All three of the Rhone wines I drank this week--Couroulu, Vieux Chene and Grand Prieur--come from vines either in or only a few miles from Vacqueyras. And they share a black pepper/black fruit/black licorice/earthy/mineral element that I find typical of wines from this area. Bertin Gras of Grand Prieur has vineyards within the Vacqueyras appellation but for this wine chooses the simple Cotes du Rhone label in order to seek higher yields than the appellation rules allow.
It's still deep and dark, but some of the bluish tints it had a year ago are turning to garnet. The dark peppery aromas and flavors are pronounced now from the very first sniff. Threre is none of the funkiness of Couroulu and less subtlety than I found in Vieux Chene. The wine is full bodied and warm in the mouth with no hard edges, probably at its peak for most drinkers. I still have some of the 2005 Grand Prieur, and I'm anxious to try some very soon.