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Monday, February 23, 2009

'98 & '99 Chateauneuf at the top of their game, and a rocking '00 Gigondas

Charvin '98

Upon opening the bottle, I couldn't help but notice how even the cork smelled like garrigue! This vintage for Charvin is absolutely singing and at its peak; w/ a soaring nose of roasted herbs, black pepper, spice box, licorice, truffles and warm fig sauce. The energetic, flashy entry turns floral and full of flinty, spirited red fruit flavors that envelope the palate w/ a full bodied, harmonious presence. Sure to deliver primetime drinking over the next ten plus years, but who can wait? Qualitatively just a hair behind the ’01, but watch out for the ’07 that's still in the pipeline, 96 points.

Clos des Papes 99
The transparent ruby shade belies the intensity of the wine, which is very extraverted aromatically, with sandalwood, fresh garrigue, melted licorice, dark plum, macerated cherry and lead pencil shaving notes leading the way. Beautifully complex, spicy flavors pump over a silky textured, mouth-watering profile; propelled by the vintage’s invigorating acidity. The mesquite & black pepper kissed finish is draped in shapely tannins, reinforcing the structure w/ solid cellaring potential, 93 points.

Santa Duc Prestige de Haut Garrigues, ‘00
I am extremely vintage specific when it comes to Santa Duc’s wines. I found the ’98, ’01, ’03 and ‘05 to be exceptionally tannic, highly-extracted, almost coarsely textured wines; yet full of substance and complexity. On the other hand, the ’99, ’00 and ’04 all offer supple, exquisitely balanced versions (including the top Hautes Garrigues cuvee) that do not sacrifice power for their polish. The ’00 is currently irresistible, w/ a gorgeous nose of dark fig, hoison sauce, black currant paste and lavender notes that unfold seamlessly in the palate. Thick, yet lively waves of flavor pump over a round, mouth-watering finish that is sure to deliver enormous pleasure over the next decade, 94 points.

Are my varying levels of appreciation for this wine based on Yves Gras’ vintage improvisation? I still enjoy the more rugged versions, but find the more suavely textured vintages to be on a very different playing field. Does he substantially tweak extraction, maceration, barrique & general elevage for each vintage? While I’d never imagine a winemaker w/ his notoriety to take a cookie cutter approach, I find the variances in style at Santa Duc to be much more pronounced than most.


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