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Geoff Kelly Wine Reviews
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Independent reviews of some local and imported wines available in New Zealand, including earlier vintages.
LIBRARY TASTING:  THE GLORIOUS WINES OF THE SOUTHERN RHONE VALLEY – 1998


This Library Tasting was conducted at the upstairs tasting room of Regional Wines & Spirits,  Wellington,  in April 2012.

Original Invitation:  Chateauneuf-du-Pape is Robert Parker's favourite wine with food – and this guy has the world to choose from.  The reason I think is the soft savoury sensuous nature of the wine,  more like strong slightly spirity pinot noir than anything else.  And the good thing from the wine-lover's point of view is,  so many of the red wines of the satellite villages in the Chateauneuf-du-Pape district are essentially similar to the grand wine,  and made from the same varieties,  but are perhaps not as big,  and certainly not as expensive.  And this trend continues right down to the red wine of the district,  Cotes du Rhone,  again made from the same varieties,  but less rich,  less oaked (or not oaked),  and in some ways even more food-friendly.  

Slightly higher up the pecking order from the basic AOC red there is the wine labelled Cotes du Rhone-Villages,  from 95 approved villages.  Grenache must be 50% of the cuvée,  a minimum of 20% syrah or mourvedre or both,   a maximum of 20% other varieties.  Yield averages 2 t/ac = 5 t/ha,  which is why so many are delicious and so many New Zealand reds still taste skinny.  The best of the Cotes du Rhone wines come from 18 named villages,  the yield is fractionally less,  and they carry the label Cotes du Rhone-Villages plus the village name.  Cairanne is highly regarded.  Every so often,  a village will be promoted to full AOC,  for example Ventoux in 2008.

Our tasting will present a sampling of the main appellations of the southern Rhone district in the 1998 vintage,  with a view to understanding how wines of different richness and concentration keep differently.  We will include both "traditional" wines,  which essentially means concrete vats or big old oak only,  and the "modern" approach using some 225-litre new oak barrels.  To clarify this factor,  contrasting wines from the highly-regarded producer Santa Duc will be shown.

1998 was a warm vintage,  which initially had a fantastic reputation.  Latterly,  some critics have found them a bit too hot-year:  a lack of aromatics,  and an excess of alcohol.  I am quite sure some of our wines will be of great interest and appeal,  all the same.  The anchor wine will be the familiar Guigal Cotes du Rhone 1998.  Another goal will be to check this crazy American idea that the lighter Southern Rhone wines only last a year or two.  This perverse notion seems to me a consequence of two things:  firstly,  the speakers come from a highly consumerist society,  and secondly,  more and more wine commentators only like the modern blackberry icecream style of inconsequential "fruity" red wine.  To illustrate,  one of my favourite wines currently is 1985 Guigal Cotes du Rhone.  For the current very good Guigal 2007 vintage,  Wine Spectator's cellaring recommendation is:  "Drink now".  For the 2007 Santa Duc Cotes du Rhone in this review the recommendation is the same.  This is awfully shallow wine-writing.  For the same two wines,  the more thoughtful Robert Parker says:  "It should drink well for 2-4 years, as these wines can actually last." and "… enjoy over the next several years."  The same hang-up is latent,  though.  Admittedly the cepage for the Guigal wine is not the same now or as age-worthy as in the 1980s,  but it is still respectable.

For my Library Tastings,  the presentation is based on 12 wines all out at once,  so comparisons can be made.  Note however the pours are very small (30 ml) to both enable more to share sometimes rare bottles,  and to lower the entry price.  Please come prepared to sniff and sip and savour rather more than initially drinking.  Such a small volume can easily be drained,  without thinking.  For this tasting,  the wines will be presented blind,  since the most expensive wines are up to 6 times the price of the cheapest.  It is much more fun to decide which wine one likes best,  before the price is known.

The 1998 Vintage:  Robert Parker writing in October 1999 summed up the 1998 vintage thus (summarised):  The 1998s represent a sumptuous, potentially great vintage ... an extraordinarily hot, dry summer thickened the grape skins, and caused considerable stress in some of the appellation's driest terroirs. Early September rains proved to be extremely beneficial for relieving stress and promoting the final burst of maturity that gave this vintage its hallmark elements of jammy, rich fruit flavors, high alcohol, and intense tannin. Much of the harvest was completed by mid-September under ideal conditions. High degrees of alcohol were the norm, along with Grenache cuvées that were as black/purple in color as any producers could ever recall (even in such outstanding vintages as 1990 and 1989). Syrah was also fabulous, but some growers reported Mourvedre was less successful. While acidity levels were relatively low, the strength of these wines is their purity and intensity of fruit.

Grapes:  The main red grapes of the district are grenache,  syrah,  mourvedre,  cinsaut and carignan.  However some 18 or so varieties red and white are found,  and some appellations permit whites in the red.  Few winemakers use them.  Grenache is far and away the dominant and traditional variety of the region.  It is thin-skinned,  is characterised by aromas of raspberry and cinnamon,  and in a sense produces a kind of spirity pinot noir.  Unlike pinot noir,  it hides alcohol freakishly well,  such that wines up to 15.5% may be quite acceptable.  Either syrah or mourvedre is the next most important in quality terms.  Both add darker berry notes and complexity,  and perhaps hints of black pepper / spice though the climate is against the more subtle characteristics of syrah.  Mourvedre is more finicky,  and harder to ripen,  but in the great years is the more noble of the two.  Wines with a higher percentage of mourvedre cellar well.  Of the lesser varieties,  cinsaut is a pretty pale early-maturing variety reminiscent of pinot meunier,  and carignan is a robust productive well-coloured grape making hearty wines which are great in youth but don't age well.  Its best use is in vin de pays and the like.  On the earlier cellaring point,  if the cepage for a wine you are interested in is high carignan,  less than 5 years is probably best.  

Reference:  The indispensable basic reference for the wines of the Rhone Valley is:
Parker,  Robert,  1997:  Wine of the Rhone Valley.  Simon & Schuster,  685 p.  
It is now out print,  but is freely available overseas second-hand for literally a few dollars (e.g. www.abebooks.com).  Parker will surely be producing a new edition soon.






THE WINES REVIEWED:  Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre & related blends

1998  Domaine d'Ameillaud Cotes du Rhone-Villages Cairanne
1998  Domaine Laurent Brusset Cotes du Rhone-Villages Cairanne Chabrille
1998  Domaine Charvin Chateauneuf-du-Pape Non-Filtré
1998  Domaine du Gramenon Cotes du Rhone La Sagesse
1998  Domaine Guigal Cotes du Rhone
1998  Domaine de la Mordorée Chateauneuf-du-Pape Cuvee de la Reine des Bois
  1998  Ch Pesquie Cotes du Ventoux Cuvée des Terrasses Reservée Non-Filtré
1998  Domaine Santa Duc Cotes du Rhone
1998  Domaine Santa Duc Gigondas
1998  Domaine Santa Duc Gigondas Prestige des Hautes Garrigues
1998  Ch des Tours Vacqueyras Reserve
1998  Domaine Vieux Telegraphe Chateauneuf-du-Pape La Crau
 

1998  Domaine Vieux Telegraphe Chateauneuf-du-Pape La Crau   19 +  ()
Southern Rhone Valley,  France:  14%;  $65   [ cork;  original price;  Gr 70%,  Sy 15,  Ci 5,  others 10,  hand-harvested from 55-year-old vines in what many consider Chateauneuf's most famous vineyard;  cuvaison c.15 days,  elevation 12 months in old oak,  12 months in concrete;  Parker 6/10:  Between 1978 and 2007, this 1998 is the greatest Vieux Telegraphe that was produced. It has taken a good decade for this wine to shed its tannins and come out of a dormant, closed period. It has finally emerged, and notes of iodine, seaweed, black currants, incense, and sweet cherries as well as hot rocks jump from the glass of this full-bodied, powerful wine. It possesses considerable elegance and purity, along with loads of raspberries and incense, in a round, juicy, rich style that is just emerging from the closet. The wine is still youthful and a pre-adolescent in terms of its ultimate evolution. Approachable now, it will continue to evolve for another 15-20 years. Bravo!  95;  www.vignoblesbrunier.fr ]
Ruby and garnet,  below midway in depth,  attractive.  Bouquet is glorious,  totally grape-dominant,  the red berries and cinnamon of grenache,  darker berry and spice from syrah,  and beautiful winey complexity as if mourvedre contributed well in this warmer year.  Palate shows great berry and fruit,  slightly furry tannins,  negligible new oak which appeals greatly,  marvellous length and savour as well as technical purity.  Model Chateauneuf-du-Pape.  The perfect balance will enable this wine to cellar symmetrically and beautifully into advanced old age, 10 – 15 maybe 20 years more.  GK 04/12

1998  Domaine de la Mordorée Chateauneuf-du-Pape Cuvee de la Reine des Bois   18 ½ +  ()
Southern Rhone Valley,  France:  14%;  $70   [ cork;  original price;  Gr 70%,  Mv 10,  Sy,  Ci,  counoise and vaccarese,  old vines;  this wine in the 90s contrasted with traditional practice in Chateauneuf-du-Pape,  being completely destemmed,  then at least 50% of the wine is aged in new small oak for 9 months or more,  the  balance s/s,  with a total elevation of 24 months (note in recent vintages the new oak has been reduced markedly);  Parker 10/00:  an extraordinary nose of pepper, blackberry liqueur, cherries, smoke, scorched earth, and garrigue. As the wine sits in the glass, licorice and creme de cassis notes also become apparent. Awesomely concentrated, with immense body, massive fruit, sweet tannin, and fabulous symmetry, this is one of the most remarkable Chateauneuf du Papes I have ever tasted  96.  Ten years later,  Parker 6/10 reports:  This wine went through a long closed period. It was sensational to drink a year or two after bottling, then the wood tannins in the wine’s structure took over. It remained in that state until about two years ago, when it began to slightly open up, and now it seems to be coming into full form. It still has … 20 more years of drinkability.  … notes of blueberry liqueur intermixed with graphite, smoke, crushed rock, and white flowers, the wine is full-bodied, beautifully pure, and all evidence of any barrique aging has been completely assimilated into the wine’s fruit and character. This is a beauty …98.  Note,  this wine is currently selling for an average of $NZ326 on www.wine-searcher.com;  www.domaine-mordoree.com ]
Ruby and velvet,  the third deepest wine,  only a touch of garnet.  Bouquet is conspicuously rich and deep in the set,  wonderful berryfruit,  the first impression impressive.  Parker is spot-on with blueberry.  In mouth the body is huge,  and the new oak immediately becomes apparent.  There is great berry fruit perhaps with hints of sur-maturité,  just a thought of raisins and dark fruitcake,  plus red and darker berries.  Spice and oak intertwine inseparably,  making for great complexity on palate.  In contrast to the perfectly balanced and classically styled Vieux Telegraphe,  this more modern interpretation of Chateauneuf may not cellar so beautifully,  if the oak becomes more prominent.  At the moment however,  it is the richest wine in the set,  and was clearly the most popular on the night.  Love to have a dry extract for this wine.  Cellar 10 – 15 years,  maybe much longer.  GK 04/12

1998  Domaine Charvin Chateauneuf-du-Pape Non-Filtré   18 ½  ()
Southern Rhone Valley,  France:  14.5%;  $65   [ cork;  original price;  approx. Gr 90%,  Mv 5,  odds inc whites 5;  elevation includes six months only in large old wood,  no new oak,  held in concrete otherwise till bottling;  Parker comments in general:  Charvin … fashions Chateauneuf du Pape that comes closest to the style of Rayas. There is … a wonderfully sweet, deep, concentrated mid-palate, and layers of flavour that unfold on the palate. Great burgundy should possess a similar texture and purity, but it rarely does;  Parker 6/10:  Fully mature, Charvin’s 1998 Chateauneuf du Pape is a beauty, with an almost Burgundian, ethereal complexity of sweet cedar, spice box, black raspberries, cherries, and garrigue. Fleshy, but at the same time remarkably elegant and pure, this wine has hit a magical point where it should last for another 5-7 years. Absolutely top-notch now.  94;  Wine Spectator 9/07:  Shows this domaine's typical racy red fruit profile – raspberry and macerated cherry – but there's also a layer of black fruit underneath, with alluring spice box and sweet earth. The nice tangy acidity is still riding high on the finish. Really blossoms in the glass.  95;  www.domaine-charvin.com ]
Elegant ruby and garnet,  below the middle in depth.  Bouquet epitomises the Southern Rhone,  being fragrant with ripe red fruits and cinnamon spice,  plus slightest brett savoury notes.  Palate is supple,  like the Vieux Telegraphe perfectly balanced to the oak,  grape tannins rather than oak and slightly furry,  lovely.  The length of flavour is very appealing.  A taster would have to be obsessive about brett to object to this level – it simply makes the wine wonderfully savoury and food-friendly.  It is not quite as rich as the Vieux Telegraphe,  cellar 5 – 10 years.  GK 04/12

1998  Domaine Laurent Brusset Cotes du Rhone-Villages Cairanne Chabrille   18  ()
Southern Rhone Valley,  France:  13%;  $30   [ cork;  original price;  variable composition around Gr 55%,  Sy 20 – 25,  Mv 5 – 10,  Ca,  Ci;  no fermentation details;  Parker comments in general:  Brusset's Cotes du Rhone Villages Cairanne is one of his best kept secrets … think of it as the poor person's Gigondas.  Wine Spectator 9/00:  Elegant and supple, offering medium concentration, with fresh fruit and ripe tannins. Nice chewy tannin structure  86;  www.domainebrusset.fr ]
Ruby and velvet,  the second deepest and one of the youngest in appearance.  Bouquet here is evocative,  a more old-fashioned Southern Rhone which is delightfully fragrant on savoury berry,  cinnamon,  freshly roasted chestnuts,  and a touch of brett.  Palate is a little deeper and darker than the Charvin,  similar furry tannins,  some cedar,  very dry,  but lingering beautifully.  The level of brett in slightly more than the Charvin,  and at 14 years age is perhaps now contributing to the apparent dryness,  but it is still pretty academic.  Cellar 5 – 10 years.  GK 04/12

1998  Domaine Santa Duc Gigondas   17 ½  ()
Southern Rhone Valley,  France:  14.5%;  $30   [ cork;  original price;  Gr 75%,  Syrah 15, Mv 5,  Ci 5,  hand-harvested;  long cuvaison;  elevation in large old wood for 18 months;  not filtered;  Parker 10/00:  The 1998 Gigondas a terrific, powerful, multidimensional effort with glorious levels of glycerin as well as black cherry and cassis fruit. Expressive and flamboyant, yet fresh, full-bodied, and lively, it will last for a decade or more  90;  www.santaduc.fr ]
Ruby and garnet,  just above midway in depth.  Bouquet is rich,  aromatic,  spicy,  the oak noticeable in dark berry,  faintest VA.  Palate is rich,  much more fruit showing now in good ratio to the soft older oak,  some browning of the red berries,  beautiful cinnamon lingering long on the aftertaste.  The fruit is in fact markedly rich,  when you reflect on it,  but it is all riper and slightly raisined alongside the Charvin,  reflecting the year.  Cellar 5 – 12 years.  GK 04/12

1998  Ch des Tours Vacqueyras Reserve   17  ()
Southern Rhone Valley,  France:  14%;  $50   [ cork;  original price;  usually Gr 95%,  Sy 5,  hand-harvested from 35-year-old vines;  part of the crop spends up to 6 months in old oak casks;  otherwise elevation in concrete or s/s for c.24 months:  Parker observes (summarised):  Readers looking for a Vacqueyras made in the  image of the renowned Chateauneuf-du-Pape from Ch Rayas should seek out … this wine … the proprietor is Bernard Reynaud,  brother of the late Jacques Reynaud of Ch Rayas … the selection is severe, only one third of the crop bottles as this wine … yields are amongst the lowest in the appellation … resulting in a powerful rich concentrated style of Vacqueyras that ages well.  Parker 10/00:  The flamboyant bouquet offers a fabulous expression of Grenache harvested at sur-maturité that has not been compromised by aging in new oak. The flavors are all fruit, glycerin, and kirsch liqueur. Made from 100% Grenache, the wine exhibits a layered texture, low acidity ... a superb example of Vacqueyras ... P.S. I bought two cases. [ that's Parker speaking ]  90 ]
Ruby,  a lovely colour,  just below midway in depth.  Bouquet is very particular,  being classic grenache with red fruits totally dominant,  cinnamon,  and a touch of cedar grading into the even more fragrant manool /  silver-pine note characteristic of pure grenache.  It is also made fragrant by an academic touch of VA,  the oxidation the Vacqueyras AOC taste-committee objected to and Robert Parker famously pooh-poohed.  Palate is gorgeous,  the VA not intruding,  the berry amply covering the augmented cedar note.  Interesting wine,  perhaps not a long-term cellar prospect,  though.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 04/12

1998  Domaine Santa Duc Cotes du Rhone   16 ½ +  ()
Southern Rhone Valley,  France:  13%;  $20   [ cork;  original price;  Gr 70%,  Syrah 25, Ca and Ci 5,  hand-harvested,  not destemmed;  cuvaison to 20 days;  elevation in tank / concrete only;  Parker 10/99:  a gorgeous Cotes du Rhone blended from their holdings in Vacqueyras, Seguret, Roix, and Rasteau ...  a sweet nose of blackberry / cassis fruit intermixed with licorice and spice. It is chunky and fleshy, with low acidity and plenty of glycerin ... buy this one by the case … 87;  www.santaduc.fr ]
Ruby and garnet,  below midway in depth.  Bouquet is classically Southern Rhone,  beautifully fragrant with grenache dominant,  much more 'typical' and desirable than the Guigal.  On palate the fading red berries are drying,  cinnamon showing a little much,  and there is a trace brett making the wine savoury.  Pretty appealing for a mature Cotes du Rhone,  and richer than the Gramenon.  Fully mature now,  starting to dry a little,  but will hold.  GK 04/12

1998  Domaine du Gramenon Cotes du Rhone La Sagesse   16 ½  ()
Southern Rhone Valley,  France:  13.5%;  $38   [ cork;  original price;  this vintage Gr 90,  Sy 10,  organically grown;  fermentation up to 20 days in concrete sometimes with stems,  followed by 10 – 12 months in concrete,  perhaps a little sees older oak;  in the 1990s Parker was having something of a love affair with this establishment,  and wrote:  Philippe Laurent [ since deceased,  but his wife and son continue ] makes some of the most sumptuous, honest, and compelling Cotes du Rhone wines … from extremely ripe fruit … bottled with no fining or filtration,  in addition to extremely low sulphur levels.  These are the wines of a true artist.  I have served them blind to guests who think they are drinking either a great grand cru burgundy or one of the top Rhones selling for six times the price;  Parker 9/99:  a floral, Burgundian-like bouquet with notions of black fruits, tar, and pepper. There is natural acidity in this cuvee, resulting in a tangy personality  88-90 ]
A pretty pinot noir ruby,  the lightest wine.  Bouquet is slightly different,  as if this wine has a whole bunch component,  very fragrant,  the berry still quite fresh,  less cinnamon.  Palate is more pinot-like too,  a more delicate fruit component,  and finer grained tannins,  little or no oak,  yet attractive length.  Being low-S02,  Gramenon wines are at particular peril of brett,  but there is none here.  Fully mature,  but will hold.  GK 04/12

1998  Ch Pesquie Cotes du Ventoux Cuvée des Terrasses Reservée Non-Filtré   16 +  ()
Southern Rhone Valley,  France:  13%;  $18   [ cork;  original price;  usually c. Gr 70%,  Sy 30,  all de-stemmed;  cuvaison to 15 days,  elevation includes c.35% of the wine in small wood two or three years old for some months,  balance in old wood and tank;  Parker 8/00:  Wow! What a terrific bargain!  [this year] 60% Grenache and 40% Syrah, from one of the over-achieving, small estates in the Cotes du Ventoux (15 kilometers from Gigondas) ... not complex ... gorgeous levels of blackberry and cherry fruit, an unctuous texture, good fatness, and juicy thickness ... no hard edges.  90;  www.chateaupesquie.com ]
Ruby,  garnet and velvet,  above midway in depth.  On bouquet,  this is immediately a more chunky wine,  a greater percentage of over-ripe syrah dominating the aromas,  suggestions of blackberry rather than grenache red notes.  Palate is juicy and rich,  not complex (uncanny agreement with Parker here),  more Australian in style with clear new oak.  Some grenache spice comes in on the finish,  and it all lingers well in mouth.  A more hearty / barbecue wine in this company.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 04/12

1998  Domaine Santa Duc Gigondas Prestige des Hautes Garrigues   15 ½  ()
Southern Rhone Valley,  France:  15%;  $54   [ cork;  original price;  Gr 80%,  Mv 20,  hand-harvested from 50-year-old vines cropped at c.1.5 t/ac;  up to 8 weeks' cuvaison with stems;  40% of the batch spent 12 months in small new oak,  balance older barrels and vats,  18 – 24 months elevage;  in the dry year of 1998 only 1,700 cases made;  Parker 10/00:  One of the advantages of low yielding, concentrated Grenache is that it easily hides high alcohol. This full-bodied black beauty offers a terrific bouquet of licorice, blackberry, cassis liqueur, and a smoky, subtle dose of wood in the background. In the mouth, it is enormously endowed, very full-bodied and textured, exceptionally pure, with a creamy mid-palate, silky tannin, and a profound finish.  93;  Parker 10/99: ... wonderfully sweet, glycerin-charged character. [Winemaker] Gras commented that it tastes as if there is residual sugar, but it is totally dry ...;  www.santaduc.fr ]
Ruby and garnet,  slight orange,  the second to lightest.  Bouquet is out-of-line in the set,  showing some oxidation,  over-ripeness,  and a lot of oak.  Palate is rich,  the fruit is stewed prunes,  no fresh berries,  but there is good fruit-cake richness,  lifting the score.  Even so,  it is dull wine,  no freshness,  hard to drink.  It is ironic that the most expensive of the three Santa Ducs (by far) ends up the least of the three,  at least to anyone with a liking for traditional Southern Rhone wines.  Whether this bottle is typical I cannot yet say,  but the cork was an exceptionally good 49 mm one,  with a symmetrical two-millimetre penetration of stain at the business end.  It is hard to envisage oxidation from that source.  Will hold in its style for some years,  since the richness of fruit is good.  I await the next bottle with interest.  GK 04/12

1998  Domaine Guigal Cotes du Rhone   15  ()
Southern Rhone Valley,  France:  13%;  $24.50   [ cork;  original price;  Sy 50%,  Gr 30,  Mv,  Ca.  Ci etc 20;  unknown % spends up to year in big old oak;  widely regarded as the reference Cotes du Rhone,  hence inclusion;  this vintage around 42,000 cases made;  note the composition of Guigal's Cotes du Rhone has been changing over the last 30 years,  from classical grenache-dominant with mourvedre important,  to Syrah dominant;  Parker 10/00:  a moderately intense bouquet of cassis, licorice, and flowers. An amazing value, with moderate tannin, excellent concentration, and the potential to improve for several years and last for 6-8, this is a wine to purchase by the case.  87;  www.guigal.com ]
Ruby,  garnet and velvet,  the darkest wine.  Bouquet is deep,  dark,  oaky and sun-struck,  not at all a typical Cotes du Rhone,  and not at all like Guigal's Cotes du Rhone of the '80s,  when grenache dominated.  There is a certain blood and raw steak heavyness to this,  all suggestive of too much syrah in the blend and from too hot a district.  Palate is rich,  lots of dark berry,  excellent oak handling,  and quantitatively it is appealing in a certain fleshy sense.  But like many Australian reds,  it is heavy and palls on continued tasting.  Fully mature,  but will hold for some years.  GK 04/12

1998  Domaine d'Ameillaud Cotes du Rhone-Villages Cairanne   14 ½  ()
Southern Rhone Valley,  France:  13.5%;  $18.50   [ cork;  original price;  usually Gr 60%,  Sy 20 – 25,  Ca 10,  5 – 10 Mv;  main ferment in s/s or concrete c. 21 days;  5 – 10% of the wine spends 4 months in oak some new;  assemblage and bottling after 12 months;  this domain is highly-regarded,  the proprietor English;  even Parker (who regards Cotes du Rhones as essentially 2 – 3 year wines) concedes this Cotes du Rhone-Villages Cairanne "is a highly-extracted, rich, mouth-filling wine meant to stand up to a decade of cellaring";  Wine Spectator 11/99:  Flavorful, spicy, a wonderful little Rhone red packed with black fruit and black pepper.  89;  www.ameillaud.com/vineyard.html ]
This wine really highlighted the truth in the old maxim that there is no such thing as a great wine,  there are only great bottles.  The first bottle was much the lightest and oldest colour,  and dramatically corked.  The second bottle was a reasonable ruby and garnet,  appropriate to such a wine and age.  Bouquet was very fragrant indeed,  even at first,  seductive.  There were aromas of red berries,  stalks, and jonquils / paper-whites.  In mouth,  it was initially pleasantly berried,  but within a few seconds the characteristic musty / mousey taste of Pichia infection spread through the mouth,  and was both pervasive and persistent.  Bad news,  and a big disappointment – in the tasting we had to make a learning opportunity of it,  since good examples of mousey wines are rare these days.  After the tasting I checked the corked wine very carefully again,  and no,  it was not mousey.  Puzzled,  I retrieved a third bottle.  This was much the deepest and freshest in colour of the three,  and on both bouquet and palate was perfectly normal Cotes du Rhone,  drying as is reasonable for its age,  light brett,  but not mousey.  Quite pleasant in fact,  and close to the Santa Duc.  How to explain this variation,  bottle to bottle ?  A clue comes from the observation that 36 hours later,  this third bottle was developing some mustyness,  so oxidation of brett-related substrates may be implicated.  At that same interval,  however,  the corked bottle still showed no trace of mustyness.  Pretty hard wine to score,  all things considered.  Clearly this is a wine at full term or beyond in its life trajectory.  Incidentally,  for most corked wines,  and for all except the most irredeemable wine-snobs,  the remedy is simply to pour the wine into an open vessel the shape of a kitchen bowl,  cover with gauze against fruit-flies,  and leave on a bench out of the sun for 24 hours.  If you remember,  stir it halfway through.  TCA seems to oxidise quite quickly into relatively odourless components.  Occasional profoundly-affected bottles won't clear,  but most will.  GK 04/12