Geoff Kelly Wine Reviews
Independent reviews of some local and imported wines available in New Zealand, including earlier vintages.

Geoff Kelly  MSc (Hons)

Conclusions from the tasting:
I have a soft spot for Chateauneuf-du-Pape,  having first been won over to the district via a case of Jaboulet's 1978 Chateauneuf-du-Pape les Cedres.  The winestyle is so extraordinarily compatible with food,  especially savoury main courses such as casseroles and roasts.  Since then,  Robert Parker is on record as saying that there is more Chateauneuf-du-Pape in his personal cellar than any other kind of wine,  and he too comments on the delights of the winestyle with food.

Over the years I have checked Chateauneuf-du-Papes as opportunity offered,  but rarely found the magical combination of florality,  aromatics,  body and flavour,  yet supple texture like a large-scale pinot noir,  that the original 1978 Les Cedres demonstrated.  Meanwhile,  less highly regarded (and expensive) Southern Rhone appellations,  especially Gigondas,  and even selected Cotes-du-Rhones,  have continued to delight me,  at table.

So when John Livingstone-Learmonth categorically stated that 2010 was the best vintage in Chateauneuf-du-Pape since 1978,  and other wine luminaries chimed in with similar views (if sometimes only by implication,  for example,  Jancis Robinson marking 2010 Clos des Papes 19,  a level of scoring she very rarely approaches),  I resolved to secure a cross-section of the 2010 Chateauneuf-du-Papes for future reference,  and hopefully delight.  This was easier said than done;  few seemed to reach New Zealand.

I had hoped to wait 10 years,  to first see them at an appropriate point of early maturity,  softening,  and charm.  But this year,  I could wait no longer.  In offering to share a Library Tasting of the 2010 Chateauneuf-du-Papes at Regional Wines,  Wellington,  little did I expect it to sell out almost overnight.

And what of the wines ?  In a word,  sensational.  I have never seen a line-up of Chateauneuf-du-Papes which are so vibrant,  aromatic,  fresh,  and enchanting.  They are simply wonderful examples of the district at its very best.  Every word John Livingstone-Learmonth has said is true.  Participants in this tasting seemed as enchanted as I was,  both in the tasting itself,  and the identifications of the wines as they were progressively revealed at the discussion stage.  The only caveat I have is,  these wines,  these grapes,  do not need to be ripened quite so much,  delivering alcohols often at a given 15% – so perhaps even more in the bottle.  The few wines labelled at 14% did stand out for their more supple charm.  But in the face of such aromatic fresh magnificence overall,  it seems carping to comment unduly on the alcohol.

Eleven of the 12 wines were a delight,  but the top few were dream bottles for the cellar.  From the left:  2010  Domaine Les Cailloux,  not the biggest,  but very fragrant and beautiful,  18.5 +;  2010  Domaine Charvin,  as always,  definitive traditional Chateauneuf (apart from the ugly bottle),  no new oak,  19;  2010  Domaine de la Janasse Vieilles Vignes,  off-the-scale concentration,  to cellar for a lifetime,  19;  2010  Clos des Papes,  great beauty,  no new oak,  also definitive,  19.5;  2010  Le Clos du Caillou La Reserve,  wondrously fine-grained,  like a huge Cote de Nuits wine,  extraordinary,  19.5 +.

My reviews of the wines follow below,  after the introductory quite lengthy handout of background information I prepared for tasters.  The goal was to both set the scene for participants,  and convey the excitement others had found in these 2010 wines.

Introduction to Chateauneuf-du-Pape
Only four times in the last 46 vintages 1970 – 2015 has Robert Parker / The Wine Advocate allocated a score of 98 to a Southern Rhone vintage:  2010 is one of them.  Wine Spectator is more conservative,  having gone to 97 twice in that time span,  but their rating for 2010 is 98.  So we have an exciting tasting.  Yet with the recent strength of the New Zealand dollar,  prices have remained accessible,  for wines of absolute world quality.

The better Southern Rhone Vintages of the last 45 years  (90 or more),  compiled from Broadbent (to 2002),  
Parker (from 1970),  Wine Spectator (from 1988),  and John Livingstone-Learmonth (checking detail).  For the
Parker rating,  R = Ready,  T = Tannic,  I = Inconsistent:

YEARParker rating
for the year
Wine Spectator
for the year
Broadbent or Wine Spectator summary for the year:
N/A  [  regarded by many as the post-war reference year ]
Hot year; powerful, concentrated reds now hitting their prime;
intense ripe fruit and generous in style; round tannins.
Massive wines with great concentration.
Many tough, tannic reds, Chateauneufs improving beautifully.
Dense and rich; superb Grenache harvest led to blockbuster reds
with ripe tannins.
Syrah- and Mourvedre-based wines offer lovely balance and
length; Grenache-based wines less successful.
Powerful and rich; plump and ripe reds with silky tannins.
Great vintage of racy, structured reds in Chateauneuf-du-Pape.
Very hot, dry vintage produced a crop of powerful, ripe reds.
Rugged tannins need time, but best superb; some inconsistency.
Third year of drought, well-timed rain. Great concentration,
purity, structure, cellaring potential. Should rival '98 and '90.
Ripe, pure and balanced reds, fresh flavors, bright finishes.
Like 2004/1999 but slightly more concentrated.
Ripe, rich, powerful reds thanks to long Indian summer at
harvest time. Grenache is heady and rich, so Mourvedre and
Cinsaut key for balance. Best wines are classic hedonist
delights, some over the top but superb.
Warm, dry growing season ... ripening fast but even; grapes
retained acidity thanks to cool nights. Reds have pure fruit and
polished tannins.
Cool spring ... reduced crop; growing season marked by warm
days and cool nights, late harvest ... resulting in beautifully
ripe, racy, terroir-driven wines for aging. The spine of '05 with
extra flesh
Small crop ... Grenache, but the wines are fine-grained and
lengthy, with deliciously ripe flavors; well-balanced and should
cellar well
94 – 97
Ideal spring ... rains in August ... earlier-ripening Viognier and
Syrah lesser, while later-ripening Grenache and Mourvedre
excelled;  best vintage since 2010, powerful.

Character and reputation of the wines:
The Chateauneuf-du-Pape appellation covers 3,200 ha (7,900 acres),  far larger than all the Northern Rhone appellations put together.  To quote Jancis Robinson,  the district produces:  ... mainly rich, spicy, full-bodied red wines which can be some of the most alluring expressions of warm-climate viticulture,  but can also be either impossibly tannic or disappointingly jammy.  It seems fair to comment that Chateauneuf-du-Pape is not Robinson's favourite winestyle,  whereas it ranks particularly highly in Robert Parker's estimation.  

Parker,  1987:  Chateauneuf-du-Pape has the potential to consistently produce some of the finest and longest-lived wines in the world. ... Chateauneuf-du-Pape is a rich full-bodied wine that drinks well young but can easily age for one or two decades. It does not have a reputation for great longevity, but the wines of the top producers will certainly keep. In the course of research and tastings for this book ... 1949 ... [ to ] ... 1969 ... Mont-Redon ... Beaucastel ... Jaboulet Les Cedres. All had great depth of fruit and vitality and offered as much complexity and pleasure as any great Bordeaux or burgundy I have ever consumed. The price for top Chateauneuf-duPape seems modest given the degree of majesty the wine can provide when fully mature. ... It is beyond question that the top estate-bottled Chateauneuf-du-Papes compete with the finest burgundies and Bordeaux,  yet cost significantly less.

By 1997,  for the second edition of his invaluable book on the wines of the Rhone Valley,  Parker went on to introduce the scope of the book thus:  At Cote Rotie and Hermitage there are red wines that undoubtedly have the complexity and richness of the finest classified-growth Bordeaux or grand cru Burgundies. ... But the finest values of the entire Rhone Valley, if not all France, for distinctive, long-lived red wines are in Chateauneuf-du-Pape and Gigondas. ... Given their consistency in quality and performance, the top Rhone Valley wines possess a longevity potential equaled only by a handful of California Cabernets and the finest Bordeaux chateaus.

Grapes,  Yield,  Quality etc:
Chateauneuf-du-Pape is famous for being the first wine district in France to institute harvest yield,  ripeness and quality specifications for the district (in 1923).  They were the foundation for the subsequent national Appellation d'Origine Controlée scheme.  The base yield for absolute quality in the Chateauneuf-du-Pape district has long aimed for 35 hl/ha (4.6 t/ha = 1.85 t/ac),  one of the lowest in France.  In recent years average yield for the better wines has been c. 32 hL / ha = just over 4 t/ha = 1.6 t/ac.  It is a key factor in the quality of these wines.  The contrast with some wineries in New World countries is vivid.  

Cepage:  The southern Rhone Valley is famous for its diversity of grape types.  In Chateauneuf-du-Pape 13 varieties are authorised,  actually 15 if the colour forms of grenache and picpoul are counted.  They are tabulated below – the percentages being an indication only.  [ The latest 2015 edition of the Oxford Companion to Wine in fact now lists 18 varieties in Appendix 1:  Controlled Appellations and their Permitted Grape Varieties.  The three extra are even subtler variants of existing grapes,  namely:  clairette rose,  grenache gris,  piquepoul gris.  The main 15 are listed.]

   Red varieties:
   grenache noir                     (72%)
   syrah                                  (10.5%)                         
   mourvedre = mataro          (7%)
   cinsaut                               (2.5%)
   counoise                            (0.5%)
   muscardin                          (0.4%)
   vaccarese                          (0.15%)
   terret noir                           (0.05%)
   piquepoul noir                    (< 0.05%)

   White varieties:
   clairette                          (2.5%)
   grenache blanc              (2%)                    
   roussanne                      (1.2%, the finest white)   
   bourboulenc                   (1%)
   piquepoul blanc             (0.15%)
   picardin                          (0.05%)

Main Grapes:  the main red grapes of the district are grenache,  syrah,  mourvedre,  and cinsaut.  Chateauneuf-du-Pape permits 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% may be quite acceptable.  Either syrah or mourvedre is the next most important in quality terms.  Both add darker berry notes and complexity,  and (from syrah) 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 (in the South),  particularly in its tannin structure.  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,  at best adding softness and perfume.  A few of the greatest wines of the district are made from grenache alone,  but only where there are old vines approaching 100 years age,  and cropping is kept to the order of 2.5 t/ ha = 1 t/ac.

Vinification:  traditionally Chateauneuf-du-Pape was picked somewhat earlier,  with more producers fermenting with stems,  in longer fermentations.  This approach leads to more fragrant and fine-grained-wines,  with lower alcohols,  and sometimes better cellar potential.  Many producers still following this approach also tend to not use new oak,  nor even small wood,  which further emphasises the varietal aromas,  flavours,  complexity and beauty of the winestyle.  With the American-led demand for bigger,  softer,  lusher wines,  latterly more and more producers are both picking later,  and destemming completely.  The resulting wines tend to be less floral,  have more emphasis on berry-fruit flavours and lush textures,  are more alcoholic,  and are accessible somewhat earlier.  The same market also likes the more obvious aromas of new oak more than specific grape varietal aromas and flavours,  so more and more producers are using new oak,  and even small new oak.  The result has been more and more alcoholic and 'obvious' wines,  rather than subtle burgundian ones.  Some refer to this as the 'internationalisation' of wines.  Having learned what style of Chateauneuf you like,  it is worth keeping tabs on the maker's winemaking approach,  to maybe identify other producers working the same way.

Another group of wines in the more accessible camp are those made with a high percentage of whole bunches,  or even by the carbonic maceration method,  as in Beaujolais.  These wines are alleged not to keep,  but to quite a degree this depends on the elevage.  Last year the Domaine de Nalys I presented in a 1998 Chateauneuf vintage review in Auckland was a stand-out,  at 18 years age.  Correlating cause and effect in winemaking and wine is a lifetime study.  

The bottles:  One of the joys of Chateauneuf has been the handsome beautifully embossed dead-leaf green bottle saying Chateauneuf-du-Pape Controlé usually in gothic script,  with a papal tiara placed above the keys of St Pierre.  This bottle was created in 1937 on the initiative of the Syndicat des Propriétaires Viticulteurs de Chateauneuf-du-Pape.  Producers wishing to use it had to estate-bottle their wine.  In later years first one then another producer organisation sprang up,  and squabbles ensued as to who could use the original bottle,  or if a fee was payable.  Thus arose the hideously ugly modern bottle called La Mitrale.  Other producers went their own way,  and designed their own bottles.  And there is now a fourth more nondescript bottle design which seems to be used by Co-ops and lesser producers.  Finally,  some producers use plain bottles.  We have nearly all patterns in the tasting.                                                      

Related winemaking factors to consider:  Traditionally,  the big challenge for the antipodean wine-lover has been to find clean wines.  In past decades French winemakers and European winewriters have been to varying degrees blind to sulphide,  which has the unfortunate effect of making the whole wine dumb.  This is exacerbated by many of them being made in concrete vats,  where aeration is difficult.  Nowadays,  switched-on winemakers (and winewriters) are becoming much more conscious that these Southern Rhone grapes are gloriously fragrant when not over-ripened,  and the wines are sufficiently aerated.  The goal is to find wines redolent of floral notes such as carnations / wallflowers / dark roses,  lavender,  rosemary (the so-called 'garrigue' note) sometimes with a touch of cinnamon spice (from grenache) or white or black pepper spice (from syrah).  Many are still made in concrete,  a number now in stainless steel,  supplemented by big old wood.  Producers aiming for a more modern style use new and smaller oak,  but the varieties scarcely need it,  due to their intrinsic tannins – especially in mourvedre.  All too often,  the Reserve bottlings with more new oak are lesser wines than the straight ones,  but appeal to the American market where bigger and heavier is favoured over light and beautiful.  The best wines cellar beautifully for a surprisingly long time.  And the more traditional styles with less new oak are wonderfully food-friendly,  even with our fragrant yeast-friend brett ... or were until the now-all-pervasive American influence on public wine-taste led to over-ripening,  even in 'perfect' years like 2010,  and hence alcohols higher than are enjoyable at table.  

The key issue nowadays is to find fragrant wines with alcohols more at the 13.5 to 14.5% level,  implying appropriate ripeness and the chance of florality,  as they used to be prior to the 1990s.  The current fad for super-ripe American-style wines averaging 15% is on the path to sur-maturité,  with little chance of floral aromas,  something French winemakers have traditionally avoided.  It is puzzling therefore why they have been sucked into the American-led super-ripe syndrome.  By all accounts,  in Bordeaux the tide is now turning on this matter:  let us hope it will in Chateauneuf-du-Pape too.  Look for a good percentage of mourvedre in the cepage,  for cellaring wines.

The original Invitation to the Tasting:
After listing the wines (see below),  the Invitation went on to say:  Our tasting includes 11 Chateauneuf-du-Papes,  one a Parker 100-point wine,  one 99,  and one Cotes-du-Rhone to see if one can buy a fair part of the quality for less than half the price (with care).  They should sum up the 2010 vintage.

There is little doubt that the 2010 vintage in Chateauneuf-du-Pape is arguably the top vintage of our lifetime,  or at least since the 1978 vintage.  And the wines are relatively rare due to a reduced crop.  This is an opportunity to taste not only some of the most famous wines of the district,  but also three of John Livingstone-Learmonth's six-star wines (* in the reviews below).  Between them,  they should define the Chateauneuf-du-Pape style for us.  There are nine others,  including one from a related appellation to add focus.  Plus there is a study of the tiers of quality some proprietors now offer – something hard to achieve in New Zealand.  I am not aware of any tasting of the 2010 Chateauneufs having been presented in New Zealand before.

Further,  the wines of the Southern Rhone Valley are supremely food-friendly.  Chateauneuf-du-Pape in particular is wonderful with larger-scaled savoury food.  They are Robert Parker's favourite food wines (Parker,  1997:  Let me make this short and simple – I love a great Chateauneuf-du-Pape. ... In spite of having an amazingly diverse taste for so many different kinds of wine, I drink more Chateauneuf-du-Pape than any other kind of wine.).

Here are the views of the authorities on the 2010 vintage in Chateauneuf-du-Pape:

The Fédération des Syndicats de Producteurs de Chateauneuf-du-Pape,  quoted by Jancis Robinson:  Due to an average yield of 27 hl/ha (35 hl/ha being the maximum yield authorised by the appellation regulations) the vintage 2010 will be remembered as one of the lowest in terms of quantity, and one of the best in terms of quality. [ 27 hl/ha = 3.5 t/ha = 1.4 t/ac;  35 hl/ha = 4.55 t/ha = 1.84 t/ac ]  ... Summer rainfall in 2010 was one of the lowest since 1871.  ... As in 2009, this vintage's quality and characteristics are due to the climatic conditions: a rainy springtime and a dry summer enabled the grapes to be healthy and have an interesting tannic structure. On the other hand, cool nights allowed the synthesis of anthocyanins and polyphenols ... Finally, there is no doubt that this vintage offers a very strong ageing potential.

Robert Parker,  2011:  This is a great vintage that comes close in quality to 2007 in the southern Rhone. Some producers think 2010 eclipses 2007 because of the wines' vivid freshness and focus. Throughout the southern Rhone, the hallmarks of the vintage are ... very dense purple, sometimes even blue/black colors as well as higher acid levels that have not been seen since 2004 and 2001. In fact, 2010's paradox is that I can't remember a vintage so concentrated, powerful and rich that also has such zesty acidity. The pHs are lower across the board than in 2009 and 2007, and the acids are higher.  ... The 2010s will have significant aging potential, which is obvious in the level of tannins, but the tannins are sweet with exceptional elegance and finesse.

John Livingstone-Learmonth:  [ And finally,  the last word to now the leading authority on the wines of the Rhone Valley,  John Livingstone-Learmonth ]:  I place 2010 in the top three of my 40 years covering the Rhone, alongside the 1978 and the 1990, ... the wines are ripe, harmonious, with gentle tannins and a depth of fruit that means they will develop evenly for many years. [ It is ] close to the legendary 1978 at the same stage of its life.

As a general comment on the above observations,  I would disqualify 1990 from the highest rank,  in that so many wines displayed a level of ripeness / over-ripeness closer to 1998.  Likewise,  2007 displays a lushness and over-ripeness reflecting current American ideals of quality,  not at all matching the aromatic 1978 vintage.  Thus,  re-reading the full Parker text above in the light of these qualifications,  2010 emerges as supremely exciting.  

Broadbent,  Michael,  2003:  Michael Broadbent's Wine Vintages.  Mitchell Beazley,  223 p.
Karis,  Harry,  2009:  The Chateauneuf-du-Pape Wine Book  Kavino,  488 p.
Parker,  Robert,  1987:  Wines of the Rhone Valley and Provence.  Simon & Schuster,  456 p.  
Parker,  Robert,  1997:  Wines of the Rhone Valley.  Simon & Schuster,  685 p.  
Robinson,  Jancis,  and Julia Harding  (Eds),  2015:  Oxford Companion to Wine.  Oxford University Press,  912 p.
www.chateauneuf.dk/en/front.htm    A private site chockful of info on the district      
www.drinkrhone.com  =  John Livingstone-Learmonth  (subscription needed)  NB:  J. L-L uses SIX stars.
www.jancisrobinson.com = Jancis Robinson MW & Julia Harding MW mainly (subscription needed)
www.robertparker.com = Robert Parker and Jeb Dunnuck (subscription needed)
www.winespectator.com = James Molesworth mainly (subscription needed)

The original indispensable references for the wines of the Rhone Valley are Parker,  1987,  and the second edition,  1997.  They are now out print,  but are freely available overseas second-hand for literally a few dollars (e.g. www.abebooks.com).  In 2009 Dutch medico Harry Karis produced a splendidly illustrated book concentrating on Chateauneuf alone,  well worth having.  The new guru on the Rhone Valley is John Livingstone-Learmonth,  whose book on the Northern Rhone is 'the bible'.  We await a companion volume for the South.  Meanwhile his quirky website www.drinkrhone.com is a both a delight and a frustration.


#  The price given below is the current wine-searcher  value,  which gives an indication of the broader market estimation of the wine now.  The wines marked with an asterisk * are three of the nine rated SIX stars in this vintage by John Livingstone-Learmonth,  in his rating of over 175  2010 Chateauneuf-du-Papes.  Production detail is gratefully acknowledged to J.L-L (mostly),  noting that his cepage details give the percentages for the range of vintage qualities year to year,  so no attempt has been made to have the percentages for the varieties add to 100.  They are simply a guide to the ratios.

2010  Ch de Beaucastel Chateauneuf-du-Pape *
2010  Domaine Charvin Chateauneuf-du-Pape *
2010  Clos des Papes Chateauneuf-du-Pape *
2010  Le Clos du Caillou Chateauneuf-du-Pape La Reserve
2010  Le Clos du Caillou Chateauneuf-du-Pape Les Quartz
2010  Le Clos du Caillou Chateauneuf-du-Pape Les Safres
  2010  Domaine Les Cailloux Chateauneuf-du-Pape (Brunel)
2010  Guigal Chateauneuf-du-Pape
2010  Domaine de la Janasse Chateauneuf-du-Pape Vieilles Vignes
2010  Domaine du Pegau Chateauneuf-du-Pape
2010  Saint Cosme Cotes-du-Rhone Les Deux Albion
2010  Tardieu-Laurent Chateauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée Speciale

2010  Le Clos du Caillou Chateauneuf-du-Pape La Reserve   19 ½ +  ()
Southern Rhone Valley,  France:  15%;  $246   [ cork,  55 mm;  Gr 50 – 65%,  Mv 25 – 50,  Sy 0 – 10;  some whole bunches,  fermented in cuves,  cuvaison 40 days;  elevation 15 – 18 months in puncheons 30% new;  fined,  filtered,  organic;  reviews for this wine are almost completely lacking,  so J.L-L is quoted nearly in full:  Sleekly fruited, Morello black cherry aroma with wispy coffee notes ... soaked black cherries, plus a curious note of anchovy ... The palate has ... precise, crystalline black fruit at its heart ... Shapely tannins line its sides through to the finale, ****(*);  typical production up to 500  9-litre cases;  weight bottle and closure:  749 g;  www.closducaillou.com ]
Good ruby,  a little development showing,  midway in depth.  Bouquet is simply exhilarating,  beautiful aromatic garrigue / floral top notes on red and black fruits,  savoury,  enticing,  almost saliva-inducing.  Flavour is extraordinary,  black cherry in an aromatic way,  potentially velvety texture (despite the given alcohol) which is wondrously fine-grained,  the whole mouthfeel reminiscent of a big,  slightly spirity,  dark Cote-de-Nuits wine.  This wine is so rich,  the new oak component is near-invisible,  yet it adds wonderful vibrancy and length.  This is a very special wine,  with a totally glorious flavour,  to cellar 10 – 35 years.  Nine people rated this their top or second wine,  in the set of 12.  GK 06/17

2010  Clos des Papes Chateauneuf-du-Pape *   19 ½  ()
Southern Rhone Valley,  France:  15%;  $204   [ cork,  50 mm;  Gr 55 – 65%,  Mv 20 – 25,  Sy 10,  others 5;  all destemmed,  21 days cuvaison;  elevation c.12 months in large foudres,  no new oak;  not fined or filtered;  just the one cuvée of Chateauneuf;  J.L-L:  magic fruit; very long, beats 1990, ******;  Robinson,  2012:  Lots of black fruits on the nose (c’est très kirsché, says Avril approvingly) and a hint of animal and masses of matter. Lots of tannin and a bit of alcohol on the end. Needs lots of time. Very deep and long, 19;  Parker,  2012: ... gorgeously pure black raspberry, black currant and kirsch liqueur notes intermixed with notions of spring flowers, tapenade, licorice and spice box ... full-bodied ... remarkably fresh and well-delineated, 99;  typical production 6,500 – 7,500  9-litre cases;  weight bottle and closure:  688 g;  www.clos-des-papes.fr ]
Good ruby,  scarcely distinguishable from the Caillou La Reserve in weight,  fractionally fresher in hue,  in the middle of the field for depth.  The freshness and volume of red and black cherry fruit pouring from the glass here is extraordinary.  It is not quite so garrigue-aromatic as the top Caillou,  instead just a hint of cinnamon.  Palate is a little fresher and more tanniny at this stage,  but again wonderful potential texture.  Wines like these remind you yet again how coarse in texture so much allegedly premium Australian red wine is,  with their almost invariable tartaric acid adjustment harshness,  further exacerbated by excess new oak.  Clos des Papes has no new oak at all,  yet has a superb tannin structure.  This and the Caillou La Reserve are Chateauneufs of the highest rank,  of a quality rarely encountered.  Tasters did not share my enthusiasm for this wine,  perhaps because it was wine 12 and fatigue was setting in (with the higher alcohols),  perhaps because the wine is relatively subtle,  only one person rating it second.  Cellar 10 – 35 years.  GK 06/17

2010  Domaine Charvin Chateauneuf-du-Pape *   19  ()
Southern Rhone Valley,  France:  15%;  $86   [ cork,  50 mm;  Gr 82 – 85% averaging 50 years age,  Sy 5 – 8,  Mv 5,  vaccarese 5;  whole bunches included,  cuvaison to 25 days,  18 – 21 months in concrete,  no oak at all now;  fined,  not filtered;  the key factor at Charvin is the production of only one wine,  no luxury cuvée etc;  J.L-L:  classy, full, complex, ******;  Robinson,  2011:  Sweet, lifted, lightly jammy nose. Sweet elderberry flavours. Very focused with firm tannins. Dry finish, 17;  Parker,  2012:  ... black raspberry, black currant, garrigue, licorice and lavender characteristics. Full-bodied with undeniable elegance, minerality and precision, 95+;  typical production 2,500  9-litre cases;  weight bottle and closure:  645 g;  www.domaine-charvin.com ]
Ruby,  some development showing,  just above midway in depth.  This is an absolutely wonderful Charvin.  There is in an extraordinary vibrancy to the berry quality in Domaine Charvin,  due to its virtual lack of oak handling.  You feel in this wine the mourvedre is showing an influence far beyond its given percentage,  there being vibrant black plum / black olive notes on the raspberry / loganberry backbone.  Texture is silky,  even though the alcohol is given as 15%.  As always (virtually),  Charvin is one of the definitive Chateauneuf-du-Papes for its year,  if you want to understand the cepage of the district without the complications of oak.  The tannin structure here is fresh and just wonderful.  One could not own too much of this wine (ugly bottles aside).  Cellar 10 – 25 years.  Four tasters rated this their top or second wine.  GK 06/17

2010  Domaine de la Janasse Chateauneuf-du-Pape Vieilles Vignes   19  ()
Southern Rhone Valley,  France:  15.5%;  $262   [ cork,  50 mm;  Gr 65 – 90% more than 70 years old,  Sy 3 – 20,  Mv 2 – 15,  other vars 2 – 4;  20% whole-bunch,  28 days cuvaison;  elevation 75% in vat,  25% in small wood new to 3 years old for 12 months,  then to vat;  fined,  not filtered;  J.L-L: ... blackberry coulis flavour, has smoky tannin inset ... licorice effects late on, ****(*);  Robinson, 2011:  Open and a bit splayed really. Awkward astringency on the finish. Very chewy!, 16;  Parker, 2012:  A huge bouquet of pure blackberry and black currant fruit intermixed with charcoal, incense, truffles and spring flowers is followed by a prodigious, full-bodied wine ..., 100;  typical production up to 1,250  9-litre cases;  weight bottle and closure:  655 g;  www.lajanasse.com ]
Rich fresh ruby,  the deepest wine.  This wine is a little out to one side,  the bouquet incredibly dark yet sensuous,  an almost midnight-deep dusky red floral and aromatic quality on berry aromatics hinting at super-ripe blackcurrants and darkest plums,  all lifted by garrigue aromatics and stunning purity – and alcohol.  Flavour is extraordinary:  I have never tasted a Chateauneuf-du-Pape like it.  The depth of concentration is off the scale,  I can't imagine what the dry extract for this wine would be,  but it tastes in the mid-thirties,  the wine showing an unbelievable texture and depth of cassis and blackberry fruit,  exactly as Parker says.  Oak is again subtle and simply extends the wine,  but the power and weight has a hint of young (but dry) vintage port to it,  so to me the wine is not quite so exhilarating as the top two.  The alcohol is noticeable.  A pity this was not one of the wines with a 54 – 55 mm cork,  since it will cellar for 50 years.  Phenomenal wine.  Seven people rated this their top or second wine.  GK 06/17

2010  Domaine Les Cailloux Chateauneuf-du-Pape (Brunel)   18 ½ +  ()
Southern Rhone Valley,  France:  14%;  $53   [ cork,  45 mm;   Gr 65 – 70%,  Mv 15 – 20,  Sy 10 – 12,  Ci & vaccarese 3 – 5;  20% whole bunches,  cuvaison 28 days,  Gr,  Ci & Va raised in vat,  Mv & Sy in new and 1-year small oak,  16 – 18 months;  not fined but is filtered;  J.L-L:   ... dark red berry, with classic herbs ... a lovely Grenache heart to it, very true ... is not overdone and heady like so many Chateauneufs, *****;  Parker,  2012:   gamy, meaty notes intermixed with bouquet garni, licorice, black currants and kirsch ... Spicy, fat, fleshy and evolved and forward for a 2010 ..., 93;  typical production up to 5000  9-litre cases;  weight bottle and closure:  653 g;  www.domaine-les-cailloux.fr ]
Ruby,  some development,  clearly below midway in depth.  This wine demonstrates an almost perfect ‘typical’ Chateauneuf-du-Pape bouquet,  at best I hasten to add.  The near-floral garrigue aromatics are sensational,  again almost mouthwatering,  on red fruits and lovely cedary oak,  illustrating that the Chateauneuf-du-Pape cepage can handle / benefit from appropriate oak.  Palate is lighter than the top wines,  but wonderfully supple and long all the same,  the enchanting garrigue notes persisting right through,  like rose florals in fine pinot noir.  It is good to see a pure Brunel too:  in earlier years there was brett chez Brunel.  The lighter alcohol here coupled with perfect ripeness highlights a fact more Chateauneuf-du-Pape producers need to be thinking about:  these wines don't need 15% plus ripeness / alcohol.  The whole recent trend to winemakers pursuing over-ripeness in the Rhone Valley has been a consequence of producers seeking high rankings from American-only wine reviewers.  It is time to say,  the world at large does not want this trend.  Cellar 5 – 20 years.  Two people rated this their top or second wine.  GK 06/17

2010  Guigal Chateauneuf-du-Pape   18 ½  ()
Southern Rhone Valley,  France:  14%;  $96   [ cork,  50mm;  Gr 80 – 85%,  Sy 5 – 10,  Mv 5,  others 5;  bought-in wine from up to 50 suppliers,  favouring older vines and lower yields;  24 months in foudre;  not fined,  filtered;  J.L-L:  red berry fruit ... a suggestion of flowers ... Strawberry and spice ... palate has good body, is a really structured Chateauneuf ... this captures the vintage freshness and its true depth, ****(*);  Parker,  2012:  abundant aromas of sweet kirsch, roasted herbs, lavender, Christmas fruitcake and spice ... dense, full-bodied, powerful, 92 – 94;  typical production uncertain,  both Karis and J.L-L give double the production Guigal does on his website,  which says 16,500  9-litre cases;  weight bottle and closure:  565 g;  www.guigal.com ]
Ruby,  some development showing,  well below midway.  In a blind tasting of Chateauneuf-du-Papes,  the Guigal example tends to stand out for its wineyness,  its elegance,  and its obvious cedary oak component.  This is a very fragrant wine,  all red fruits,  grenache seemingly dominant despite the cepage.  Palate is supple,  flavour is long,  there is not quite the varietal interest because the Guigal style superimposes itself,  via the fruit / cooperage interaction.  But as a wine with dinner,  it is obviously southern Rhone,  and will be a delight.  The fruit sweetness to the later palate is sensational.  In a sense the taste is a little older than most in the set,  but it will cellar for years,  say 5 – 20.  With its lower alcohol,  this wine will give much pleasure at table.  One person rated it their top or second wine.  GK 06/17

2010  Ch de Beaucastel Chateauneuf-du-Pape *   18 ½  ()
Southern Rhone Valley,  France:  14.5%;  $146   [ cork,  54 mm;  Gr 30%,  Mv 30,  Counoise 10,  Sy 7 – 10,  Ci 5,  all other varieties 15 – 18;  one unusual feature of the vinification at Ch de Beaucastel is the long-established use of a kind of must-pasteurisation,  whereby the destemmed must is heated to 80° C for at most 60 seconds,  then quickly cooled again.  The goal is to inhibit enzymatic degradation of the fruit.  Presumably by the same token,  cultured-yeast fermentations are then needed.  It is hard to establish the detail,  the winery website is mute on the topic,  but apparently it is used more for grenache than the other varieties (all 13 vars vinified separately),  and not in all vintages.  The individual varietal wines are then assembled to taste,  and the young wine matured in large older wood for 12 – 18 months;  some light fining,  not filtered;  J.L-L:  great; mix of 1989 & 1990, ******;  Robinson,  2011:  [ her rating is important,  since Chateauneuf-du-Pape does not appear to be her favourite winestyle,  her marks invariably far,  far lower than other reviewers ] Mourvedre was especially good in 2010, apparently … Appetising ... no heavy sweetness or alcohol. Really quite racy! Complex. Real lift ..., 18;  Parker,   2012:  This is a gorgeous wine ...bouquet garni, ... blackberry, kirsch, smoke and truffle ... full-bodied, rich,  95;   typical production 2,000  9-litre cases;  weight bottle and closure:  872 g;  www.beaucastel.com ]
Ruby,  some development showing,  the second lightest colour.  Bouquet is fragrant in a slightly different way from the wines marked more highly,  still attractive,  but a slightly citrussy Spanish oak note coupled with a soft rabbit-guts note (as when cleaning a rabbit) which fits in perfectly happily with the earthy / spicy dark fruits side of Chateauneuf-du-Pape.  Palate is a mixture of red and black cherry and plum fruit,  all faintly leathery,  not quite the vibrant freshness of some of the wines marked more highly,  but by the same token,  all very supple and food-friendly.  It is ‘smaller’ wine this year than Beaucastel normally is,  the Clos des Papes seeming huge in comparison.  Often it is the other way round.  Cellar 5 – 20 years.  Eight people rated this their top or second wine.  GK 06/17

2010  Le Clos du Caillou Chateauneuf-du-Pape Les Safres   18 ½  ()
Southern Rhone Valley,  France:  15%;  $58   [ cork,  50 mm;  Gr 100% in 2010 (usually 95%,  vaccarese 2 – 5,  Ci 0 – 2);  Les Safres (formerly Tradition) is the first or standard grade of our three Caillou wines,  illustrating the concept of producing a hierarchy of qualities;  all destemmed,  cuvaison 30 days;  15 – 18 months in large barrels none new;  fined,  filtered,  organic;  J.L-L:  genuine, unfussy, local, ***(*);  Robinson,  2012:  Big and bold and velvety without any excess, 17;  Dunnuck @ Parker,  2014:  plenty of peppery herbs, leather, licorice and darker-styled fruit … fabulous richness and texture, 94;  typical production 915  9-litre cases;  weight bottle and closure:  657 g;  www.closducaillou.com ]
Ruby,  some development showing,  just below midway in depth.  The first thing to say is,  this bottle is specifically different from the previous bottle reported on,  the earlier one being faintly reductive and needing splashy decanting.  This one is perfect from the outset.  It displays textbook garrigue aromatics on all-red fruits which will with time be definitive grenache,  raspberry and cinnamon,  even a hint of silver pine essential oil,  enchanting.  Palate is pure berry,  grenache of a quality,  suppleness and charm I have never encountered in grenache from Australia.  As an affordable Chateauneuf-du-Pape at release ($50),  the least of the three in the Clos du Caillou hierarchy in this tasting,  this wine is another candidate for the thought ‘most representative / typical Chateauneuf’ in the set,  despite the mono-cepage approach.  Cellar 5 – 20 years.  One person rated it their second wine.  GK 06/17

2010  Saint Cosme Cotes-du-Rhone Les Deux Albion   18 +  ()
Southern Rhone Valley,  France:  14%;  $30   [ cork,  50 mm;  Sy 40%,  Gr 30,  Mv 10,  Ca 10,  clairette (white) 10%,  the Sy and clairette co-fermented;  some whole-bunch,  cuvaison usually 4 weeks;  the greater part of the 2010 was raised in concrete vats,  the balance in 1 – 4 years-old larger barrels;  J.L-L:  Soaked black cherries, cassis liqueur – the bouquet is wide and abundant ... also shows black olives ... plenty of gourmand black fruit ... tannins are ripe, ***(*);  Parker,  2012:  lovely notes of marmalade, honeysuckle, white peaches, cassis and black cherries ... full-bodied, luscious, supple-textured, 90;  typical production up to 5,000  9-litre cases;  weight bottle and closure:  590 g;  www.saintcosme.com ]
Surprisingly fresh deep ruby,  the second deepest colour.  Why a Cotes du Rhone,  in a Chateauneuf-du-Pape tasting,  you may ask.  The goal here was to see if a carefully selected Cotes du Rhone could offer much of the substance and charm of Chateauneuf-du-Pape,  at one-half to one-quarter the price.  The fact that in the blind ranking exercise before the wines are revealed,  no less than five tasters had this as their top or second wine of the 12,  and not one person in 22 tasters voted it a Cotes du Rhone,  in answer to a direct question on that matter,  illustrates what can be achieved,  with some research / effort.  Bouquet is rich,  dry,  not exactly fragrant in a garrigue sense,  more darkly plummy with cinnamon and nutmeg overtones.  Richness and texture are astonishing for a Cotes du Rhone,  but Les Deux Albion has for years now offered stellar value in the appellation.  It is one of the gems in Paul Mitchell’s (The Wine Importer,  Kumeu) lineup.  The wine is plummy,  softly furry dry tannins,  not a lot of oak,  the carignan maybe adding to the tannin structure but the clairette invisible.  In contradistinction to the shortsighted / consumerist views of American wine review websites,  cellar this wine 5 – 20 years.  GK 06/17

2010  Tardieu-Laurent Chateauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée Speciale   18  ()
Southern Rhone Valley,  France:  14%;  $71   [ cork,  54 mm;  Gr 100%,  90 + years,  much of it from La Crau;  all whole bunches in this cuvée;  elevation 24 months in large barrels,  some new;  not fined or filtered;  T-L regard this 2010 as exceptional;  Harding @ Robinson,  2011:  Much paler than the Vieilles Vignes cuvée and rather more subdued on the nose ... clearly made from very superior fruit ... much, much chewier than the Vieilles Vignes [which she marked 18.5], 18;  Parker,  2011: ... tightly knit ... sweet raspberry and black cherry fruit, lots of tannin, a meaty, dusty, loamy soil/underbrush character, and considerable body,  90 – 92+;  typical production up to 1,000  9-litre cases;  weight bottle and closure:  649 g;  www.tardieu-laurent.fr ]
Light ruby,  some garnet,  the lightest wine.  Bouquet is distinctive,  the wine even more clearly cedary-oaky than the Guigal,  with an almost citrus-zest note to the oak like some Riojas.  Below there is lovely raspberry fruit suggesting high grenache.  Tasting the wine,  it is as if Tardieu-Laurent have copied the Guigal approach,  but more so on the oak side.  The palate really is quite tempranillo / Rioja-like,  attractive citrussy / cedary oak right through,  but all fine-grain and supple,  no harshness.  An unusual interpretation of Chateauneuf-du-Pape,  but attractive.  Cellar 5 – 15 years,  maybe longer.  Nobody rated this their top or second wine.  GK 06/17

2010  Domaine du Pegau Chateauneuf-du-Pape   17 ½  ()
Southern Rhone Valley,  France:  14%;  $142   [ cork,  50 mm;  Gr 80 – 85%,  Sy 9,  Mv 5 – 6,  trace Ci and counoise;  whole bunches retained;  elevation 90% in foudre,  10 in old barrels 18 – 24 months depending on vintage;  J.L-L: floral, classy, *****;  Parker,  2012:  a fabulous wine of exceptional intensity, tremendous flavor authority and full-bodied power ... lots of Provencal herb, smoky, meaty, kirsch, black currant and blackberry notes ... a slightly more vibrant finish [than the 2009], 96 - 98+;  typical production 5,400 – 6,250  9-litre cases;  weight bottle and closure:  653 g;  www.pegau.com ]
Ruby and garnet,  above midway in depth.  One sniff,  and this wine has to be the Pegau in the blind tasting,  totally true to itself,  wonderfully fragrant with all the key Chateauneuf-du-Pape attributes,  garrigue,  red fruits etc,  but also clear savoury brett,  as always.  Palate is velvety,  no other word for it,  the charm of old oak elevation,  the flavour exactly as rather many great Chateauneuf-du-Papes were in the 1990s. This was before the world learnt about brett,  and took little heed of the sometimes one-eyed views of scientists,  who said brett was ‘a bad thing’.  As it can be in excess.  But the fact is,  at this level,  most people love it.  This wine is on the right side of the line,  just,  and will probably simply dry out only a little prematurely,  developing evermore savoury / nutmeggy smells and flavours.  Such wines are sensational with savoury foods such as venison casserole,  or as one thoughtful taster suggested,  steak and kidney pudding.  Cellar 5 – 15 years,  at  least.  Three people rated this their top or second wine.  GK 06/17

2010  Le Clos du Caillou Chateauneuf-du-Pape Les Quartz   17  ()
Southern Rhone Valley,  France:  15%;  $96   [ cork,  50 mm;  Gr 85%,  Sy 15;  some destemmed,  fermented in cuves;  Gr aged in older larger barrels,  Sy newer small barrels,  15 – 17 months;  fined,  filtered,  organic;  J.L-L:  fine richness; fresh end, *****;  Robinson,  2012:  ... warm, spicy and alluring on the nose. Hint of cocoa powder but lots of freshness too. Very glamorous and appealing. Lift and polish but masses of character and good structure under all that ripe fruit with herbal topnotes ... Manages to be both racy and voluptuous,  18.5;  Dunnuck @ Parker,  2014:  Even better ... additional depth and richness, with ample dark fruits, blackberry, crushed rock and edgy minerality giving way to a full-bodied, big, powerful wine,  96;   typical production 800 – 1,000  9-litre cases;  weight bottle and closure:  765 g ]
Ruby,  some development showing,  the third to deepest wine.  One sniff,  and this wine throws into vivid relief just how fresh,  aromatic,  and excellent the other eleven are.  Les Quartz smells over-ripe,  not fresh aromatic fruits but instead raisiny fruit going on pruney.  Otherwise,  it is rich and pure.  In mouth the wine is furry-rich,  tactile fruit,  velvety,  noticeably alcoholic,  but all the flavours like a big 1998 (or some 2009) Chateauneuf-du-Pape.  It is totally at odds with the Les Safres,  and La Reserve,  from the same producer.  Even so the richness and softness is appealing,  in its style.  Strange none of the overseas reviews comment on the marked over-ripeness / quite different character of the wine,  vis a vis the other two 2010 Caillou wines.  Cellar 5 – 25 years.  Two people rated this their top or second wine,  but by the same token,  it was the only wine with a significant ‘least’ vote,  six tasters.  GK 06/17