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Sunday, June 01, 2008

The Vieux Telegraphe Stable

Along with the Guigal bottlings, the wines of Vieux Telegraphe are some of the most commercially visible Chateauneuf du Papes in the states. The origin of the domaine can be traced back to Hippolyte Brunier, who began planting vines in the famed La Crau district of the appellation roughly 110 years ago. Their vineyard holdings are substantial, tallying roughly 70 hectares, and are distinctive in that they are centralized on one plot (the majority of domaine’s in the region source fruit from varied sectors of the region). The vines of the domaine mainly consist of Grenache (65%), followed by Syrah and Mourvedre (roughly 15% a piece) and average 50 years of age. The soils of the La Crau plateau are famous for their preponderance of rolled stones and give the Telegraphe reds a sturdy, tannic backbone.

Although the house style at Vieux Telegraphe is as traditional as they come, they do make a second label called Telegramme as their selection process has become more draconian to ensure the quality of the grand vin. The Brunier brothers also own La Roquette (another Chateauneuf domaine) and Domaine de la Pallieres in Gigondas. I was particularly impressed w/ the whites from Roquette, which are highlighted by a judicious accent of toast, as well as their luxury red cuvee called ‘L’Accent.’

La Roquette Chateauneuf du Pape Blanc, 2007
When tasting through the white wines of Chateauneuf du Pape, I noticed more and more experimentation in terms of style. Whether it be single varietal (pure Roussanne bottlings are becoming more and more popular), stainless steel tanks or some fumbling around w/ new oak, several domaines are beginning to take more of an interest in their white wines. The ’07 Roquette demonstrates a deft touch w/ the barrique, seamless integrating subtle layers of sweet toast between the honeysuckle, dried apricot and tropical fruit flavors. While intense and layered in its approach, the wine maintains great definition & cut, finishing w/ a welcome rush of graceful acidity, 91 points.

Domaine Les Pailliers Gigondas, 2005
Out of the few dozen ’05s I’ve tasted from this region, this effort happens to be one of the most elegant. The nose is full of black raspberry, lead pencil shavings, pepper, briar and hot stone notes that have somewhat of a smoky disposition. In the mouth, there is a bit of a chunky attack that turns fresher as the wine builds on the palate, w/ a sandy, mineral overlay adding an earthy intrigue to the dark cherry fruit. Medium bodied and full of poise, this young Gigondas drifts away to a piercing, iron-tinged finish w/ ease, 90 points.

La Roquette Chateauneuf du Pape, 2005
The base cuvee from La Roquette is aged completely in foudre and shows the sinew of the vintage, yet maintains a supple texture that suggests it may be approachable in its youth. Full of sweet cherry liqueur, orange peel, crushed raspberry and spice box notes that are coated in a firm, tannic backbone, possess excellent acidity and persistence, 89+ points.

La Roquette L’Accent, 2005
The quality of L’Accent in this vintage, a blend of 90% Grenache and 10% Mourvedre, is absolutely superb. This super-ripe example of old vine Chateauneuf easily pushes 15% alcohol and explodes w/ sweet kirsch liqueur, plum sauce, grilled herbs and rose petal characteristics in the nose. The mouth-feel gushes in terms of concentration, intensity and layers of fruit, w/ a gorgeous, buried minerality lurking in the background, 94 points.

Vieux Telegraphe Chateauneuf du Pape, 2005
This is a powerhouse vintage for the top Chateauneuf of the estate, crammed w/ sweet tobacco, meaty black raspberries, black cherry liqueur and forest floor notes that are effusive, concealing the serious structure of the vintage. The mouth-feel is firm, yet yielding, w/ highly extracted, sappy fruits coating every inch of the palate. The flood gates open up on the finish, allowing the notes of graphite and hot stones to really sing, 93+ points.

The Vieux Telegraph 2004
While there is much more immediate balance and accessibility in the 2004 VT than its riper, rougher and more alcoholic 2003 sibling, the '04 will never possess the 03's level of power, fat and density.A brief 45 minute decant revealed melted licorice, cedar, blueberry and sweet fig notes in the nose. The palate was surprisingly fruit driven, w/ sweet cherry, clove spice and cocoa notes gliding on a silky, crisp frame, evoking imagines of Pinot Noir. Time in the glass showed some modest increases in depth, so brief cellaring may tack on a bit more weight, but it is easily accessible at this stage, 91 points.

Vieux Telegraphe 2000
One of the more rustic expressions of the 2000 vintage and certainly doesn't win its fans for a sense of charm and grace, but has plenty of merit in its own right. Classical scents of cedar, tree bark, dried cumin, pepper and blackberry reduction are abundant, if a bit on the rugged side. The profile in the mouth follows in a bloody, slightly chewy fashion, but it is loaded w/ character that churns out in spades along the finish. Although this wasn’t my favorite vintage of their Chateauneuf, I have a soft spot for its distinctiveness, brash or not, 90 points

Vieux Telegraphe, 1995
This is perhaps the best Telegraphe that I’ve ever tasted, putting the pedal to the medal in combining a sense of brute strength with just enough polish to make it truly compelling. Classic aromas of lilac, freshly cut cedar, garrigue, olive tapenade, dark fig and spicy blackberries fill the room with a truly compelling allure. The palate had that grippy, dusty hallmark of the estate, but it was reeled in w/ poise, well-proportioned structure and an effusive finish that tied it all together beautifully, 95 points.


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