Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Wine Tasting in Châteauneuf-du-Pape

Sometimes I forget how good wine can be. And then I spend a day truly tasting, savoring, sniffing, swirling and it all comes flowing back. With two savvy and interested (and interesting) clients, I spent Monday tasting at a few of Châteauneuf's finest cellars. Bright, round, full, balanced, lively whites. Delightful now, and yet with the possibility of cellaring should we be so inclined.

And then the reds: dark black cherries, rich cocoa, cooler dark chocolate with perhaps a touch of mint, red pie cherries, peppery fresh blackberries, earthy, structuring tannins, ... chewy, round and rich, these wines coated our tongues and lingered on the taste buds.

And what is this? a faggot of wild asparagus is the filter of choice to hold back the lees from the juice as it flows from the press? Curiouser and curiouser. And here, there are no pumps to remove the marc from the tank, just the glistening and powerful muscles of the son-in-law as he shovels away, filling bucket after bucket.

One winery vinifies every one of its 20 some odd parcels of grapes individually, awaiting January to decide upon blends of these precious juices, choosing to age a small portion in new oak, keeping the rest in stainless or cement. And yet across town, their neighbor makes just one wine per year, and thus, no matter his many parcels (30 acres divvied up into 20 chunks), and no matter the juice from the press and the juice from the drip -- all goes back into the same tank as all will eventually be one wine.

The first carefully removes the grapes from the stems, aiming for flattering fruit flavors, smooth and elegant velvet on the palate. The latter keeps the stems in -- enjoying the ripe tannins they contribute to the structure of his powerful red.

And you thought the label of an AOC could describe a wine? Only in the broadest of strokes. Yes, they're both mostly grenache grapes, and yes, they were hand harvested, and yes, the alcohol content will be somewhere between 14 and 15 degrees alcohol (and occasionally higher), and yes, they will not be bottled for a minimum of 18 months - 2 years. But there, the similarities end.

Taste and find out! If you can find them, we reveled in the elegance of Domaine Marcoux, and the power and heart of the Domaine Lucien Barrot et Fils.

To top off the day, Guy Brémond at the Cave Verger des Papes shared a few more bottles and arranged shipping for my clients' favorites. With that accomplished, I, having carefully (and ever more skillfully) spit throughout the day (drinking only water with lunch) was able to safely back my van out of the tight parking lot of the Domaine Beaurenard, and deliver my guests to their hotel in Avignon.

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