Top Three Wines: Saint-Emilion and Rhone Valley
One quick scan of my January tasting notes and I immediately knew which three wines produced greater reward than any other. All are French, two from the southern Rhone Valley and one from Saint-Émilion. Besides common French ancestry, all three rank as intense values in their own class. The 1994 Vieux Telegraph recompensed fifteen years of patient cellaring, 2005 Perrin et Fils Vacqueyras les Christins was a surprising super star, and 2008 Chateau Boutisse defied its price tag while honoring a stellar 2008 right bank Bordeaux vintage. I want more of all of them in my cellar and recommend each one individually for its distinct merits and intense drinking pleasure.
**** $55 1994 Vieux Telegraph, Chateauneuf du Pape
I bought this wine for $30 in 1997. My experiences with Vieux Telegraph always underscored great value in Chateauneuf du Pape but consistently defied early drinking. I remember convincing myself, after repeated disappointments, that I would never open another Vieux Telegraph with less than eight years in the cellar. There was a lot of critical acclaim after the 1994 Vieux Telegraph was released, and while the first bottle I tasted back then (against my better judgment) supported the critics’ hallelujahs, it was tight and expressively stingy, only showing repressed evidence of the characteristic greatness to come.
The wine is magic fifteen years later; truly classic aged wine for a mere $30 investment. Velvet texture, round edges, summer field herbs, licorice, developed secondary aromatics, robust fruit, anise, char, and a lengthy finish. It is why I cellar wine and a reminder of similar outcomes I treasure drinking old Claret. It is the kind of wine I feel privileged to taste; one that warms your soul as it finishes. There are only two bottles left in the cellar and sense both have at least another ten years…for sure. I am not certain why I plan to pace myself, hoping not to press a bet too far. I will drink one more in a couple years, and hope this balanced old world wine’s great black cherry fruit will be alive and well in 2023. You can still buy this wine for about $55. It’s worth every penny when you consider how much a bottle of great early 90′s Bordeaux fetches in the secondary markets.
*** $20 2008 Chateau Boutisse, Saint-Émilion
Speaking of Bordeaux, I stumbled on this one at the Mohegan Sun Wine Fest Grand Tasting. Digging up the winner in big tasting events like this where you taste through an ocean of mediocre wine is hard work; like finding a needle in a haystack. Last year at a 2008 Bordeaux vintage tasting of more than 100 wines, the “mind blowing” performance of so many top Saint-Émilions from that afternoon like Troplong Mondot, Angelus, and Pavie Macquin were top of mind as I tasted this 2008 Boutisse inside one of Connecticut’s gambling meccas.
I ordered a case of the wine the next day. It’s a $20-a-bottle investment for outstanding age-worthy Bordeaux. Sweet cherry fruit, smoke, cigar box, balance, structure along with a voluptuous mouthfeel adds up to one of the more outstanding values I have tasted yet from the top appellation (as far as I can tell) of the 2008 Bordeaux vintage. This is not Troplong Mondot nor Angelus, but it’s a fraction of their price. I just know when I open one of these bottles in 2032 I will do a little dance…if I still can at 73 years old.
***1/2 $23 2005 Perrin et Fils Vacqueyras les Christins
Our friends Glen and Andrea opened a bottle of this on a relaxed evening in their living room. Here is another $20 wine, this time from a twenty acre vineyard managed by the Perrin family of Beaucastel. While I had not tasted this wine before, it was absolutely clear that the four or five years of bottle age was paying dividends. It is drinking as well as it probably ever will. Fans of brett will appreciate the saddle leather, wet fur, and wild game aromatics that envelope a rich blackberry flavor. This juxtaposition of funky aromatics and pure blackberry fruit works. The wine is round and rich with a touch of dusty cocoa. I sat on the couch and realized I was rechecking the nose every thirty seconds, each time amazed at the amalgamation of things going on inside my glass. The thrill of the ride outstrips the price tag by a mile, and is a reminder that you don’t need to rely on $75 Chateauneuf du Papes to check in on world class quality wines from the southern Rhone Valley.