Tasting the 1990 southern Rhones

January 03, 1993|By Michael Dresser

The following 1990 Chateauneuf-du-Pape and Gigondas red wines were tasted in recent weeks. Except where noted, the Gigondas can be expected to cost $16-$20 and the Chateauneuf-du-Papes between $18 and $25 in Maryland and a few dollars less in the District of Columbia.

Chateauneuf-du-Pape

* Chateau de Beaucastel. If this doesn't quite measure up to the sensational, that's only because few wines ever will. Still, the 1990 is a worthy successor, with layer upon layer of blackberry, black raspberry and herbes de Provence flavors. It's far from its peak, but you can drink it now with great pleasure. Now edging past $30 a bottle, it's still a bargain for its magnificent quality. (Vineyard Brands)

* Les Cailloux. A masterpiece! The pure, intense blackberry-raspberry fruit is astonishing from first sip. It's an immensely complex mix of flavors -- bacon, game, smoke, herbs. This is one of the rare wines that combines elegance and brawn. It is great now and should delight the senses for two decades at least. (Robert Kacher)

* Domaine du Caillou. A wine of exceptional concentration, intensity and style. It is simply loaded with blackberry, herb, game, truffle and cedar flavors. The length, structure and focus of the wine suggest two decades of aging potential, but it's lovely now. (Alain Junguenet Selection)

* Vieux Telegraphe. This is the best Vieux Telegraphe in many years, with its ripe, burly, chocolate-y flavors and exceptional intensity. You can enjoy its supple,

chunky, warming properties now, but five to eight years will undoubtedly bring it to higher levels. Due to popularity, the price might exceed $25. (Kermit Lynch)

* Clos des Papes. A ripe, full, rich wine with loads of blackberry, earthy and truffle-like flavors. It's quite enjoyable now but will improve steadily for a decade or more. (Alain Junguenet Selection)

* Cuvee de Boisdauphin. Here's a lighter style of Chateauneuf-du-Pape, but it's by no means simple. The bulk isn't there, but the intensity is. The black cherry-raspberry flavors suggest the more elegant style of the northern Rhone or even Pomerol. (Alain Junguenet Selection)

* Clos du Mont Olivet. With five years, this wine could be great. It's quite closed now, but there's plenty of ripe, earthy, meaty fruit behind the tannin. (Robert Kacher Selections)

* Domaine Bosquet des Papes. This spicy, oaky, fairly tannin wine needs four to six years to come around. Bosquet des Papes' style, less chunky than most, isn't my cup of tea, but it's a very good wine nevertheless. (Alain Junguenet Selection)

* Domaine de la Solitude This wine had all the elements to make it a great but couldn't quite put them together. It was concentrated, plummy, chocolate-y, herbal and supple, but something didn't quite come together. It's quite good, but there's something missing that might come with age. (Langdon-Shiverick)

* Cuvee de Belvedere "Le Boucou." After the entrancing 1989,the lean, peppery 1990 is a disappointment -- not bad, but no better than many $8 Cotes du Rhone. (Alain Junguenet Selection)

* Chapoutier "La Bernardine." What went wrong here? This estate seemed to be back on track in 1989, and Michel Chapoutier certainly has the right ideas, but this wine seemed medicinal, disjointed and watery on the finish, with a hint of acidity. Could this bottle have been mishandled in transit? (Paterno Imports)

1990 Gigondas

* Domaine Santa Duc, "Prestige des Hautes Garrigues." I do not believe I've ever seen a wine as thoroughly opaque as this densely concentrated, massive Gigondas. Overstuffed with flavors of chocolate, herbs, game and olives, it's like vintage port without the sweetness. For now, it's a bit much, but I could see this wine developing into a minor classic with five to 10 years. At $23-$25, it's a cut above usual Gigondas price. (Robert Kacher Selections)

* Domaine Santa Duc. By any standard other than that of its big brother above, this is a massive wine. It's just loaded with chunky flavors of chocolate and herbs, with a noticeable overlay of sweet oak. It's very good, but I'd let this bear hibernate for another three to five years. (Robert Kacher Selections)

* Les Hauts de Montmirail. Generally I like new oak flavors, as does importer Robert Kacher, but in this case that enthusiasm seems to have gotten out of hand. Even with abundant fruit, this wine is dominated by oak. With several years, those flavors might integrate into the wine, but for now they blur any regional character. (Robert Kacher Selections)

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