Wine Talk

Snooth User: Richard Foxall

RP wrong about the vintage or am I just using different criteria?

Posted by Richard Foxall, May 9, 2011.

So last winter, we drank a bottle of 2004 Dom de la Roquete Chateauneuf du Pape.  Delicious.  Bought it at deep discount, and wished I had bought more.  Last month, at a large dinner, someone (a beverage professional from one of SF's best restaurants) brought the 2007 of same wine, direct from Kermit Lynch, so the provenance was unquestionable.  Now, granted, I wasn't tasting them side by side, but my memory (aided by tasting notes here and on CT, and notes to another Snoother) of the '04 was good, and the '07 just didn't cut it.  Not much of the grenache funk I like, not vibrant fruit, not much of a finish, kind of midweight generic wine.  Nothing developing in the midpalate, no violets, just serviceable red wine.

I could say, okay, it's the one bottle/label, but I have had a number of '07 southern Rhones from Perrin, Delas, Ogiers, some others, and I am not seeing it.  Haven't started opening the CdP in a big way, and I have had a Ventoux that was good, a Vacqueyras that was good, but not the exceptional "vintage of a lifetime" that he led us to expect.  Anyone else wondering what this was all about?  Will this only become apparent when the big, hot, CdPs, Gigondas, etc, hit their stride?

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Replies

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Reply by dmcker, May 9, 2011.
Edited May 10, 2011

Have had plenty of good 2007s from the south, and yes, even the north of the Rhone. In the south it definitely wasn't the vintage of my lifetime, at least, but they were drinking delicious at an early age, and they were ripe, luscious and more 'international' in style, meaning the type of wines RP is known to like. How well they're going to age is an open issue.

As an aside, personally I've never found Dom del la Roquete to be all that consistent. 2007s I've found to be both good and bad, bottle to bottle, and the good ones to still be too young to drink now. Yet older bottles I've had (including the '04) have never aged as well as I'd expect. Go figure. Sometimes good experiences, often off-putting. Mark of some inconsistencies in the winemaking, it would seem....

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Reply by JonDerry, May 9, 2011.

Interesting stuff, have been wondering what the scoop was with recent Rhone vintages.  Lot of variation from what I gather.

I don't think 08' is a very good vintage, but I had a bottle I really enjoyed was the 2008 Delas Frères Châteauneuf-du-Pape Haute Pierre. Goes for around $38/bottle.

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Reply by dmcker, May 9, 2011.

If you like it, and at that price for a C9dP, buy more and keep drinkin'...

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Reply by gregt, May 9, 2011.

Dom de la  Roquète can be uneven but it's usually pretty good.

However, in the S. Rhone, 2004 is a nice vintage, 2005 really good, 2006 pretty good, 2007 WTF, 2008 OK.  I've tasted a few dozen 2007s at various times and don't get the whole best vintage ever thing. I've bought single bottles at retail, just to check my take on it, and haven't been impressed by a single one.

I'm drinking an inexpensive 2004 Rioja right now and I'm liking it more most of the 2007s I've had from the Rhone.  I have acidity, some tannins, some fruit, and no heat.  One or more has been lacking in most of the S Rhones of 2007 at all price points.

I haven't tasted hundreds, so my sample size is obviously limited, but I don't think you're off base. 

And I don't know about the whole idea of whether they'll "hit their stride".  What exactly is it that people are looking for when they hold on to a wine? The wine from CdP or Gigondas or Priorat or any number of other places is pretty good to start.  Where exactly is it supposed to go?

Have you had wines from those regions that have actually IMPROVED with age?  Some hold on.  Many crap out. Probably most. Which ones actually improve and become more complex? Take the Mon Aeuil for example.  It's soft, fruity, elegant, enjoyable right now.  "Modern" in style.  Got 100 points or something like that.  Where does it go?  Will it become better than perfect? 

I doubt it - it's pretty good at the moment - not perfection itself perhaps, but damned good.  How exactly will it become better?  I don't think it will.  In fact, I think that most of the wines from the S. Rhone, when they're good, should be consumed fairly quickly.  And FWIW, I love them.  I just don't think they get better, any more than Riesling gets better. Different yes. Better, not really.

In your case, I think you are wondering exactly what I've wondered.

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Reply by dmcker, May 10, 2011.

Whoa, Greg, I was pretty much with you until the end of the next to the last paragraph. You think no riesling, botrytized or not, can improve with age?

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Reply by gregt, May 10, 2011.

Gets different.  But I really like them young! Same w most good white sweet wines actually. I like that shot of sweetness and freshness with the underlying acidity.  As they age, they develop additional character but when they were really good to start, I always find it a shame to have passed on the youthful goodness.  That may be a minority opinion but hey - if Donald Trump can believe our president is an alien, I can believe that!!!!

I'll tell you what is really good with some age tho - the vin doux naturel from the South France based on Muscat.  Those are good young, but sometimes too obvious - floral, peachy, and sweet.  But after fifty years or whatever, they become really extraordinary.  And best of all, at least for consumers, there's little if any market for them!  People want Reuissic or something that critics scored highly but critics by and large don't know squat about those wines and people don't blog about them, name-dropping right and left, so others don't desire them. Not cheap cheap, but by way of comparison with a lot of other stuff, real good QPRs.

As far as the original post, that's different.  I can understand aging an old-time Bordeaux or Cali Cab or Barbaresco for example.  But a lot has to do with style.  It's definitely possible for a wine to be good young and old.  Good example is Torre Muga.  They wanted a "modern" style wine so they produced that. And they'll tell you that you should drink it young because otherwise it just becomes like a more traditional Rioja.  That's the perfect situation!  You can have it at any time in its life and enjoy it, just like those Rieslings.  

Those CdPs however, in many cases do NOT become better.  Yep they change, but often for the worse.  And we don't know yet obviously, but I'm not betting on the 2007s at all.  Somehow the 2005s for example, are more promising.  There's at least a bit of tannin to hold them up.  But then again - what the hell do I know??

BTW, I just re-read my post and it seems like a bit of a rant.  I really wasn't ranting Fox - I wondered exactly the same thing. Finally, after tasting a lot of those, I just decided that it's a personal preference thing.

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Reply by dmcker, May 10, 2011.

Well now, Greg, since you've seemingly spread the net beyond rieslings to all sweet wines, you've lost me further. No value to an aged d'Yquem over a fresh release? Do you feel that way about Tokaji, too? We're definitely going to have to agree to disagree. How do you feel about aged champagne, while we're at it?

I like rieslings when they're young, but there's another element to a ba or tba that's aged for decades. Ditto the sauternes, and even in my limited experience of Tokaji.

Oh, and I have had some good aged vin doux naturele, and yes they do improve with that age. A Domaine de Montahuc '99 should be starting to drink well about now. Certainly better than a Mas Amiel Muscat de Rivesaltes, though the latter can also be quite pleasant on the appropriate occasion. Plenty of reds in that area, too, that remind be a bit of Pedro Ximenez.... :-)

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Reply by Richard Foxall, May 10, 2011.

GregT likes younger Rieslings, that's the answer.  And I agree that wine ages and changes, but whether it gets better is a matter of taste, although most "expert" taste may line up in one place or the other for a variety of grape, region, etc.  Definite wine that ages may bear a resemblance to its younger self, but it's not the same wine, in my experience. 

DM is probably right that RP is judging based on his criteria of bigger wines in the "international" style.  But my tastes, initially honed in the new world, don't disfavor the style as strongly as some people's.  My biggest beef with the '07s has been that they are just kind of flavorless, compared to good grenache blends I have had in the past. Neither the funk of the old world style or the lush fruitiness of the modern.  Just kind of flat and dull for a wine that has the rep of big and in your face.

BTW, I am not likely to age many of these CdPs--the window is first 5-6, then a pause until 12 when bets are off, but they may be interesting.  I have a couple that are recommended for longer aging by RP (not 07s, interestingly--an '05 with a very long drinking window is the main candidate).  But the 07s are still pretty young, IMO.  So we'll start drinking those this year, and I predict they won't wow me all that much. 

GregT's motto, "Better to drink on the way up than on the way down," makes sense to me. 

I'll keep testing, but it also sounds like the producer of the one wine that I compared like to like is also the culprit.

 

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Reply by JonDerry, May 10, 2011.

Any thoughts on 2001 northern & southern Rhone?

Pretty good vintage, and drink now?

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Reply by Richard Foxall, May 10, 2011.

Most of the southern Rhones are grenache based and probably won't have the longevity.  I had a S. Rhone 2001 recently that was Syrah based and actually kind of harsh.  I opened a bottle from the same vintner, but 2004 and grenache heavy (and kind of dull) and blended them.  They were actually superb together.  But that's not what you want to try. 

Some Gigondas is made for that kind of aging, too, but at that age you probably want to stick to the N. Rhones.  I'm not familiar with the "vintage rating," and I'm now suspicious of the whole idea based on my original post.  I'll step aside and defer to dmcker and GregT, among others, on this one.

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Reply by gregt, May 11, 2011.

D - didn't say "no value", just "not better for my taste".

However, if all you have are old ones, and if you need help doing in-depth research on the subject, I humbly offer myself as your assistant!!  BTW - yes on the Tokaji-aszu as well!  But Champagne, now that's actually a very interesting question.  I don't drink very much at all but that was a good call - I'd have to say I'll go with aged there.  Partly it's because I'm not entirely crazy about them.  They seem like wine that is reminiscent of beer, or vice versa.  Sparking wine in general is the one area that doesn't really move me - I recognize that there's some good stuff out there but most often I'd just rather drink still wine.  Even with oysters, etc., although that's not a bad combo.

Jon - for my money yes, pretty good vintage.  It was kind of interesting though - I remember that when the 1998s came out, I'd go to a store and they'd be saying in confidential whispers "We have some 1998 Rhones in!"  Lots of hype for the South Rhones and they completely overshadowed the North, even tho that was a pretty good vintage up there too. But the south was pretty universally acclaimed.  Then the 1999s came out and the acclaim was reversed - it's still one of the great N. Rhone vintages.  And the wines weren't high-priced.  The S Rhone was still considered a "value" region, even for CdP.

Then 2000 happened and the Bordelais led the charge up the pricing mountain, taking advantage of the millenium, etc., and to a degree, the S. Rhones seemed to get on the same train. But 2000 produced some pretty good wines in much of Europe, so everyone jacked prices a bit. 2001 wasn't so great in as many regions and when they were hitting the market in 2003, there was the whole surrender monkey thing and any hype was dialed way down. But the wine was pretty good and in the south, maybe a bit more grippy so for keeping, maybe even a better bet than 2000?

As far as aging Grenache, well that's the thing isn't it?  Somehow there's been a shift.  Used to be a simpler world - you bought Bordeaux to age and CdP for early consumption and CdR for parties. As prices of CdPs started hitting the $75+ mark, people started talking more about aging them.

And that gets back to the original point.  Why?

There's really been a stylistic shift in CdP over the years, brought on largely, I believe, by Parker.  He's probably had more influence there than anyplace else, and much of it is really for the better.  He loves the wine and he's brought a lot of attention to it from the US and where the winemakers used to blend things, many of them now have "luxury" wines or single vineyard wines that are kind of the antithesis of what it was.  They're not as rustic, bretty and funky and the grapes are usually nicely ripe and handled carefully. 

For my 2 cts, it goes back to my original point. I think the wines are fine drinking right now.  And they have been for several years.  I don't see the need to keep them for a long time, other than for educational purposes. I haven't had many 1998s or 2000s that are better at 10 years than I remember them being initially, and I suppose when I start checking the 2001s at the 10 year mark, I'll find the same.  They were a little more grippy than the others tho, so maybe they'll actually be the candidates for keeping? That would be an interesting thing to look into.

Cheers.

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Reply by Richard Foxall, May 11, 2011.

Finally I disagree with GregT--champagne is great stuff, and reminds me not a bit of beer.  Funny that you are into Spanish but  not into sparklers, given the inroads Esp has made in that realm.

Back to Rhone and vintages:  Longing for the good old days is pointless and sometimes wrong. Truth is that better handling of the grapes in general means that we just don't find much wine that is out and out bad anymore.  Bland, not to our taste, or lots of other things, but contamination, sloppy picking (too early, all at once, poor sorting), bottle variation, have all gone down.  Organic/biodynamic is fine, but proper technique in the winery and good farming practices (canopy management, improved trellising to avoid bad mold) have improved wines, IMO. 

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Reply by JonDerry, May 11, 2011.

Good insights Greg...think i'll pick up a bottle of 2001 Beaucastel and see how it's doing.

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Reply by gregt, May 12, 2011.

Fox -  In general, I think the winemaking is much better today and I'm in agreement with you.  What has happened however, is that in CdP, as in Champagne, the story of the wine was always in the blend.  Then, as they got more pricey and as the new generation took over, people started doing single vineyards or luxury cuvees, etc.  A few old timers like Seneschaux refuse to do that, but others embraced it full on. 

Same thing happened in Rioja and elsewhere in the world.  For ex, in Champagne now we're supposed to be excited about "grower" Champagne after decades of hearing about the magic of the blends. The wine is better in many cases.  Half the time it's because it was pretty bad in the past, but joking aside, I think overall winemaking in most of the world is better today.  And I don't think it strips away any personality either.

Still, I don't know that the nice little Grenache that used to be $25 is now worth $80.  I feel the same about Brunello and I'm really shocked that the prices for Chianti Classico Reserva haven't skyrocketed.  Perhaps it's just a matter of time? 

In any event, the improved winemaking has resulted in wines that are soft, plush, and fruity.  None of those need, and I doubt if they support, long term aging.  Higher pH, higher sugar, more use of wood - all those things actually add to the likelihood that you'll have problems with Brett or something else.  So even tho the winemaking is cleaner in most places today, by its very nature, it brings about another set of concerns, which is kind of ironic.

Regarding the S Rhone, the guy who now covers it for the WS is James Molesworth.  Parker welcomed him as a fellow reviewer of the area with a rather back-handed compliment, noting that he's usually a good taster but perhaps not entirely up to snuff because he prefers the more tannic 2005 to the 2007 vintage. 

In the same way, I think maybe the 2001 vintage is a bit more like the 2005 than the 2007 and I guess that's why I like it.  Good vintage in much of Spain too.

Jon - you know that wine has a higher percentage of Mourvedre than most, which some people credit for providing additional ageability, and it's a controversial wine in some circles.  Good choice to check on tho.

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Reply by dmcker, May 12, 2011.

Saw an '89 Beaucastel this week for a fair price. Always have liked that label. Another thing people talk about regarding it, especially in the past, is its 'brettiness'....

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Reply by JonDerry, May 13, 2011.

"Still, I don't know that the nice little Grenache that used to be $25 is now worth $80.  I feel the same about Brunello..."

Along with the wider audience Parker helped bring to CDP's, no doubt came higher prices.  It now seems that any top wine in an important region will be at or near $100, even the little Grenache based blend.  Still can't believe the prices in Burgundy though, I know the pinot aint easy to grow, but it seems like the cult region of France. 

What was the fair price D?  I saw one for $230, but thought that's probably too much to spend for what may be past its peak.  Brettiness consistently, or just in certain years?  Am thinking about trying a couple different vintages against eachother.
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Reply by dmcker, May 13, 2011.

It's $189.95 at Rarewineco in Sonoma. Worth it, I think, and if provenance is good, which it almost always is from that vendor, then the wine should still be not only drinkable, but very interesting. That vintage wasn't rated as high as the '90, and Parker was already affecting the marketplace, but it's always drunk well for me. If I was in the market for a vertical of Beaucastel, I'd definitely get that while it's still available....

 

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Reply by gregt, May 13, 2011.

Decide fast because Rare Wine Co can sell out pretty fast.  Not always the cheapest but a trustworthy place tho.

I think the Bretty quality comes from 2 things - one the winemaking, and two the Mourvedre.

Although perhaps that's not true and they're both about the winemaking.  It's frequently said that Mourvedre is a stinky grape in wine and I guess that was largely true for many years, but that's what we were talking about before. 

Newer producers in Spain and France don't necessarily get that funk in their wines.  In fact, it's the one grape that has a signature note of blueberries when it's done really cleanly.  Also has a signature note of leather when it's done old-school.  Kind of a cool grape in that regard - it's fairly readily identifiable in two completely different styles.  Not always obviously, because you get false negatives easily, but when it's there, it's pretty apparent.

If you're interested, here's an article a friend wrote a few years ago.

http://www.slate.com/id/2170649/

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Reply by dmcker, May 13, 2011.

Good article by your friend, Greg. Made me remember when I was first delving locally into the wines of SW France (not really Provence, but Languedoc Roussillon) and the 'exoticness' (to me, anyway) of malbec (black cahors) and mourvedre (Domaine Tempier; which yes, I first had at Chez Panisse). Knew I was in a different world than the Bordelaise and Burgundians I'd been drinking, but I soaked it all up like that superb sunlight there (and the anchvovies with picpoul de pinet in Collioure, too). Definitely came to love that animale character.

It also reminded me of the crap monastrell from Jumilla I drank back then when I moved into Spain and spent some time in Valencia before jumping off to the Balearics....

Strangely enough I've never had the Ridge Mataro, Tablas Creek, or Torbreck's The Pict (what's Scotland got to do with monastrell?). Will have to keep an eye out for them.

Short and cute review of the Beaucastel there, too, Jon. Talking so much about it has made me think I might want to put another of those verticals together myself. Unfortunately, Rarewineco doesn't ship to Japan....

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Reply by JonDerry, May 13, 2011.

Thanks for sharing the article Greg, very interesting read.  Was wondering what the deal w/ Tablas Creek was, would like to visit the winery later this year. 

Alright D, you convinced me.  Just faxed in my order for a 1989, and a 2000 Beaucastel.  Will plan a vertical of the 89, 00, and 07.  Should be fun to taste a 20+, 10+, and the current release together.

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