The 2010 vintage in Chateauneuf-du-Pape – Ripe or Over-ripe ?
Since seriously respected wine authors such as Jancis Robinson and John Livingstone-Learmonth are saying that the 2010 vintage in Chateauneuf-du-Pape has produced the finest wines since the 1978 vintage, it seems important to both gain a little understanding of the qualities of the vintage, and put some aside for future Library Tastings. It has been a conspicuous feature of my wine life (in New Zealand) that not a soul has ever offered a comparative review of the 1978 Chateauneufs. Certainly the few I have tasted have been a delight. I have to sadly record however, that we no longer live in the same viticultural world as the late 1970s / early '80s. Not only is the world a warmer place, leading to more ripeness, but worse, winemaking practice in the entire English and French-speaking world has been seriously distorted by the advent of American wine commentators seeking out and endorsing ever bigger and more alcoholic wines. Once red wines are much above 14% alcohol by volume, they all too often lack the vital quality that Jancis Robinson simply calls 'refreshment'. The nett result has been that in the hot year 2009 in France, yes, many of the wine are over-ripe and ponderous, but you can make allowances for the season. But in 2010, where warm days followed by cold nights offered the possibility of making highly aromatic and exciting wines, instead far too many winemakers in Chateauneuf-du-Pape appear to have over-ripened their fruit, seeking to make wines which would appeal to American (only) reviewers. This in the simplest terms is a tragedy.
It is true that the variety grenache, which dominates southern Rhone blends, has an extraordinary capacity to hide alcohol. It is the polar opposite of pinot noir, in that respect. Many of the wines illustrate that. But there is no hiding the smells and flavours of over-ripeness, most easily recognised by far too many wines smelling of ripe to over-ripe blackberries. Such wines largely lack any sign of aromatic herbes and refreshing red-fruits qualities on bouquet, and the associated high alcohols, often 15% and some clearly more, make the wines aggressive and less simpatico with food. This sad and bizarre trend has been reinforced by far too many of the world's me-too winewriters now uncritically assuming that the smells and aromas of chocolate (which goes with blackberry) are both normal and desirable in red wines. What a travesty, considering the beauty of the original fresh grape flavours, in optimal (that is, temperate) viticultural climates.
Accordingly my search for exciting wines amongst the 2010 Chateuneufs has brought disappointment too. But ultimately you get worn down by the views of the 'right-thinking' majority (temporary I hope), and I have still scored some of the wines highly. And yes ... I have bought the fresher and more attractive of the wines, with a view to presenting 2010 Chateauneuf-du-Pape Library Tastings in the coming years. I do not want a younger generation of wine people in New Zealand to miss out on tasting an allegedly great Chateauneuf vintage, in the way I did for the 1978s. Sadly the people who sell wine in New Zealand do not seem to see this as their responsibility. My great hope is that the 2010 Chateauneufs will ultimately be seen by the French winemakers themselves as a lost opportunity, when they were seduced by false prophets. Hopefully the next potentially great vintage in Chateauneuf-du-Pape will see a retreat from so many over-ripe and overly-alcoholic wines, and a return to more refreshing and aromatically exciting wines, with lower alcohols.
The present batch of reviews has also been shaped by my desire to present future Library Tastings showcasing the quality of the remarkable 2013 red-wine vintage in Hawkes Bay. In a wine country as isolated as New Zealand, it is important we constantly monitor local achievements in the light of comparable wines from overseas. And being a small country, blessed with a temperate viticultural climate, and thus better placed to match the wines of Europe, it is vital we do not become over-impressed with our own wines, and thus lose touch with the greater marketplace. We have the model of Australia constantly before us, where wine chauvinism has long been endemic. My search for potential foils by which to measure the Hawkes Bay achievements in 2013 has thus included Waiheke Island (naturally), Victoria and West Australia, and (equally naturally) Bordeaux and the Northern Rhone Valley.
Six worthwhile wines from the new releases tasting: three interesting cabernet-style wines: 2010 Esk Valley The Hillside (malbec dominant), 18; 2013 Moss Wood Cabernet Sauvignon Wilyabrup, 18 +; 2013 Xanadu Cabernet Sauvignon, 18; and three dramatically good syrahs: 2013 Mount Langi Ghiran Shiraz Langi, 18 +; 2013 Yann Chave Hermitage, 19; 2013 Domaine Jean-Louis Chave Saint-Joseph, 19 +.
THE WINES REVIEWED:
# These wine were not assessed all at the one time. Conscious of that, best efforts have been made to correlate observations and rankings over the tasting interval, including at times even opening a fresh bottle.
Lemon to lemon straw, attractive. Bouquet is uncommonly close to the 2010 Akarua Vintage Brut Reserve, very youthful, chardonnay apparent more than pinot noir, straightforward autolysis with breadcrust notes, not quite achieving baguette magic. Palate shows good fruit richness, still a young wine, pinot noir and chardonnay, needing to soften, total acid lower than the Akarua and dosage fractionally higher, maybe 9 10 g/L. Better in three years, and will hold for longer. Clean sound straightforward champagne. GK 10/16
Glowing lemon, a really lovely colour. Bouquet is enchanting, at a perfect point of maturity revealing mendoza-clone chardonnay at its best, almost white / light yellow florals on golden queen peach fruit, exquisite subtlety of barrel ferment, lees autolysis and cashew suggestions, some oak, a charmer. Palate is entirely in kilter, elegant varietal fruit and beautiful lees work married-up into a long balanced chardonnay flavour, just fractionally leaner than would be ideal. At a peak of perfection now, but will hold another 3 8 years. GK 07/16
Full straw. Bouquet is less focussed and crisply varietal than the 2011, but still beautifully clean yellow stonefruits, with gentle oak. Palate reveals the oak a little more, but it is a bigger wine than the 2002, still with flesh. Just a little past its peak of maturity, but it has the richness to hold for some years yet, say 2 6. GK 07/16
Lemongreen. This is the odd man out in the four Irongate chardonnays, the wine and its elevage reflecting the modern indulgence / trend to building-in reduction on the presumption that is positive. So often, it is not, except amongst me-too wine judges, and wine journalists who subscribe to trends rather than thinking about them. Here the degree of reduction is still (after two years) suppressing / flattening the wine a good deal, but under the grey blanket of reduced sulphur molecules you can, unusually, see quite intense florality and yellow stonefruit chardonnay trying to escape. At this stage there are reminders in the aroma of the flowers of Cape Ivy (Senecio mikanoides) so not all positive, due to the sulphur. Put this away for five years: I think it will surprise. Fruit richness on palate is good (in the Irongate style), the ratio of fruit to oak is excellent, so the whole thing is set up to 'come right' with time. But it would have been better without the reduction, in the first place. Cellar 5 12 years. GK 07/16
Full straw with a wash of gold. The fruit here is softer, riper, and bigger than the 2008, and being mendoza-clone, still based on golden queen peach, but with almost a mango note creeping in too, quite voluptuous. Being a non-MLF wine however, the palate is neat and taut in structure, the flavours just more developed in mouth, a lovely mouthful of mature chardonnay. It will hold, but decline from now on. GK 07/16
Ruby, carmine and velvet, the third deepest wine. Bouquet epitomises the concept of violets-floral in cassisy berry, beautifully defining the cabernet / merlot winestyle. Berry is totally dominant to good cedary oak, and there is a temperate-climate elegance to this wine worthy of classed-growth bordeaux. In mouth there is a limpid quality to the berryfruit which is enchanting, contrasting with some of the wines which are more tightly-framed by new oak. The ripeness profile / point of picking seems perfect, for maximum flavour and wine complexity. Not a big wine, but big enough, with supreme finesse. Cellar 8 20 years. GK 08/16
Dense ruby and velvet, well above midway in depth. Bouquet illustrates the concept of cassis, tobacco and cedar as found in fine cabernet / merlot blends beautifully, though being a little older than the 2013s in the evaluation sets, the berry notes are browning a little now. Palate is berry-dominant, with an integration of fruit and and cedary oak which is enchanting. Not a big or powerful wine, but the neatness of the wine, and the complexity of flavour, epitomising the cabernet-led complex Medoc blended winestyle, is a delight. Cellar 10 25 years. GK 08/16
Ruby, carmine and velvet, not a big wine, midway in depth, clearly lighter than The Gimblett. Bouquet is light, clean, pure, lovely cassis but leaning to red fruits more than black, subtle oak, and no euc'y taints glory be. It does not quite match The Gimblett with its limpid cassisy purity, this wine being equally cassisy and varietal, but faintly more aromatic. Both show a beautiful dominance of berry over oak. Palate shows a deceptive richness of berry, with high quality oak lending a vanillin and cedary flavour to the cassis on palate now. Scarcely a thought of acid adjustment intrudes. As the wine rests in mouth, the oak grows, but not to become obtrusive. Those who like more cedary / oaky wines would rate the Moss Wood higher than The Gimblett. It is on the aftertaste that the pure fruit quality of the Trinity ultimately wins through. This is subtly-tailored Australian cabernet showing restraint and elegance, but alongside better Hawkes Bay or Bordeaux examples, also a certain simplicity and a lack of concentration which would correlate with the given cropping rate. When considering West Australian cabernet, therefore, which has such a reputation for finer more complex cabernets than South Australia, say, the implication is that both these other districts are more temperate, in viticultural terms, allowing greater varietal expression / complexity, in good seasons. This is an Australian cabernet which can be run in New Zealand / Bordeaux blind comparisons, since even Medocs may occasionally show trace mint aromatics. Interesting that Halliday reviews this wine at 97 points, Jan. 2016. Cellar 10 25 years. GK 08/16
Ruby, carmine and velvet, a classic claret colour, above midway in depth. Bouquet is aromatic / very faintly minty, putting one on guard in a mixed Australian / New Zealand red wine tasting. But the wine is also floral, deeply violets on cassis and bottled black doris plum fruit, very fragrant, and fruit dominant to oak. Palate continues the appealing fruit richness, the wine nearly being succulent, oak beautifully in proportion to the fruit, great length of flavour. This is very much a Saint Emilion balance of smell and flavours. It is clearly more plummy / less cassisy than The Gimblett, and overall a bit simpler. Cellar 5 15 years. GK 08/16
Ruby, some velvet, clearly deeper and younger than the 2010 Guigal Chateauneuf-du-Pape, but scarcely any hint of lurid dark malbec colours. Apart from a light mint suggestion, bouquet is attractive and almost totally bordeaux in styling. Berry is dominant over oak, the wine very fragrant, nearly floral, nearly cassis, a blend of red currants, cassis and red plums scarcely influenced by the all-French oak. Flavour follows on perfectly: it is not as rich as you would expect The Terraces to be (exactly the reason for this new label), but happily, it is not as oaky, either. Heaven knows exactly how Gordon Russell has achieved this, given the 100% new oak for 16 months: this implies a good dry extract analysis. The fruit-to-oak ratio is remarkably close to Bordeaux practice, just a little oakier. This is not a big wine, but for a slightly cool year it shows attractive, even surprising, ripeness and balance, the thought of stalks scarcely entering one's head. Rather, the wine is refreshing. It needs another five years to soften, and will cellar 5 20 years. It shows a style and complexity which should enable it to be competitive against 2010 Bordeaux in blind tastings. GK 10/16
Ruby, carmine and velvet, lighter than the Xanadu Reserve, in the lightest half dozen. Bouquet however is very close in style to the Reserve wine, the cassis if anything seeming slightly more evident, implying less oak influence, and the whole wine beautifully fragrant, faintly aromatic, clear-cut cabernet. On palate the fractionally lower ratio of new oak is expressed in a vividly varietal cassisy flavour, which is an absolute delight, especially when thinking about display wines for presenting varietal tastings. It is perhaps not quite as rich and 'serious' as the Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, but the nett achievement is so similar, it is hard to mark this wine any lower. An exceptional buying opportunity, therefore. Halliday marks this wine 96, Sept. 2015. Cellar 10 20 years. GK 08/16
Ruby, carmine and velvet, exactly midway in depth. In the field of 27, this wine is clearly cassis-led, but slightly aromatic too, at the Prostanthera (Australian flowering mint) level only. This lifts the bouquet, so to first sight the wine seems more clearly cabernet than the Moss Wood. Palate shows great cassis in this slightly aromatic context, and lovely cedary oak, but all in a fractionally lighter winestyle than the Moss Wood, the flavours lingering delightfully. Text-book serious Australian cabernet, though the same caveat re dry extract. Cellar 10 25 years. GK 08/16
Ruby, some carmine and velvet, half the depth of Patriarch 2013. Bouquet is immediately lighter, fresher, more fragrant and more singing than either 2013 Patriarch or the 2014 Esk Cranford Auction wine, much more a cabernet / merlot wine in a Medoc styling, cassis, plums with the merlot obvious, subtle oak, fragrant and attractive in a cru bourgeois style. Palate however is a bit leaner and tauter than the bouquet promises, much more cabernet / merlot now, not the cabernet franc charm which 2013 Awatea (from memory) shows. This is a very reputable 'second' wine to Patriarch, though since their cepage is so different, such a concept is misleading. Cellar 5 15 years. GK 07/16
Ruby, a wash of carmine and velvet, below midway in depth. Bouquet is sweet and darkly red-fruited, appealing and winey, beautiful ripeness, clearly in the style of bordeaux blends. Palate is slightly different from the bouquet, perhaps because the thought one is being seduced by American oak occurs, and you start to notice an aromatic near-mint complexity creeping in, with some acid adjustment. But there is no escaping the fact the ratio of cassisy berry to oak is appealing. This is new-generation Australian winemaking, and great to have it in an affordable Coonawarra cabernet. Cellar 5 15 years.
My appraisal of this wine today raises the intriguing thought that there are basically two kinds of wine writers: those who in publishing a rating for a wine, first check their previous ranking, and make sure the numbers correlate these predominate. In contrast there are the rigorous writers, who call it as it falls, admit to being imperfect, and publish wildly contrasting marks. Jancis Robinson and Julia Harding (at jancisrobinson.com) are the leading exponents of this approach. The whole debate recalls the ultimate wisdom of Harry Waugh, a much experienced wineman of the previous generation, who noted frequently in his reports, that how he rated a wine on the day depended totally on the other wines it was tasted with. What this boils down to is this: it is hard to conceive of 'perfect pitch' in wine evaluation, though many think of themselves that way. The corollary of that is, naturally enough, that much of the numbers game in wine writing is relative at best (depending on the calibre of the winewriter), and in the hands of the majority, can be simply a delusion. Unfortunately for the customer / wine buyer, the more mendacious merchants exploit that delusion to the nth degree. GK 08/16
Ruby, carmine and velvet, scarcely distinguishable from the main Xanadu Cabernet Sauvignon, well below midway in depth. Bouquet is nearly as varietal as the standard Cabernet Sauvignon, and shows the same fragrant cassisy quality. You really have to taste very carefully indeed to see that this most affordable of the three Xanadu Cabernets (in New Zealand) is fractionally less ripe and less concentrated, and not quite as smooth, all presumably implying a slightly higher cropping rate and slightly less-detailed elevation. The total achievement at the price is simply wonderful, the flavours in mouth being beautifully pure, highly varietal, less oaky than some of these West Australian wines, and again showing near-perfect ripeness, with no euc'y taints. Cellar 5 18 years. GK 08/16
Dense carmine, ruby and velvet. Alongside 2013 Babich Patriarch, which does have malbec, this Auction wine smells heavier, denser, and more tannic, as if it were in fact the wine with the malbec. Bouquet is extremely buttoned up, as if it were slightly reductive, but I don't think it is it does not change with air / or even overnight. Like the Trinity Hill Tempranillo in its context, this wine bears little relation to the beauty one associates with cabernet franc from France. In both cases, is this clonal selection in New Zealand based upon the vapid concept that depth of colour is all that matters ? Palate is equally dark, firm, tanniny, and there is rich fruit vaguely in a new world bordeaux-blend style. As Harry Waugh would say, this has tannin to lose. It might be transformed once it crusts in bottle. Meanwhile the Patriarch is surprisingly (considering its cepage) much more bordeaux-like and elegant. Cellar 10 25 years. GK 07/16
Dense ruby, carmine and velvet, as deep as the Dos Dedos Syrah, the third deepest wine. One sniff, and the wine has that dense, dark, slightly dank 'Chilean earth' quality to it, which I had hoped would be eliminated by now, with more attention to cooperage. But perhaps it is a genuine terroir character who knows ? But it certainly drabs the wine down. Behind that is intense darkly cassis / blackberry / more black plummy berry, but like the Dos Dedos and even more so, tending massive. Flavours are similarly rich but earthy / furry / nearly leathery, soft and velvety in a sense, yet all seeming tannic, old-fashioned, and lacking the sophistication hoped for in Chilean wines from this producer, at this price, now we are in the 2010s. I don't have a clear feel yet for Carmenere the variety but I suspect this wine raises an elevage barrier between me and the grapes. It has the richness to fine down surprisingly in cellar the score is slightly higher than my first impression, to allow for that. Cellar 10 30 years. GK 08/16
Good ruby, lighter and older than 2013 Irongate. Bouquet is fragrant, but also lighter and leaner than the 2013 Irongate, some cassis and rather more red plums than black plums, the red plums putting one on guard. Palate confirms the bouquet impressions, the depth of fruit ripeness being less than 2013 Irongate, pleasant entry but a thought of stalks on the swallow, adequate body for its lighter style. This wine underlines my (thus far) working impression that 2014 is a merlot (and syrah) year in Hawkes Bay, but not a cabernet one. Cellar 5 12 years. GK 07/16
Older ruby, medium weight. Bouquet is fresh and fragrant in one sense, but also already clearly showing secondary aromas. The nett impression is of an older New Zealand style of cabernet, only just ripe enough, more red fruits than black. Palate confirms that impression, on an attractive amalgam of light cassis, red plum, some leafy tobacco and some cedar, in a cool-year minor Medoc styling. This would be refreshing wine with a main course that needed a little acid, in the way chianti is good with pizza. Cellar 3 8 years. GK 07/16
Older lightish ruby and garnet. The first impression is how well this wine has stood up, dating as it does from an era when nearly all New Zealand cabernet / merlots were over-cropped, under-ripened, and lacking body, and then over-oaked. Bouquet shows fading leafy and browning pale cassis, with thoughts of pale tobacco and cedar. Palate follows, but is still too oaky for the weight of fruit. The wine is well alive, and would be enjoyable with the right food, since it still has some mouthfeel in its lighter body. Certainly a pleasure to see a New Zealand producer showing a wine as old as this, in a commercial tasting. GK 07/16
Ruby, carmine and velvet, quite dense, a great syrah colour, just above midway in depth. Bouquet is enchanting, showing both richness and delicacy in the way only the most perfectly attuned climates can produce, where the grapes ripen just to peak physiological maturity, scarcely beyond. The depth of pure wallflower and dusky rose florality on cassisy and bottled black doris plum is wonderful, of a depth / weight comparable with Hermitage itself. Exquisite cedary oak is barely detectable. Palate is velvety in texture, yet this is not a huge wine by Hermitage standards. But for Saint-Joseph, it must reflect a remarkably conservative cropping rate [ later confirmed ]. This wine shows near-perfect varietal expression, thanks largely to the concentration plus extraordinary subtlety of beautiful oak. Maison Vauron receive an annual allocation of 48 bottles. Cellar 10 25 years. GK 08/16
Dense dark ruby, carmine and velvet, the deepest wine in the set of 27. Bouquet is deeper, darker, duskier, than the J L Chave Saint-Joseph, but still darkly floral, port-wine magnolia maybe, on equally dusky cassis and blackest plums. Yet it still smells fresh, plus faintest black pepper, astonishing. In mouth all the flavours are a notch darker than the J L Chave, yet still on the right side of the line. There is no hint of clumsy Australian boysenberry, when syrah is vastly over-ripened to shiraz. Alongside the Langi, this Yann Chave is darker: you would not want it to be any more ripe. In a sense the Langi is fresher, aided by the faint aromatics, and the oaking is subtler too. This is the richest and ripest Hermitage I have seen from Yann Chave, a magnificent wine fulfilling Prof. Saintsbury's turn of the century (Notes on a Cellar-Book, 1920) dictum that Hermitage is the 'the manliest' of red wines. A wine to cellar 10 40 years, if my 1969 Hermitage La Chapelle (as seen recently) is any guide. GK 08/16
Ruby, carmine and velvet, in the top half-dozen for depth of colour. This astonishing New Zealand syrah is deeper in colour than the Langi, and shows a similar slight aromatic lift. It is deeply and darkly floral, close to but not quite as varietal as the Yann Chave Hermitage. In mouth the dark fleshy berry blends both cassis and bottled black doris plum in a manner closely matching the Langi, neither being quite as pinpoint varietal syrah as either the Yann Chave Hermitage or the J L Chave Saint-Joseph. It is extraordinarily hard to put into words what the difference is, and in a sense it doesn't really matter. These top five wines are all glorious syrahs, showing great dry extract, length of flavour, subtlety of oak elevation, and nett varietal quality. Cellar 10 20 years. GK 08/16
Ruby, carmine and velvet, a sensational colour, the second deepest. Bouquet is intensely berried, so much so that in the blind tasting you think it is a highly cassisy cabernet carrying a maximum of cedary oak. But as you taste the wine, almost raspberry / loganberry berry notes creep in too, with a wonderful fragrance so complex you can't determine if it is floral or berry notes you are trying to characterise. Palate is glorious, textured, long, aromatic rich fruit sustained by cedary oak at a maximum or slightly to excess, but the richness of the fruit is probably enough to carry it. Personally I would prefer less, acknowledging the Hermitage model. Exciting wine to cellar 10 20 years. GK 08/16
Ruby, older carmine than the J L Chave, and velvet, above midway in depth. Having been assessing Australian shiraz carefully since 1966, my feelings of joy when the ID for this wine was revealed are hard to describe. Here after all these years is a syrah (not shiraz) from Australia, and not tainted with eucalyptus, indeed no more aromatic than some Hawkes Bay syrahs, only faintly more aromatic than the Yann Chave Hermitage. The bouquet is floral, a concept nearly unknown in the Australian climate, but not as deeply so as the Chave, not wallflower therefore, more dianthus, due to the faint aromatic component. Below is cassis and dark plum entirely comparable with Hermitage or the Bridge Pa Triangle, and the wine shows restraint in oaking. Palate is firmer and more oaky than the French examples, but still well well within bounds. This is beautiful wine, not quite the velvety depths of the Chave, but still one to cellar for 10 25 years. GK 08/16
Ruby, carmine and velvet, a lovely colour, right in the middle for depth. Bouquet is quiet, pure, showing understated florals hinting at the other Chave's Saint-Joseph and its wallflowers but less explicit, on big cassisy and darkly plummy berry. Fruit richness in mouth is near-identical to the Matheson, with the flavours similar too. Subtle oak builds on the later palate, to reveal a wine of extraordinary depth and quality, for Crozes-Hermitage. It makes the lovely 2013 Xanadu Shiraz look a little simple. This wine is already quite soft, and I suspect will not cellar as long as some of these top wines, say 5 15 years. GK 08/16
Carmine, ruby and velvet, off the scale for depth, by far the deepest colour. Yet the instant you smell it, it is not in the clumsy style of shiraz, at all. The wine shows a depth of berry which is astonishing, both in its intensity and richness, but also in its point of picking, for South Australia. Dominant fruit notes are loganberry and bottled black doris plums, with some boysenberry, but not the simplistic over-ripe boysenberry of so many South Australian shirazes. It is hard to imagine black pepper but maybe. You can't help noting vanillin from American oak, which lets the wine down / makes it more Australian. It would be great to see this intensity and purity of fruit without both the 'amarone' component (guaranteed to destroy florality), and the American oak. But then I live in the hope of finding the winestyle syrah in mainland Australia. In mouth the wine is velvety rich, thick and textured in an astonishing way, yet the residual sugar is given as only 1.5 g/L (it tastes more, being so rich), so that doesn't distort things too much. This wine approaches a beauty which finally escapes it, for the reasons given. But it is still magnificent, and infinitely more subtle in its oaking than so many of the better-known icon / national monument Australian shirazes. Also it is not euc'y, there being only a shadow of mint. Cellar 10 40 years. GK 08/16
Ruby, carmine and velvet, clearly above midway in depth. Initially opened there is a slight hard edge, reminiscent of either a saline note (unlikely in the Yarra Valley), or less-conditioned oak, which lets the bouquet down. Below that is a bigger wine than the Langi, but less fragrant, more oaky, not so explicitly varietal in the sense of syrah, more Australian therefore, all very tight and youthful. All these factors may change considerably, with appropriate time in cellar. Flavour is riper than cassis, more dark plum, with great richness and length. It is a bigger and more oaky wine than those marked more highly. It will I suspect look much more impressive in five years, and even more syrah-like (since it avoids boysenberry), once it is married up, and softened a little. Score has an anticipatory component, therefore. Cellar 10 25 years plus. GK 08/16
Ruby, carmine and velvet, the second darkest wine. In a mixed blind tasting of cabernets, syrah and Chateauneuf-du-Papes, at the blind stage this wine presents as a dark Chateauneuf-du-Pape, partly because it is a bit spirity. Once the IDs are revealed, it is astonishingly deep for syrah, with great purity plus the alcohol lift. It is not exactly floral, though, more vanillin from oak, the style being warmer-climate. It is only in mouth you get a clearer expression of the smells and flavours. It is syrah, not shiraz, but it is all immensely dark, more currants than grapes, so you don't think of cassis as such. It is riper and oakier than the Yering Reserve, but it is not pruney, at all. Oaking is pro-rata to the richness and body, so it is a much bigger, darker, denser wine than any rated more highly. I imagine there are some Washington syrahs like this. Those who are unaware (or uncaring) of concepts like florality in syrah, and look only for richness and size, will mark this beautifully-made wine more highly. It will cellar for many years, and may surprise in years to come. Cellar 10 30 years. GK 08/16
Ruby, some carmine and velvet, a limpid colour exactly midway in depth, among the 27 wines. Bouquet is closer to the Xanadu than to the Langi proper, a fragrant red fruits presentation of syrah faintly more floral and syrah-spicy than the Xanadu, and totally free of euc'y taints. Flavours in mouth are soft and fleshy, like Le Rouvre, but with some suggestions of the raspberry side of syrah, tiptoeing towards shiraz, in fact. The whole wine is fractionally more syrah-like and complex than the Xanadu, and quite delightful, with its much less serious oak elevation than the Langi proper. Cellar 5 15 years. GK 08/16
Ruby and some velvet, the second lightest wine in the set. There is nothing light about the bouquet, however, which is immensely fragrant in a red roses and red berries way, not quite syrah florals in the classic dianthus sense, but still close to some Cote Roties. Berry notes include redcurrant, red cherry, cassis, and maybe the very best side of loganberry (i.e. an aroma closer to raspberry than boysenberry). There is no undue oak and no euc apparent on bouquet. In mouth the plumpness and flavour of berry is superb, and now suddenly the wine does seem more floral. Oaking is of a subtlety scarcely known in Australia, such that the pure berry flavours last and last, but naturally enough shaped by the 'invisible' oak. When you look closely, there are indeed suggestions of cedar. I remember that great story-teller Max Lake writing about a shiraz from Great Western in the 1950s that could be confused with pinot noir: this wine is a reminder. I did wonder if there were 2 g/L residual sugar, but it seems unlikely with a producer of Xanadu's standing (the website is silent), so I assume this is fruit richness / dry extract speaking. Cellar 5 15 years only, since it is soft. GK 08/16
Ruby, carmine and velvet, well above midway in depth. Initially opened, the first impression is exotic charry oak, rather drowning varietal exactitude. Well aired, some dusky florals start to peep through, on darkly cassisy berry. Flavours are more in line, but still affected by high-cacao charry oak notes. Palate weight is not as big as the colour suggests, and in mouth there seems a lack of varietal precision, the artefacts speaking too loudly. A thought of brett crossed my mind too, notwithstanding the high new oak. Not sure about this wine, at all, it being a far cry from traditional Cote Rotie. One source mentions some American oak used. Cellar 5 15 years, maybe longer. GK 08/16
Good ruby, a wash of velvet. Bouquet is very particular, but you have to be keen on syrah to love it. It shows the exact carnations / dianthus perfume of fractionally under-ripe syrah, on red and darker berries grading to cassis. The comparison and contrast with the 2010 Guigal Hermitage, the Yann Chave Hermitage, and the Esk Syrah Reserve is sensational, for those who wish to understand the syrah ripening curve. As the bouquet would predict, flavours in mouth are tending aromatic and peppery, in a wine more of pinot noir weight. There is trace new oak apparent, and no brett, so it is an eloquent modern example of pure small-scale syrah. Cellar 5 15 years. GK 08/16
Ruby and velvet, naturally older than the 2013s, right in the middle for depth. Bouquet is complex, quite rich browning cassis and plummy fruit, definitely a hint of black pepper and savoury lift and complexity, and a background cedary oak quality, not too obtrusive. As the wine rests in mouth, texture and richness are reasonably good. In the usual Guigal style, the impression of oak is much less than the specs would suggest, presumably due to even this second-level wine showing good dry extract. But in a field of 27 including seven Chateauneuf-du-Papes, this wine stands out for its brett loading. In an interview last year with Andrew Jefford of Decanter, Philippe Guigal commented re brett: 'I dont consider it a quality, but its important not to be paranoid.' This is not the first Guigal wine recently to suggest the time has in fact come for the Guigals to be giving considerably more thought to brett, paranoia or not, for varietal exactitude in this (comparatively young) wine is already considerably compromised. The wine is fragrant, but the florals are being displaced by the spicy notes associated with 4-EP and 4-EG, on cassisy berry browning severely now, much earlier than you would hope, for a 2010. Palate is still well-fruited and delightfully savoury on browning cassis and dark plum, shaped by noticeable oak. The wine will be good with food, as most bretty wines are, but from my standpoint, it is a hopeless proposition to present to a technical tasting with winemakers. Scoring it therefore poses a problem, and the number is a compromise. More technical tasters would slam it. The aftertaste returns to good fruit, with less oak than the Esk Reserve for example, for a similar quality of fruit. Interesting wine: I don't have them alongside, but if this label equates to 2010 La Petite Chapelle from Jaboulet (in Guigal's and Jaboulet's Hermitage ranges), then I suspect the Caroline Frey influence (at Jaboulet) is starting to make this Guigal look a little old-fashioned, though still immensely likeable. Interestingly the 2010 Guigal Crozes-Hermitage is completely pure and modern. Cellar shorter term, 5 15 years maybe, since brett is likely to dry the wine prematurely. GK 08/16
Ruby, carmine and velvet, just below midway in depth, vastly different from the J L Chave Saint-Joseph proper. And so is the bouquet. Here is a perfect example of highly floral and fragrant syrah, where the intense dianthus florals and trace white pepper bespeak marginal under-ripeness, on berry which approaches cassis and red fruits quality. Flavours in mouth are lovely but simple syrah clearly below optimal ripeness as expressed in my syrah ripening curve, yet clearly sweeter, riper and deeper than the Gerin Collines Rhodaniennes wine. Palate weight is medium only, more a dark pinot-weight wine, to cellar 3 12 years. GK 08/16
Ruby, carmine and velvet, the third to lightest wine in depth of colour. Bouquet is intensely 'floral' to first impression, dianthus like the Offerus wine, but a second sniff and you realise it is a lot less ripe, more stalky, more white pepper. It therefore illustrates the under-ripe end of my syrah ripening curve perfectly, and the wine will find an immediate use for my annual seminar (syrah this year) for the Lincoln University wine degree course (account now published on this website). In mouth red currants and some suggestions of cassisy berry quality are evident, and it tastes rounder and smoother than the bouquet promises. Oaking is subtle, as befits a wine from the cooler Cote-Rotie uplands in the Collines Rhodaniennes zone. Cellar 3 8 years. GK 08/16
Ruby, some carmine and velvet, medium weight. Bouquet is ripe, plummy, euc'y and leathery, but clean. Palate is less, a hard added-tannin quality fighting with a saline note, on over-ripe boysenberry shiraz typifying commercial Australian red. Oak is reasonable, presumably mostly achieved by artifice. Sound plain QDR, to cellar 3 10 years. GK 08/16
Ruby, carmine and velvet, well above midway in depth. Bouquet (or the lack of bouquet) is a major disappointment, for despite the wine being reasonably rich, it is quite markedly reductive, totally suppressing any varietal qualities or detail. In mouth there is good ripe berry at a cassis level of ripeness, subtle oaking, and reasonable length cut short by the slightly metallic hardness that marked reduction introduces to the palate. Not really worth cellaring, but if need be, the wine needs severe aeration, from jug to jug as splashily as possible, at least 10 times, preferably more. GK 08/16
Ruby and velvet, quite deep for Chateauneuf-du-Pape, clearly above midway in the mainly syrah and cabernet field of 27. Bouquet is wonderfully deep, dark, fragrant, nearly duskily floral, as if there were a high percentage of mourvedre and syrah in a grenache base. [ Later checking indicates a significant percentage of both. Robinson states the mourvedre is 20% in 2010. ] Berry notes include darker suggestions of cassis as well as raspberry, on an aromatic plummy matrix, with some cedary and silver-pine oak too, even perhaps a little new oak. The spirit is well-contained. Palate is soft, rich, velvety, tending over-ripe in the modern lush style American winewriting has forced on the world, all a little tannic at this early stage, otherwise beautifully balanced and harmonious, with the darker fruits providing the long flavours. Cellar 5 25 + years. GK 08/16
Ruby and velvet. Bouquet is ripe, sweet, rich and fragrant, red fruits more than black, subtlest oak, some cinnamon in the sense of spice melding with brown mushroom notes. Palate adds red plums to the raspberry, some darker notes maybe, but the wine beautifully avoiding the lowest-common-denominator (in these hotter days) of blackberry. Finish is long, velvety, and wonderfully elegant, more youthful than the colour. Cellar 5 20 years. GK 07/16
Ruby and velvet, older and lighter than the Boislauzon, below midway in depth. Bouquet is more grenache dominant, fragrant red fruits, some silver-pine cedary notes, seemingly all red fruits in contrast to the Boislauzon, even though the cepage is not too different. There are hints of new oak, but most of the oak seems older, no brett, and the spirit is not overt. Palate is less complex than the Boislauzon, and in mouth the alcohol seems a little higher, all on red grenache berry flavours plus some darker fruits, the raspberry browning slightly now. There is good succulence and richness on the later palate, and more old-oak tannin than you would expect from the bouquet. A good representative rich Chateauneuf-du-Pape from this fine year, needing to lose a little tannin. Cellar 5 25 years. GK 08/16
Ruby and velvet, below midway. Bouquet is fragrant, red fruits again with some browning, an exciting silver-pine / cedary lift on the grenache component, a little fumey on the alcohol, seemingly grenache-dominated. Palate contradicts the bouquet impression, the wine seeming gentle in mouth, not quite as rich as the Mas Boislauzon, showing a more uniform grenache-led red fruits flavour marrying with older oak. The long aftertaste is lovely, seemingly pure grenache. The tannins in this wine are beautifully fine-grained, already. Cellar 5 20 years. GK 08/16
Ruby, some velvet, some maturity. Bouquet is both more savoury, and more refined, than the 2012 Guigal Cotes du Rhone, largely due to the greater ratio of new or newish oak, even though the oak is still subtle. This bouquet is piquant, almost saliva-inducing: it makes you think of food instantly. And it is mercifully free of the reduction which diminished the 2009 Guigal. Even so it is not sparkling pure, the red fruits being complexed with some savoury notes suggesting light brett. Palate is supple and harmonious, beautiful savoury red fruits, exquisitely clean oak, the whole wine epitomising vinosity and food-friendlyness. This is partly because there is trace brett, but at a level all but nutters will love. The syrah and mourvedre components darken the wine pleasingly, relative to the Caillou Safres for example. This is a lovely savoury dry wine, which is not as spirity as some of the 2010 Chateauneuf-du-Papes. It is not ideally rich, not as rich as even the Clos du Caillou Les Safres for example (which is third-tier down), but it is refreshing and will bring much pleasure at table. Cellar 5 20 years. GK 10/16
Ruby and velvet, one of the lightest half dozen. This is a chameleon of a wine, every time you look at it, it appears to be different. Freshly opened, it seems to be a tending massive and over-ripe wine. Yet with even modest aeration, it lightens and freshens dramatically, becoming almost pure red-fruits grenache of startling purity, with emerging garrigue complexity, hints of silver pine, and no brett suggestions at all. The alcohol is well-contained. Palate is in the same velvety-smooth pure grenache style as the Mont-Olivet, not quite as rich, a little more tannin perhaps in youth, with good length. The mix of berry flavours is just a little riper than ideal, getting perilously close to blackberry, but the long red fruits and brown cinnamon-stick finish is enchanting. A food-friendly wine, despite the alcohol. Worth investing in, given decanting, to cellar 5 20 years. GK 08/16
Ruby and velvet, well below midway. Bouquet has an intriguing 'sweet fruits' note hinting at soaked sultanas, on red fruits based on grenache, but seeming more complex than for example Les Safres, as if blending varieties are part of the mix. Apparently this is not the case. Alcohol is again not obtrusive, despite the number: it is amazing how grenache wraps up alcohol. No brett. Flavour is a little darker than Les Safres, again suggesting blending varieties, and the finish seems slightly more spirity and malty the sultana note than some of the wines. It may just need another couple of years to marry up. Cellar 5 20 years. GK 08/16
Ruby and velvet, the lightest wine, but not at all weak. Initially opened the wine is slightly reductive, but it needs only a simple splashy decanting to clean up pretty well. On bouquet there is again the red fruits (browning a little now) of grenache, but you wonder if it is a bit more fumey than the others [ yes ]. Palate shows good fruit, more complex flavours than some of the more grenache-dominant wines, some tannin, but there is also some harshness in throat from noticeably higher alcohol. It is a tragedy that growers have allowed themselves to be led by American winewriters into these over-ripe high-alcohol Chateauneufs, especially in a year such as 2010, where all the reports suggest the season could have produced real elegance, comparable only with the now near-fabled 1978 vintage. GK 08/16
Ruby and some velvet, fresher and deeper than the 2010 Guigal Chateauneuf-du-Pape, an attractive colour. Bouquet is wonderfully rich for the price point, contrasting with many Cotes du Rhone wines. It is slightly fumey, red fruits more plummy than anything, a hint of blackberry, a hint of older oak, totally winey in a youthful way. Palate is slightly more savoury than the bouquet, scarcely any hint of cloying ripe blackberry (implying over-ripe syrah), instead aromatic savoury plummy fruit, and only trace brett. Syrah as such is not recognisable, it being totally a GSM styling, but the wine is lighter, softer, less oaky and more food-friendly than most Australian interpretations of the concept. It will not cellar quite as long as the same label did back in the 1980s, when there was less warm-climate syrah, but this wine will give a lot of pleasure for the price. Cellar 5 18 years. GK 10/16
Ruby and velvet, in the middle for depth. Bouquet contrasts with the Cuvée Exceptionelle, in that the fruit and berry characters are less precise, and there are greater warm year / leathery qualities to the wine. Palate shows red grading to black fruits, more blackberry apparent than the top wines, and the texture less smooth and velvety. This is more a sturdy warm year 'typical' modern Chateauneuf-du-Pape, sound, cellar-worthy, but lacking magic. Cellar 5 15 years. GK 07/16
Ruby and garnet, a little older, in the middle for depth. This seemed the ripest and warmest-climate wine in the batch, the bouquet showing rather more blackberry and leathery notes, though all beautifully clean. Palate is quite rich, but alcohol roughens the textures in mouth more than most of the wines. The whole thing therefore seems a hotter-climate winestyle, with quite a lot of the blackberry tannin impression you sometimes find in blackberry fruit proper. After opening an Australian GSM to illuminate things a little (maybe), you end up asking yourself, why are the French making wines like this, wines which depart from classical French aromatic quality in Chateauneuf-du-Pape, and instead mimic heavy Australian wine in its over-ripeness. The French climate allows so much more subtlety and finesse. Notwithstanding his great contribution to wine understanding and wine journalism, is this the baleful Parker effect, whereby bigger and bigger, and riper and riper wines are being rewarded, without regard to the loss of subtlety ? 2009 was a hotter year in the southern Rhone Valley, but even the 2010 of this label is riper than it needed to be (in such a magic year), if optimising beauty is the criterion of good winemaking. Cellar 5 15 years. GK 07/16
Ruby and garnet, the lightest of these wines. This wine has quite a strong bouquet, but it differs markedly from the others in the set. First and foremost it is reductive, drabbing the wine down, and there is also an aromatic and nutmeggy quality suggesting quite high brett. Behind these factors is good fruit. In mouth the wine is rich, but already tending leathery and hard on the sulphide component. There is also some savoury skin-of-roast-beef appeal, on the brett side. In a winemaking country however, it is hard to get wines like this past winemakers on one of these faults, let alone two, in blind tastings. If that is of no concern to you, be assured such wines are still good with food, though the sulphide hardness is sad. It needs to marry up more, and will become softer and much more leathery, in bottle. Cellar 5 15, maybe 20 years, though it may dry to the finish faster than most, on the brett. Decant it splashily before using, or better, cellar the much fresher 2010. GK 08/16
Striking ruby and garnet, deeper than the Boislauzon in colour, in the top half-dozen. Bouquet is quite different from the other Chateauneuf-du-Papes, both on the style of berry, which at the blind stage suggests high syrah ± mourvedre [ confirmed ], and both new oak and a suggestion of estery VA which roughens it. No brett. Palate confirms the dark fruits, with nearly a suggestion of cassis buried in the grenache matrix, but again this estery quality intrudes. For some tasters, it will merely lift the wine and make it exciting, since these 2010 Chateauneuf-du-Papes are all spirity wines, but for others, the esters will make the wine disjointed. I am tending unhappy with the nett achievement at this stage, but VA (or more accurately, the esters) does marry into the wine, in the longer term. Whether this bottle is representative, I cannot say. Being a more modern approach to the winestyle, and given the interesting cepage, I feel duty-bound to cellar a few, to find out. Cellar 5 18 years only, maybe. GK 08/16