Our tasting group has not dedicated an evening to Chateuneuf du Pape since...April of 2005? You might think we hate the stuff! Yet most of the group has a decent collection of these...sounds like a Grand Tasting!
Once again, a colossal flight of wines, blinded and rank ordered by our capable panel of tasters:
Clearly the oldest, and nearly unanimously rated number one, was Lloyd's 1990 Château de Beaucastel. Surprising, as this wine almost didn't make it into the tasting lineup - Lloyd's first bottle was corked and this second bottle had a funky nose that was only starting to blow off as we went into the tasting - very fortunate. This perfectly aged CDP makes my short list of "best ever" wines - sour cherries meet pencil shavings on the nose, blanketed in roses and blackberries, some truffles, leather and tea...even figs in a supporting role. Incredibly polished, flavourful, and complex - silky smooth tannins deliver crisp fruit to the palate and directly into the cerebrum....so, so, good. Score: 19/20
Second, third and fourth place were very close, but Cam's 2004 Domaine du Pégau Cuvée Réservée edged out the rest with a nose of cooked fruit and grenadine, dried meat and some interesting mustiness. Very dry, with big, gripping tannins, it was a touch unbalanced at first taste but it had such a tremendous finish that sufficiently sorted itself out by the end of the night. Score: 18+/20
Third was the 2003 Domaine de St-Paul, continuing Ash's string of strong showings. Not a house I knew before tonight, it was showing its age - musty cooked fruit, mushrooms and old leather on the nose...balanced and tasty, just a bit old and flat on the palate. Past its prime, probably better in its past? Score: 17.5/20
Fourth place went to the "other" Beaucastel, Pramod's 1995 Château de Beaucastel. Pramod was disappointed with the showing, but it was "controversial" wine, with a bunch of high ratings pulled down by two last place ratings. Tarry cherries and liquorice on the nose, a powerful wine of tremendous length on the palate, dry velvety tannins, crisp fruit and spicy oak. This house is restoring my faith in CDP. Score: 18.5/20
In fifth was Cosme's 2005 Domaine de la Janasse Chaupin, another controversial wine with high and low rankings. Notably younger and fruitier on the nose, with ripe cherries and vanilla in the foreground, a hint of violets as well. Silky smooth, nicely balanced with dense velvety tannins, a great wine but stylistically away from where my palate is these days. Score: 17.5/20
Sixth place was a three way tie between my 2001 Domaine du Pégau Cuvée Réservée, Lloyd's backup wine, the 2001 Usseglio Cuvée de mon Aïeul and Chris' 2006 Domaine de la Vieille Julienne. My older Pegau smelled old, with compote, tar and almonds on the nose, fruity and well balanced on the palate but needs some more time in the cellar Score: 17/20. The Usseglio was just .... bland? Leather, fruit and vanilla on the nose, fruity with modest tannins Score: 16.5/20. Chris' Vieille Julienne was violets and venison on the nose, heavy fruit up front, this gave way to a better wine than that I first encountered. A very long finish, drinking well now Score: 17/20.
So...Beaucastel was not a house I had tasted frequently (maybe never?), yet two different vintages scored first and second for me. And that 1990 Beaucastel ranks with the best wines I have ever tasted (thanks Lloyd!)...I smell a shopping trip.
Many thanks to our host, Cosme, and to the gang for raiding their cellars for these treasures.