A pair of 1978 Chateauneuf du Pape
Chateauneuf du Pape was long a favorite wine in America during the post World War II years. As with several regions in France, the production of a lighter, earlier drinking style of wine also developed in Chateauneuf du Pape. The perceived lessening of quality and rapid increase in price meant that the appeal of Chateauneuf du Pape in America declined through the 1970s.
There were, however, a handful of domains and negociants who stayed true to a traditional style of wine. In the very early 1980s, these wines were rediscovered in America beginning with the exceptional 1978 vintage which was championed by Robert Parker Jr., amongst others. Incredibly, in 1978, some 80% of the wines from Chateauneuf du Pape were sold off in bulk.
I am fortunate this year to have tasted a number of traditional bottles from the 1960s and 1970s. It all begin with Darryl Priest’s Rare Chateau de Beaucastel Vertical from 1964 to 2001 held during the summer. As I was bowled over by the 1964 Domaine de Beaucastel, my friend Mannie Berk opened up his cellar with a salvo of ancient 1964 Chateauneuf du Pape. Most recently, Mannie provided an original release 1969 Domaine de Mont-Redon which I found lovely. My first exposure to mature Mont-Redon came last year when Darryl opened an ex-domaine bottle of 1978 Chateau Mont-Redon. You may learn more about this vintage in my post A 1978 dinner with wines from the Rhone and Bordeaux.
After Mannie opened the pair of 1964s he then opened the 1978 Paul Jaboulet Aine, Les Cedres, Chateauneuf du Pape and the ex-domaine 1978 Chateau Mont-Redon, Chateauneuf du Pape. You might first notice that the Les Cedres, being a negociant label, is not embossed on the bottle like the Mont-Redon. This particular Les Cedres is an original release. After breathing in a decanter there is a combination of earthy, sweet flavors, and even some textured tannins. It is not as substantive as the ex-domaine 1964 Les Cedres but it is certainly good, flavorful, and mature. If the Les Cedres is expansive with mature flavors, then the Mont-Redon remains firm with just a hint of maturity. The Mont-Redon is in fresh condition but lacks that mature excitement.
Paul-Jaboulet Aine purchased wine which was blended for Les Cedres. That the 1964 and 1978 vintages can provide so much enjoyment today suggest there was a golden age for Chateauneuf du Pape which deserves to be rediscovered. There is a significantly problem in that there is not much left but I shall continue my hunt.
1978 Paul Jaboulet Aine, Les Cedres, Chateauneuf du Pape
Imported by Vieux Vins. Alcohol 14%. The nose offers sweeter, mature aromas. In the mouth is an earthier, more expansive wine of sweet flavors and watering acidity. The old wood flavor is bound with the textured tannins. The persistent aftertaste leaves ripe flavor on the gums as an ethereal, inky flavor lingers on. This responds well to air, needing at least half an hour to open up. ***(*) Now – 2021.
1978 Chateau Mont-Redon, Chateauneuf du Pape
Imported by Vieux Vins. Alcohol 14%. This is a tighter, closer knit with mature flavors that make way to a fresh, slightly firm finish. The start sports more watering acidity before the firm structure comes out in the second half. *** Now – 2021.