor, Pope John XXII (1316-1334) who is often credited with increasing the region’s reputation for wine during his reign.    John XXII also built the  chateau, which the popes used as their summer retreat, and which today stands at the heart of the Châteauneuf-du-Pape region.   The region’s wines and winemakers continued to grow in sophistication, and in 1836, Commandant Joseph Ducos, then mayor of Châteauneuf and proprietor of Chateau La Nerte officially changed the name of the village to Châteauneuf-du-Pape in honor of the Popes who had reigned there.  One hundred years later, the Baron Le Roy de Boiseaumarie of Chateau Fortia together with other vintners from the region formed the Syndicate of Châteauneuf, which declared the “Appellation d’Origine Controllé Châteauneuf-du-Pape,” the first official AOC.

Today the region is comprised of 125 vineyards spread out across the five communes: Sorgues, Béddarides, Courthézon, Orange, and Châteauneuf-du-Pape, which make up the Appellation.  While there are a small number of white varietals grown and produced in the region, Châteauneuf-du-Pape is known primarily for it’s reds, which account for 95% of total production.  The primary grape of the region is grenache, the “base” of Châteauneuf-du-Pape wines.  In addition to grenache, the region’s winemakers grow an additional 12 varietals, each having their own hallmark characteristics which they carefully select and blend:

  • Muscardin – good aroma and fullness
  • Vaccarese – spice
  • Cinsault – big arome and body
  • Terret Noir – color and body
  • Counoise – acidity and spice
  • Mourvedre – black fruit, leather, spice, tannin
  • Syrah – peppery, red fruits & structure
  • Roussane – aroma & ageability
  • Clairette – alcohol and depth
  • Bourboulenc – acidity and floral notes
  • Picardan – acidity
  • Picpoul – citrus and roundness

As with all AOC’s, the region’s winemakers are bound by a series of very strict rules governing wine production, including the mandating of manual harvesting of all grapes, minimum alcohol content of 12.5%, and three sortings with each domain required to exclude 5% of its harvest each year to ensure only the highest quality grapes are used in the wine production.

A fascinating history, accompanied by a beautiful slide-show of the region’s vineyards and wineries, but through it all the wines were calling.  10 wines, ranging in color from deep ruby to a dark, rich plum, they lined up in front of us, teasing us…

Thursday, April 15th – 10 2007 Châteauneuf-du-Papes.