When the 1998 vintage arrived, it was touted as one of the best Southern Rhone vintages of the past two decades. My plan was to drink as much as I could of early drinking wines and lay away some of my favorites for aging. The first part of the plan worked well: I worked through several cases of Grand Prieur Cotes du Rhone, Font Sane Cotes du Ventoux, Pesquier Vin de Pays and Clos Saint Jean Les Calades. I kept the L'Espigouette Cotes du Rhone Villages a bit longer, but the wine was clearly showing its age when I drank the last bottle in 2006.
As I begin to dip into the wines I considered able to go 10 years and longer, I have a bit of trepidation because I've read mixed reports regarding 1998 Chateauneuf du Pape and Gigondas. Tasting this wine for the second time erased some of my fears. Although only a simple Cotes du Rhone, Domaine Sainte Anne has a solid track record for aging 10 years and longer, and this wine is doing quite well.
The color is a deep, brilliant crimson. The nose is classic Sainte Anne and beautiful: powerful scents of garrigue (Provencal herbs) and deep, deep fruit. Ripe blueberries in a warm pie crust, vanilla cream and a floral/herbal uplift. The aroma/flavor profile is very similar to the 2004 and 2005 Sainte Anne CDRs, just a bit deeper. The fruit is very strong and there is a creamy mouth feel without thickness.
As with other Sainte Anne wines, this was aged in concrete vats so the vanilla quality is NOT oak-influenced; the tannins all come from the peels and stems. Sainte Anne includes stems in the fermentation only in vintages when they are ripe and in good condition. Although the wine has big, ripe fruit smells and tastes that wine drinkers have come to expect from high-alcohol wines, the alcohol content in this CDR is a very modest 12 percent.