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Back to the golden-age: A tasting of Paul Jaboulet Aîné, Chateauneuf-du-Pape from 1990-1961

September 29, 2017 Leave a comment

Paul Jaboulet Aîné, founded in 1834, remains a major negociant to this day.  The Hermitage “La Chapelle” needs no introduction as it is still a benchmark for Northern Rhone wines. Today we would not include the Chateauneuf du Pape “Les Cèdres” as amongst the best of the region but it was in the 1960s and 1970s. Only a handful of vineyard owners bottled their own wine during this period which allowed Paul Jaboulet Aîné to purchase wine from top vineyards, the names of which are highly coveted today.

Paul Jaboulet Aîné has original vineyard holdings in Hermitage and Crozes-Hermitage.  John Livingstone-Learmonth explained to me how Northern Rhone merchants felt they should have Southern Rhone wines in their portfolio. These were marketed towards French restaurants and the export trade. Thus the Chateauneuf-du-Pape “Les Cèdres” is a brand name marketed in the US and Great Britain and “La Grappe des Papes” elsewhere.

John Livingstone Learmonth writes that this was the “benchmark house” when he started in the wine business in 1973.  Robert Parker echoes this sentiment rating the Chateauneuf-du-Pape vintages prior to 1970 with the top mark of five stars.  This past weekend a group of us gathered in my house to explore these golden years by tasting 11 vintages from 1990 back to 1961.

The four oldest vintages tasted 1970, 1966, 1964, and 1961 were produced by Louis Jaboulet, grandson of founder Paul Jaboulet. It is Louis Jaboulet who selected the wines that went into these vintages.  With his passing away in 2012 the background history of these great wines was lost.[1]  What we do know is very little and often repeated.  Robert Parker writes that the 1967 was produced from old-vine wine from Chateau La Nerthe.  He also writes that the older vintages were predominantly or entirely made from Grenache.

My overall impression is that in moving back in time, decade by decade, the wines become more interesting and exciting.  The 1990 and 1989 vintages are young in evolution but in different ways.  The former is integrated yet tight whereas the later offers rounder fruit but with tangy grip from age-worthy structure.  The first mature vintage is 1983 which attracted me with its sweaty, old-school aromas.  The 1982 requires a day for the nose to clean up at which point it is a mature, quieter wine. Both of these vintages should be drunk soon.  Youthful form returned in the 1981 vintage which is finely scented and flavored.  Out of magnum I would wait several more years before revisiting.

The excellent vintages of 1979, 1978, and 1970 made for a very satisfying flight.  These wines are mature but will drink in good form for several more years.  They all bear fruit backed by weight and a sweaty/animale note that I like.

We had an off bottle of 1964 thus our oldest decade was represented by 1966 and 1961.  For me the level of interest stepped up one more notch over the 1970s for the 1966 is downright exciting. The balance between red fruit, sweet concentration, levity, bottle age complexity, and life pulls you into your glass.  It should drink at this level for several more years.  If the 1966 is generous the 1961 is structured, controlled, and dry in nature.  It is made complex by leather and perfumed notes.

It is clear that Louis Jaboulet was able to source some fine wine for his vintages of Chateauneuf-du-Pape.  Not only do these wines highlight the quality level a top negociant could achieve but increase the notion of longevity of Chateauneuf-du-Pape.

I must point out that this tasting would not have occurred without the willingness of Mannie Berk, founder of the Rare Wine Co., who generously opened up his inventory to me.  He imported all of these wines which included a combination of ex-domaine and private cellar acquisitions.

After the tasting we drank a few more wines.  One generous guest opened a bottle of 1990 Paul Jaboulet Aîné, Hermitage, La Chapelle which required until the second night to show its glorious potential.  With dessert came the 1983 Graham’s, Vintage Port which I found to be completely mature.  It is all sweet fruit and spices.


Arrival Champagne

 

2000 Charles Heidsieck, Champagne Brut Millésimé
Imported by the Rare Wine Co.  A light golden color.  The mousse tickles the tongue before the wine seamlessly transitions to a fresh, grippy presence.  The mouth feel matches the chalk flavor from which notes of apple orchard, some supple weight, and spiced chalk come out.  A fine glass.  **** Now – 2020.


Flight #1

1990 Paul Jaboulet Aîné, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Les Cèdres ex-domaine
Imported by the Rare Wine Co.  Alcohol 13.5%. The nose is tight at first but slowly reveals interesting aromas of sweet, sweaty leather, and garrrigue. In the mouth are fresh red fruit flavors around a fine vein of herbs and wood. The flavors are moved along by watering acidity. With air, this slowly evolving wine, shows complicated garrigue and wood notes. *** Now – 2027.

1990 Paul Jaboulet Aîné, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, La Grappe des Papes
Imported by Vieux Vins.  Alcohol 14%. Slightly maderized on the nose but with aromas of darker fruit and plums. In the mouth the flavors have good weight, eventually revealing cherries and sweet fruit. There is a bit of a tang and polished wood note. ** Now.

1989 Paul Jaboulet Aîné, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, La Grappe des Papes
Imported by Vieux Vins.  Alcohol 13.5%. This is every so slightly darker than the first trio. A tight nose at first but the palate has lovely grip from the structure which adds pleasing texture to the blue/red fruits and garrigue. Unlike the 1990, there is a very fine tannic structure and it is also more forward in flavor. It is easy to appreciate the rounder flavors, tangy grip, and sweet raspberry aftertaste. **** Now – 2027.


Flight #2

1983 Paul Jaboulet Aîné, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, La Grappe des Papes
Imported by Vieux Vins. The nose is sweet and sweaty, certainly old-school. With air a freshness and tobacco aroma come out. Watering acidity brings forth a start of sweet and rounded flavors made more complex by incense. The wine is clearly mature. Though there is red fruit with some weight, though lighter than the 1989, the wine dries by the finish. There is also a touch of structure lurking about. ***(*) Now – 2022.

1982 Paul Jaboulet Aîné, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Les Cèdres ex-domaine, en magnum
Imported by the Rare Wine Co.   Alcohol 13.5%.  Quite aromatic with a hint of cheese and metal which eventually improves to be funky. In the mouth the wine oscillates in appeal. At best, the grippy structure and sweet red aftertaste appeal but there is more structure than fruit. ** Now.

1981 Paul Jaboulet Aîné, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Les Cèdres ex-domaine, en magnum
Imported by the Rare Wine Co.   Alcohol 13%.  This is a finely scented wine of dark aromas. In the mouth it is clearly in fine condition with red then blacker fruit, fresh acidity, and a finely textured and well-integrated tannic structure. With air raspberry flavors and firm red fruit come out. There is an ethereal quality to the fruit. **** Now – 2027.


Flight #3

1979 Paul Jaboulet Aîné, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, La Grappe des Papes
Imported by Vieux Vins.  The lightest of the trio but with good brilliance. The berries and cherries on the nose are a touch firm with a hint of roast. In the mouth is also a slightly roasted note but the sweet, small berried fruit has weight and longevity in profile. It is a bit animale. ***(*) Now – 2020.

1978 Paul Jaboulet Aîné, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Les Cèdres ex-domaine
Imported by the Rare Wine Co.   Alcohol 13.5%.  Aromas of cherries, cranberries, and bright herbs eventually take on sweat, incense, and a green note. The flavors are rounder than the 1979 yet are light in weight, carried through by watering acidity. The entire wine is underpinned by structure and spiced tannins that are perfectly integrated. This wine eventually reveals itself to be long lived, lovely, and complete. **** Now – 2025.

1970 Paul Jaboulet Aîné, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, La Grappe des Papes
Imported by Vieux Vins.  The darkest of the trio, slightly cloudy. Also the most robust of the trio with a closely played berry core with tangy flavors lefts on the sides of the mouth. With air the wine becomes brighter with red, rounded berry flavors, tartness, and a hint of cola. Good watering acidity. **** Now – 2022.


Flight #4

1966 Paul Jaboulet Aîné, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, La Grappe des Papes
Imported by the Rare Wine Co.   Alcohol 13.5%. I just wanted to smell and taste this wine. There is a fine interplay between the red fruit, sweet concentration, and ethereal flavor. It is light in body yet flavorful with complexity from leather and animale flavors. Simply a point. ****(*) Now but will last.

1964 Paul Jaboulet Aîné, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Les Cèdres ex-domaine
Imported by the Rare Wine Co.   Alcohol 13.5%.   This bottle is toast! Not Rated.

1961 Paul Jaboulet Aîné, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Les Cèdres ex-domaine
Imported by the Rare Wine Co.   Alcohol 13.5%. The nose offers up sweet fruits and leather then with air banana foster. In this mouth this is a dry wine, a characteristic which naturally matches the perfumed flavor. There is controlled ripeness and watering acidity. **** Now but will last.


Dinner Wines

1990 Paul Jaboulet Aîné, Hermitage, La Chapelle
Imported by Frederick Wildman.  The dark cherry and garnet color is still youthful. There are fine scented berries on the nose. In the mouth there is great purity with black and purple fruit, hints of leather all delivered with great focus. On the second night the wine is markedly improved with a savory profile to the dark fruit. Is is still youthful but the flavors takes on weight and a mineral dimension. It is also still structured but there is plenty of flavor for development as the long, mouth filling finish attests too. ***(**) Now – 2037.

1983 Graham’s, Vintage Port
Imported by Premium Port Wines.  Alcohol 20%.  This is finely scented with sweet fruit, spices, and wood box. The rounded, red fruited start is dusted with ripe, baking spices. The structure is largely resolved so there is a sense of balance because the wine is in a sweet spot.  *** Now – 2022.

[1]According to correspondence with Jean Luc Chapel, Prestige Account Manager, Paul Jaboulet Aîné on 27 September 2017.

Big Bottles at Roland’s Pig Roast

September 5, 2017 Leave a comment

Bottles of Chateauneuf du Pape are always found at Roland’s annual pig roast.  This year Roland pulled out the stops with his Methuselah bottle of 2000 Pegau.  That is 6 liters!  You can see it in this picture where I am also holding a magnum of 1989 Beaucastel for comparison.  Both bottles were very good.

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Plenty of fruit in the 2004 Pierre Usseglio, Cuvee de mon Aieul

The 2004 Pierre Usseglio, Cuvee de mon Aieul, Chateauneuf du Pape is made primarily from Grenache sourced from vines dating back to 1926.  These old vines make quite a strong wine.  In begins with enticing aromas of smoky incense.  In the mouth there is plenty of flavor and strength without the wine coming across as huge for the weight and acidity is balanced.  However, I am a touch distracted by the level of ripeness of the fruit combined with the dried fruit flavor.  Overall a good wine but not one I would purchase again.  This wine was purchased at MacArthur Beverages.

2004 Pierre Usseglio, Cuvee de mon Aieul, Chateauneuf du Pape
Imported by MacArthur Liquors.  This wine is 95% Grenache and 5% Syrah sourced from 80+ year old vines.  Alcohol 14.5%.  The nose mixes rather ripe fruit aromas with smoky incense.  In the mouth is a clear start of blue and red fruit then garrigue in the middle as the strength of the wine builds.  It is a little juicy now with appropriate weight and acidity.  The flavors are still primary, blending grapey notes with seriously ripe fruit flavors with a dried fruit undertone.  *** Now – 2027.

1980s Beaucastel and Burgundy at the Woodberry Kitchen

Darryl and Nancy organized a small wine dinner at the Woodberry Kitchen in order to partake in ramps and old Châteauneuf du Pape.  Roland, Richard, and I joined them one fine evening this week.  Fortunately we had extra bottles in tow for this evening was marked by an unfortunate series of off and underperforming bottles.  A shame then that two vintages of 1983 and 1985 Von Schubert Maximin Grünhäuser, from two different sources were off.  A 1981 Domaine du Vieux Telegraphe, Chateauneuf du Pape had a bad cork and despite a heroic effort by the wine to correct itself, it remained ultimately marred.  The 1978 Chateau Cos D’Estournel, Saint-Estephe was more advanced than I had expected.

Thus the white wine highlight of the evening included the fine 1992 Zind Humbrecht, Riesling Rangen de Thann Clos St. Urbain, Alsace which still needs air for full pleasure.  It has a kiss of petrol followed by nuts and lively acidity.

For the red wines my favorites include a 1982 Thorin, Confrerie des Chevaliers du Tastevin, Chambolle-Musigny.  This represents a smaller and gentler example of an old-school mature Burgundy.  I enjoyed my glass and would happily have this as a house wine.  The mature Burgundy set the stage for a well-cared bottle of 1981 Chateau de Beaucastel, Chateauneuf du Pape.  The last time I tasted this wine, my glass came from the dregs.  This time I had a proper pour which I kept around for an hour or so.  Good stuff!  This deep wine should drink at its peak for several more years.  In complete contrast the 1986 Chateau de Beaucastel, Chateauneuf du Pape is yet to reach full maturity, instead it offers brighter, fruitier red flavors.  It will not achieve the depth of the 1981 but it does have that Beaucastel familiarity.

 

2011 Champy, Chassagne-Montrachet
Imported by Schneider’s of Capitol Hill.  Alcohol 11%.  A golden straw color greets.  The flinty nose makes way to a rounded, slight dense start backed by glycerin.  There are yeast and chalk flavors but the wine lacks verve from enough acidity.  ** Now.

NV Bereche, Vallee 66 Mois de Cave, Champagne
This wine is a blend of 50% Pinot Noir and 50% Chardonnay.  Bottled 07/07/2010.  Alcohol 12.5%.  The nose is slightly oxidized with aromas of apple orchard.  The bubbles quickly become creamy with a fine vein of prickle.  The flavors have strength with chalky, fruit, and a slightly bitter finish.  It tastes fully mature.  *** Now.

1985 Von Schubert Maximin Grünhäuser, Riesling Spatlese Abtsberg, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer
Consigned from a private source to Zachy’s 2016 Rieslingfeier auction. Imported by Wine Cellars LTD.  Alcohol 11%-14%.  The nose is very aromatic and smells exactly like pure gasoline.  There is a fruity start backed by the petrol note a bit of grip then the wine completely fades off.  There is a strange lack of acidity.  Not Rated.

1992 Zind Humbrecht, Riesling Rangen de Thann Clos St. Urbain, Alsace
This also sports a bit of petrol on the nose.  In the mouth is a nutty, bitter, and coconut start.  This wine has ample acidity providing a lively start then drier middle before the acidity returns in the end.  With air it fleshes out a bit to bring the acidity in balance.  *** Now but will last.

1982 Thorin, Confrerie des Chevaliers du Tastevin, Chambolle-Musigny
Acquired from private collection by Acker Merrall & Condit.  Alcohol 11.9%-13.9%.  There is sweet fruit on the nose then violets and attractive, sweaty leather aromas.  In the mouth are sweet flavors that coat the tongue and a slight vibrancy.  A small example of a well-tasting old Burgundy.  *** Now.

1981 Chateau de Beaucastel, Chateauneuf du Pape
Robert Haas Selections imported by Vineyard Brands.  This is in fine condition with sweet aromas and wood box complexity.  In the mouth are gently sweet flavors of perfumed strawberry which eventually take on fat.  There are pervasive flavors of leather, animale notes, blood, and an old-school perfumed aftertaste. **** Now – 2023.

1981 Domaine du Vieux Telegraphe, Chateauneuf du Pape
No signs of seepage but cork was loose with a bit of wine on top of it.  Prominent volatile acidity and band-aids on the nose.  With air it cleans up a bit but can’t shape it.  The wine is fruity, supple, and weight but is marred by a band-aid flavor.  Not Rated.

1986 Chateau de Beaucastel, Chateauneuf du Pape
Imported by the Rare Wine Co.  Lighter in color than the 1981.  In the mouth are surprisingly young, reddish fruit flavors, a grippy nature, and brighter acidity.  This wine has both more structure and youthful grip.  It is not yet at full maturity but is gaining fat.  ***(*) Now – 2027.

1978 Chateau Cos D’Estournel, Saint-Estephe – $18.95
Shipped by Les Vieux Celliers.  Imported by  The Stacole Co.  Dried banana on the nose.  In the mouth this is more advanced with red fruit, bananas, old greenhouse infused flavors, and a short finish.  ** Now.

1983 Von Schubert Maximin Grünhäuser, Reisling Auslese Abstberg  No. 125, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer
Acquired from a private collection by Chambers Street Wines.  Imported by Schenk USA.  Alcohol 9%.  Signs of seepage and the cork dropped in the bottle.  A beautiful orange color and attractive, scented marmalade nose.  Sadly it is undrinkable.  Not Rated.

1997 and 1999 Bois de Boursan CdP

I meant to purchase two bottles of 1999 Domaine Bois de Boursan, Chateauneuf du Pape.  Somehow I did not pay attention and the second bottle ended up being the 1997 Domaine Bois de Boursan, Chateauneuf du Pape.  I cannot actually recall drinking a Chateauneuf du Pape from the 1997 vintage so at least my bottle provided a new experience!  There is a bit of a sweet, Kirsch component with just a subtle amount of extra complexity.  The acidity is a bit too obvious at times otherwise this is a respectfully solid wine for drinking now.  The 1999 vintage steps things up.  It is quite fruity with a notch more complexity and much better acidity.  I see no reason to hold on to it any longer so start pulling the corks!

1997 Domaine Bois de Boursan, Chateauneuf du Pape
Imported by J et R Selections.  Alcohol 13.5%.  There is a rounded start of Kirsch with supporting acidity that noticeably pokes through at times.  The sweet flavors mix with subtle wood box and spices.  It firms up towards the finish leaving a textured, ripe aftertaste.  ** Now.

1999 Domaine Bois de Boursan, Chateauneuf du Pape
Imported by J et R Selections.  Alcohol 13.5%.  The wine is lively with a mixture of cranberry and ripe red berries.  The fruity flavors move on towards the purple and black spectrum, taking on great spices with hints of wood box.  The fresh acidity keep the wine taut.  *** Now – 2023.

A pair of Chateauneuf du Pape

February 8, 2017 Leave a comment

The 2013 Jean-Luc Colombo, Les Bartavelles, Chateauneuf du Pape is available at a close-out price placing it just above that of Cotes du Rhone.  If you enjoy a modern style of wine this is an excellent value with grapey, black fruit flavors, texture, and salivating acidity.  It will drink well for a number of years.  It is available at MacArthur Beverages.

Domaine Pierre Andre is regarded as a “very traditional producer” by John Livingstone-Learmonth.  Pierre Andre did not use pesticides or herbicides in his vineyards which contain vines over 100 years of age.  He produced organic wines since 1980 and Demeter certified since 1992.  Today his daughter Jacqueline Andre runs the estate who continues the use of cement vats and old wood.  Her father had a preference for late harvesting which comes through in the 1998 Domaine Pierre Andre, Chateauneuf du Pape.  The nose is complex with fruit and in the mouth I am reminded of dry Port flavors.  This is a substantial wine but it tastes good with a good sense of minerals, cedar, and pleasing texture.

cdp1

2013 Jean-Luc Colombo, Les Bartavelles, Chateauneuf du Pape – $22
Imported by Palm Bay International.  This wine is a blend of 45% Syrah, 35% Grenache, and 20% Mourvedre.  Alcohol 13.5%.  This is a modern style of wine with concentrated flavors of grapey, black fruit delivered with some grainy texture, density, and weight.  It is bright in a sense with citric, puckering tannins, and a salivating black flavored finish with a hint of bitterness.  *** Now – 2022.

cdp2

1998 Domaine Pierre Andre, Chateauneuf du Pape
Imported by Lauver Imports LTD.  Alcohol 15%.  The nose reveals blackberry and bramble fruitiness overlaying compote.  In the mouth there are clean, grainy flavors of black fruit followed by a mineral middle and finish.  The flavors are ripe, bordering on raisined, perhaps better described as a dry Port flavor.  It is a bit heady but the wood box and cedar note, sense of density, and ripe tannins left on the gums are attractive.  ***(*) Now – 2022.

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Lou’s Favorite Wines of 2016

January 2, 2017 1 comment

As Aaron and I drink many wines together, it’s inevitable that we have some shared wines on our top lists. The 1978 Diamond Creek Volcanic Hill was obviously California with rich fruit and concentration but balanced by forest floor and a balanced acidity. What was especially interesting for me with this wine was that it was served with its brother, the 1978 Diamond Creek Red Rock Terrace.  This wine shared many of the characteristics of its sibling, but with more cassis, less earth and somewhat brighter toned.

I shared Aaron’s enthusiasm for the 1964 Mommessin Clos de Tart.  This is everything Burgundy should be—hugely complex as it balances a sense of fragility and depth. This oxymoronic nature of great, mature Burgundy was abounding in this wine.  I too loved the 1964 Beaucastel.  It’s too rare that I drink great, old Chateauneuf.  In an evening with an amazing vertical of great Beaucastel, this wine stood above the rest.  It was a beautiful mix of bright fruit, iodine and seaweed.

Moving on to two wines unique to my list are two more wines from 1964.  Both Burgundies were drunk at Berns’ and served from 375’s.  The first was a Senard Aloxe Corton Les Valozieres.  The second was a lowly villages Morey St Denis from Valby.  Both wines benefited from the cold conditions of the cellar there and were in pristine condition.  Though neither showed the pedigree of the Clos de Tart, they both showed as fully mature, complex and exciting.

cos

The 1989 Cos d’Estournel  also was part of a vertical of exceptional wines. Though I greatly enjoyed many of vintages served that night, the 1989 stood out to me (and just edged out the 2005). It had concentrated fruit, some green notes and a fascinating smoky spice like incense.  The finish went on and on.

zin

The 1970 Souverain Zinfandel was also from a 375 at Berns’.  This tasted still young and fresh and showed the heights that classic Zin can achieve.

My final two wines were probably more about the experience that the wines themselves.  The first was a 2011 Fevre Montmains Chablis that I had at Han Ting restaurant in The Hague.  This meal was probably my best of the year for exciting food and flawless service. The wine perfectly accompanied the Asian styled food.  It had bright acidity, a delightful minerality and will doubtless just get better with time, as it was just a baby.

Finally was a carafe of the house red at O’Tinello Osteria in Lago Albano just outside of Rome.  This fruity and fresh wine made locally had enough acidity to lighten the platters of cured meats, creamy pasta and the porchetta that the region is famous for.  It was a great reminder of the time honored pairings of local food and wines. We were close to the Papal Palace of Castel Gandolfo and I could imagine the Pope having a similar lunch in the bright March sun……

lago