Sunday, January 6, 2008

I ♥ Vieux Telegraphe

I came across a great quote the other day on a neighboring wine blog and I wanted to share it, it says: "It is good to have good friends, and even better to have good friends who love wine, but it is absolutely spectacular when those good friends love the really, really good stuff and want to share."
I would only add, that sharing great food with that great wine heightens the experience that much more.
As my wine palate has shifted over the years I have become a huge fan of the wines from the Southern Rhone, and if you are having a serious wine discussion about this region you "have" to include the appellation of Chateauneuf-du-Pape. These wines are wonderful with food and they offer incredible layers of fruit, smoked meat, garrigue, earth, stone, and animal scents and flavors. You will hear the terms "rustic", "brooding" and maybe even "backward" when these wines are described, but you will certainly know you aren't drinking a Two-Buck Chuck when you enjoy these wines. What they may lack in polish and finesse, they more than make up for in complexity, interest, structure and intensity. While there are 13 grape varietals allowed for the production of red Chateauneuf du Pape, typically the blend of grapes is heavy on the Grenache and then followed by equal parts Mouvedre and Syrah and maybe some trace percentages of Cinsault.
To understand the term "garrigue" I think the following description by Daniel Brunier (owner of Vieux Telegraphe) is very apt, he says:
“The garrigue. That’s the place where nothing else will grow. It is the domaine of the wild lavender, wild rosemary, and scrub oak. It is a place austere and hospitable at once. With nothing more than your nose, you’ll know you are there! But if is is possible to stretch out on the ground without getting jabbed in the back or rear end, you are not really in the garrigue, because in the true garrigue, you’d need to find a flat rock just to sit down. The garrigue smells so good, I can smell it just thinking about it. And in the summer heat, if you piss in the garrigue it is as if you had prepared an herb tea. It is so fragrant, but the garrigue is never silent because it is teeming with life.”
I had the opportunity to sample nine Vieux Telegraphe wines at a recent event. The oldest was from 1978 and the youngest was a 2004. I love this estate and these wines are also among my favorites of any in the world. If forced to choose one wine to take to a desert island (with an unlimited supply of course), my pick would be a Chateauneuf du Pape, and one could do far worse than to be stranded with a container of the 1998 Vieux Telegraphe.
Here are the notes and my ranking from that great tasting:

Vieux Telegraphe 1978: Spice on the nose with some garrigue, dried fruit and saddle leather on the palate, nice tannins (especially after 30 years), nice spicy finish. 4th

Vieux Telegraphe 1985:
Unfortunately this bottle was bad and had serious oxidation/maderization. 9th

Vieux Telegraphe 1988:
Bright fruit with tart cherry, cracked black pepper on the nose and palate. 2nd

Vieux Telegraphe 1989:
Cherry liquor, black pepper with some mineral character. Long finish-very nice. 3rd

Vieux Telegraphe 1990:
Earthy/Animal/Barnyard on the nose (in a good way), tart cherry fruit with hints of graphite followed by dusty tannins and a VERY long finish. 1st YUM!

Vieux Telegraphe 2000:
Fresh red fruit nose, seemingly a lighter style than the older wines. This opened up later and showed jammy fruit on the palate and some eucalyptus on the nose. 7th

Vieux Telegraphe 2001:
Perfumed nose with tart cherry fruit, mouth coating tannins that should age well. 5th

Vieux Telegraphe 2003:
Cherry liquor and red fruit showing through. This wine is from a very warm vintage and will need some time to come together. 6th

Vieux Telegraphe 2004: Dried fruit nose, nice balance with firm tannins. 8th
I had a bottle of this on New Years Eve and the fruit was more along the lines of a baked raspberry tart, good spice with garrigue and a very nice finish. I was very happy sharing this bottle with friends! Stay tuned for a long post about the appellation of Chateauneuf du Pape.
Happy 2008-Cheers!