Cassis and Oak Hunters

GrenacheIt smelled funky: earthy, compost and dried mushroom without a touch of black cherry or cassis. Man-o-man what a wine. I love the taste of wine aged in big old barrels, as this one was for eighteen months.

It was hidden there on the wine list in an out-of-the-way section sure to be missed by the cassis and oak hunters. All the  better for me and I pounced on it. Best of all, it was a bargain. I was doing them a favor as they would have hated this wine. I also did myself a big favor by ordering it.

This beauty was the 1999 Bosquet des Papes Chateauneuf du Pape, Cuvee Grenache. One of the best wines made from the grenache grape, it is a outstanding example of a varietal at it finest moment. Although, considering its non-fruit driven character, many will find this wine disorienting. That would be a good thing for today’s young wine drinkers need a bit of disorientation to wake them to the pleasures of wines driven by terroir and varietal instead of the “wisdom” of the latest hot-shot consulting enologist dead-set on making wine by a proven point-winning formula.

Brickish in color without a touch of purple, the aromas explode out of the glass with a smoky meaty character mixed with tar, fresh tobacco and coffee grounds. Not a bit of blueberry, blackberry, raspberry or currant show in any aspect of this wine. Warm and generous on the palate with flavors of a haunting burnt black fruit tarry-ness dominated by fresh morels and exotic spices. This is a wine more about wildness (sauvage) than simple, obvious fruit.

I found this tasting note from wine writer Daniel Rogov on this wine in 2002:

“Bosquet des Papes, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, 1999: Made entirely from Grenache grapes, this deep, full bodied wine is packed with ample black fruit, mineral, tobacco and earthy aromas and flavors. Showing its tannins and its acids rather strongly now so don’t dare drink this one now but give it until at least 2005 to find its equilibrium. After that this will be a wine to sip slowly, for as it opens in the glass it will reveal an almost sweet-stewed plum overlay. Don’t worry as the 2005 date approaches for the wine will store nicely until 2020 or longer. Score 94. (Tasted 6 Jan 2002)” Link to original article

I find his notes right on the money and forgive him for reducing such a complex wine to mere points.

This wine is yet another example of why it is better to first search a wine list by vintage instead of varietal. Most wine lists are dominated by current vintages and not only do wines with a few years of bottle age offer better drinking, but usually much better value.