Without question, the greatest of all southern Rhone appellations is Chateauneuf du Pape. A large, hot growing area, the wines of Chateauneuf du Pape are built for power, allied with earthiness. The minimum alcohol level for these wines is specified by law at 12.5%, and up to 13 different varieties of grape are allowed in their blends. Although there are white Chateauneuf du Papes out there, they are so rare that one hardly ever sees them on retail shelves.
The area is known for its beautiful landscapes, stony soils, and medieval ruins.
Except for the glaring exception of 2002, the appellation has had an unreal string of great vintages back to 1998.
Andy was victorious in the Chateauneuf Shootout by an ample margin, with four tasters giving his entry their top mark, and the other two tasters giving it their next-to-favorite vote.
Negative comments about these wines were uncommon in my notes, and all tasters said that they would be happy to drink any of them again. Kristin said that this tasting was the "hardest to vote" so far in the two years we have been doing this.
Unfortunately, Stephen is back into his old groove, having brought the least distinctive wine of the night. While nobody thought it was a bad wine, nobody gave his entry any points either.
First Place: Chateau Fortia Chateauneuf du Pape Cuvee du Baron 2003. Offered aromas of brown sugar, ground spices, bananas, and yellow fruits that reminded Sarah of "the hard candies at Café Nuovo". Slight mustiness on the nose gave way to a palate that was heavy on cherries, along with raspberries, licorice, espresso, cloves, and vanilla. Andy detected "wet granite". Inky, with a lot of tannin. Balanced and long. Received 32 points. Andy's bottle. About $35.
Second Place: Domaine du Vieux Telegraphe Chateauneuf du Pape la Crau 2000. The nose reminded tasters of dark licorice, black pepper, rubbing alcohol, plums, violets, black cherries, stewed prunes, and raisins. Andy felt it was reminiscent of "pepperoni pizza" (with box). Creamy, with flavors of blackberries, chocolate, smoke and espresso. Sarah noted that it was "tingly on the tongue". Received 24 points. David's bottle. About $50.
Third Place: Perrin Chateauneuf du Pape les Sinards 2003. Expressive aromas of brown sugar, black tea, caramel, dark spices, chalk, cherries, pez candy, blackberries, and buttered popcorn. Offering a softer texture, with anise, black fruits, and cherries. Rounder and very balanced, with a velvety finish. Received 22 points. Kristin's bottle. About $33.
Les Vins de Vienne Chateauneuf du Pape les Oteliees 1999. Eliciting the most unusual descriptions of the night, this bottle reminded tasters of sediment, dust, wet soil, bark, and some funkiness. Stephen described the animal aromas as "jackalope", which spawned a great deal of silly jokes. Ali felt that it "tastes old". Nearly tart, with nutmeg, cherry liqueur, and black tea. A little hot on the finish. Received 4 points. Sarah's bottle. About $39.
Paul Autard Chateauneuf du Pape 2000. Smelled brighter in profile, with a tomato aroma that Stephen described as "one that's turning", along with a sweaty, feet, mushroom quality, with anise and smoked meat. Thinner in body, with tasters detecting cheese, game, cherries, orange rind and vanilla. Andy determined that this one was the "most unique" of the night. Received 2 points. Ali's bottle. About $28.
Lucien de Noblens Chateauneuf du Pape la Promenade des Papes 2003. Unusual scent of rye bread, not unlike a "Jewish deli", along with dried herbs, and rocky minerals. Andy thought it was "uptight". Thinner body, with a drier profile of cherry, applesauce, vanilla, and anise. Tasters felt this was "regular", and more like a Cote du Rhone. No points. Stephen's bottle. About $ 17.