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Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Wines of Chante Cigale

Cuvee de la Genestiere
This red table wine from the Domaine is composed of 6 different grape varieties and undergoes 50% of the elevage in tank and the other half in foudre. The nose is full of Provencal essences such as cedar, sweet tobacco, truffle and plum characteristics. The mouthfeel is a touch lean and gamey, but has enough fresh acidity to stand up to earthy bistro fare, 82 points.

Cotes du Rhone, 2006
The Cotes du Rhone blend is much more frankly ripe, with intense aromatic notes such as dark fig, blackberry, smoke and bitter chocolate. The palate is sinewy, w/ some heavy duty tannins on display, cut by bright acidity and fine depth, letting the grassy, earthy notes shine through on the finish, 87+ points.

2007 Chateauneuf du Pape, barrel sample
Starting the tasting off with such an exceptional wine just isn’t fair, and boy was this barrel sample a fully loaded weapon! Packed w/ outstanding fruit, notes of flowers, kirsch liqueur, spice box and espresso roast jump from the glass. There is terrific opulence, depth and an uncanny sense of hedonism that gave me such a thrill I literally felt the hair on the back of my neck stand on end. Yet another ’07 that is exciting and full of promise, 94-96 points.

2005 Chateauneuf du Pape
This classy, traditional showpiece of Chateauneuf du Pape captures the vintage’s structure in a much more poised package. The nose is full of fresh cut cedar, tobacco leaf, grilled beef, spice rub and melted licorice notes that are full of savory red fruits on the attack, and backed by a firm skeleton & refreshing minerality, 92 points.

2005 Chateauneuf du Pape, Vieilles Vignes
The 80 year old vines give this cuvee a much deeper, headier disposition than that of the base cuvee. Titillating perfumes of charred steak, hoisin sauce, black currant, hearty plum and freshly paved road tar present themselves in a brooding, serious personality. There is striking depth and powerful concentration in the mouth, but the wine retains a sense of purity that most ‘05s lack at this stage, as this Vieilles Vignes cuvee sets itself apart w/ its symmetry, 94 points.

2004 Chateauneuf du Pape
No Vieilles Vignes cuvee was made in 2004 as all the old vines were put into the base cuvee. The aromas were effusive, and had a mossy overlay to the notes of loam, dark fig, cocoa and tar. In the mouth, this was the least impressive showing during the tasting as it lacked the weight, depth and profundity of the top vintages. Medium bodied and inoffensive, this sound Chateauneuf should be drunk up w/ in the first decade of its life, 88 points.

2003 Chateauneuf du Pape
One of the more idiosyncratic wines from Chante Cigale, this example of ’03 doesn’t show the heat of the vintage, but certainly strikes a few interesting chords along the way. The nose demonstrates notes of salty sea breezes, bitter chocolate, cappuccino, black currant sauce and braised chestnuts. There is a confluence of earthy and decadent elements in the mouth, as the wine shows excellent concentration and ample acidity to pump its beam of fascinating flavors to a fine finish, 91+ points.

2003 Chateauneuf du Pape, Vieilles Vignes
Well, needless to say, Chante Cigale hit it right in ’03! This big monster of a wine had all the elements of dried port, showing baked fig, grilled game, Turkish coffee and a slew of other heavenly delights in the nose. The mouthfeel is tremendously opulent, w/ tiers of rich, liqueur driven fruits that are all kept at bay by a chiseling sense of mineral definition. For some reason I thought of Charvin’s ’03, as yet another atypical, but very successful interpretation of the vintage…back up the truck, 95 points.

1998 Chateauneuf du Pape
I believe this was the vintage before Alex jumped on board. Tasting this blind I would have certainly pegged it as a ’99 as it is drinking gorgeously and certainly not for the brett-averse. New saddle leather, dried porcini and loamy tobacco dominate the nose in a come hither, drink me please type of fashion. In the mouth, this ’98 is really hitting its stride w/ savory notes of bright plum and cassis that open the floodgates for garrigue to penetrate the spine of this medium bodied, dapper wine, 92 points.

A couple additional notes:
The soils of Chante Cigale’s varied parcels tend to be mostly stony and during the winemaking process, remontage (pumping over) is applied twice daily and pigeage is almost never practiced. For whatever reason, all of these wines show remarkably well via pop ‘n pour, almost jumping right out of the bottle. Irrespective of vintage, decanting does not seem to be necessary.

2007 Chateauneuf du Pape Blanc
Chante Cigale has a relatively large production of white Chateauneuf and generally utilizes 25% of Grenache Blanc, Bourboulenc, Roussanne and the remaining cepages allowed in the appellation. After a few hours of skin maceration, the grapes undergo a stainless steel fermentation, blocked malolactic and are bottled relatively quickly to harness their fresh flavors. The ’07 is full of crisp, lively kiwi, tangerine and peach skin notes that are round and melon driven in the mouth. There is an electric acidity that pumps out fresh, floral flavors to a solid finish, 87 points.

2007 Extrait Cuvee Blanc
This is an isolated blend of pure Roussanne that Alex was toying w/ and as of yet, wasn’t sure whether or not to bottle it as a separate cuvee. Like the Chateauneuf blanc, this undergoes no malolactic fermentation and is remarkably crisp for a Roussanne. The palate is full of chamomile, lemon zest, peach and melon flavors that are round in the mouth, but accompanied by an unexpected razor sharp edge that keeps the texture relatively modest for a Roussanne. Personally, I think this would be better incorporated into the blend, as it doesn’t quite separate itself enough to stand alone as a unique cuvee, 88 points.

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