2010 Châteauneuf-du-Pape

GDP guides us to a surprising and excellent vintage


Châteauneuf-du-Pape has been on fire lately. With spiraling prices and an explosion of points fueling that rise, it’s both hard to ignore Châteauneuf-du-Pape wines, and perhaps harder still to buy them. These wines were once the purview of all wine drinkers—slightly rustic at one time, exuberant bistro wines filled with rich fruit flavors in a style that allowed for immediate consumption and yet rewarded some cellaring. 
Somewhere along the way, over the past decade or so, things changed. The wines somehow become remarkably better, if we are to believe the critics. Of course, “better” in so many cases often means bigger, and oakier, so whether or not the wines are actually more appealing is left open for debate (though there is no denying that they have become pointier). Points of course translate into dollars, more points equaling higher prices, so things are not all hunky dory in the land of Châteauneuf-du-Pape lovers. I’ve never been enamored with most of these wines, finding them a little simple and at times hollow for my palate. But there are always exceptions to any rule and the wines do have legions of followers. The question of the moment is are the wines worth the going rates?
I met with my regular Tuesday night crew recently to blind taste through eight examples. Only six of the wines were actually from Châteauneuf-du-Pape; the other two wines were from the Gigondas and Vacqueyras appellations, which are also Grenache-based wines from appellations very close to Châteauneuf-du-Pape.
Before moving onto the wines themselves, it’s worth taking a moment to discuss the vintage, 2010, one that is widely regarded as a standout. Grenache is a grape that easily produces wines with alcoholic punch, so I am always concerned about vintages that receive high praise.  Early praise for a vintage often results from a fine growing season and ripe fruit at harvest. While I don’t advocate for under-ripe fruit per se, I do believe that a vintage that produces perfectly ripe fruit may not always produce the best wines. 
Some of the “stand out” vintages in the Southern Rhône over the past years? 2007 and 2009 spring to mind, and they are both, for my palate, too ripe—even if that’s what passes for perfectly ripe these days. The wines of both vintages are marred by a lack of freshness, excessive alcohols, and jammy flavors. Give me something under-ripe anytime if that is what “perfectly ripe” has become.
2010 certainly has garnered its share of accolades. Decanter trumpeted it as one of the top three vintages of the past 40 years, and Robert Parker has called it a great vintage, almost as good as the aforementioned 2007, which of course scared me a bit. Reading on though through Parker’s announcement gave me hope, as he commented on the higher acids and mentioned that the wines are not as exuberant, flamboyant or unctuously textured as the top 2007s, but they have the advantage of being slightly more delineated and focused, with greater freshness. Things were looking up.

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2010 Châteauneuf-du-Pape

Orin Swift the Prisoner Napa Valley (2010)
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Clos des Papes Red Rhone Blend Châteauneuf-du-Pape (2010)
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Eric Texier Châteauneuf-du-Pape Vieilles Vignes (2010)
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Le Vieux Donjon Red Rhone Blend Châteauneuf-du-Pape (2010)
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Montirius Vacqueyras Garrigues (2010)
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Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc la Crau (2010)
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Domaine Moulin-Tacussel Châteauneuf-du-Pape (2010)
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Chateau de Saint Cosme Gigondas (2010)
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  • Snooth User: Saffredi
    729598 151

    Hi Gregory, I am glad to see that the tasting took away (most of?) your scepticism towards Chateauneuf-du-Pape :)
    Just like in Bordeaux (and any other wine producing region for that matter) it depends mostly on the vintage (growing season) whether or not the wines from a certain region will excell. And of course, the typicity or character of the grape may or may not appeal to someone. That is a personal choice. I for one love the southern Rhone wines! P.s. you (the sceptic) and I (the admirer) have chosen the same two wines as the top of the vintage :)

    Feb 15, 2013 at 4:48 AM

  • Snooth User: Anna Savino
    Hand of Snooth
    640513 46,172

    Coincidence that i went just toCdP last summer on a road trip.. After reading this i think i will go down to the cellar and get one ready for tonight to compare notes! What do you suggest pairing with these.. For ex clos des papes 2010?

    Feb 16, 2013 at 3:43 AM

  • Snooth User: Saffredi
    729598 151

    Hi Anna,
    it seems you are one of the few lucky persons to actually have the 2010 Clos des Papes in your cellar :)

    I should emphasize ''in your cellar'', because this wine is far from ready!
    Personally, I do not prefer to drink my CdP's in their youth and my estimation would be that this particular 2010 is ready to drink some 3-4 years from now. The good news is that it should hold its own for a couple of decades.

    Looking at my tasting notes from last year november, my observations were the following:

    The 2010 Clos des Papes shows a dense purple colour. In the nose there are aromas of cocoa powder, coffee, black currant, licorice and a mix of spices. This full-bodied, meaty wine is massive and the tannin, although rounded and well-integrated, are very noticeable from start to finish. The typical aromas are very clear and detectable: plum, fig, kirsch liquor, cassis fruit. In the background I noticed some faint aromas of black tea. The alcohol is considerable: over 15% (!) Well, this is Grenache for you :) I totally did not mind the high alcohol percentage, because it was so well-integrated. This wine is almost perfectly balanced, has great length, a wonderful intensity and is stunningly complex, and finishes with an awesome persistance. It clearly needs time to mellow out the considerable tannin. Although definitely not a bargain (compared to e.g. the CdP from Beaucastel), this is one of these wines that you must have if you are a CdP groupie :) A nice detail to some is that the 2010 Clos des Papes is certified biological, starting from this vintage. The Avril family practise biodynamic farming for some years now. Compare this wine with the 2007 vintage and you will find that the 2010 has more and an even better structure.

    What to pair with this wine? First of all, I believe this wine stands so well on its own that food is not really necessary. But if you do want to pair this CdP with food, think in the line of lamb chops, roasted meat and mediterranean dishes. But avoid thick, strong-flavoured sauces! I know alot of wine consumers like to pair CdP with Asian food, but because of the strong tannin in this particular CdP avoid any overly spicy or sweet-and-sour dishes. All kind of mediterranean herbs, meaty mushrooms and truffles are welcome. Whatever you go for, keep it simple and avoid too much gravy or overly flavoured sauces.

    If you bear in mind that the 2010 Clos des Papes is still an infant, and you have acquired the skills to see and taste through the infancy, you are in for a real treat!

    I hope you enjoy it!

    Feb 16, 2013 at 8:21 AM

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