Friday, January 15, 2010

Chateau Pesquie Terrasses Cotes du Ventoux, 2006

Knowing how much I like traditionally made wines, some of my friends--drinkers of oaky New World wines--give me a hard time about "stinky" Southern Rhones. In fact, none of the Southern Rhones I buy regularly--Sainte Anne, L'Oratoire Saint Martin, Font-Sane, Monardiere, Vieux Chene, Janasse, Grand Prieur--has ever given me a bottle that I considered "stinky," "tanky" or off in any way. This Chateau Pesquie Terrasses is a wine I have never bought before, but it comes highly rated and recommended by Robert Parker and many others. But it is stinky, no doubt about it.

I opened the bottle immediately after encountering a corked bottle from another estate (corked bottles can and do come from anywhere and cannot be attributed to the winemaker). So I thought there was still some residue in the glass creating the off odor. But no; it is stinky (probably mercaptan rather than H2S) and a bit spritzy on the tongue for a brief period. Otherwise, the wine is good--a deep, dark crimson color and good fruit sweetness on the palate. Blueberries, cassis, currants, reasonably deep and concentrated. Firm in the middle with a ripe finish. I don't question the 90 points Robert Parker gave this wine, but, for Ventoux, I prefer La Vieille Ferme and Font-Sane--both free of stinkiness and priced considerably less than this wine.


  1. Do you remember what you paid for this wine? It sounds like something that I would enjoy.

  2. I paid $9.99 at Russo's in Grand Rapids last Fall. Regular price was $15.99. I would imagine the 2007 has taken its place on the shelves by now, although Village Corner in Ann Arbor has both the 2006 and 2007.

    The stinkiness was gone by the second night, and the wine has good depth for a wine at this price range. I think 35% is aged in seasoned barriques, and that may add some complexity

  3. I bought a case of this at about ten bucks a bottle based on rave reviews--and yes, even 12 mos later it's still stinky--I thought maybe a little bottle age would help mellow it. So it's not my thing but good to know it's not off. I keep opening a bottle every so often, but most of it goes into the soup pot.

  4. Monica, I think the stinkiness stems from H2S (hydrogen sulfide). It's a common occurence at the end of the fermentation period--usually caused by the reaction of certain fermentation yeasts to sulfur that may have been dusted on the grapes before they were picked. It's a fairly common occurence, and it's the winemaker's job to catch it early and correct for it. An Australian winemaker friend who was staying at my home in Michigan told me he had to hurry home because he wasn't sure his assistant winemaker would note the H2S and correct for it should it occur.

    Poor sanitation can sometimes be the cause of this kind of stinkiness, but the artisan winemaking of the Southern Rhone gets more blame than it should. Pick up a bottle of La Vieille Ferme Cotes du Ventoux (same appellation, lower price) and the only smells you'll find are those you're supposed to get from Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre and Cinsault--blueberries, spice, peppercorn, Provencal herbs and flowers. Even the co-op wine from Ventoux (Mas des Trois Messes Basses) is rarely, if ever, stinky. Font-Sane is my favorite Ventoux. All of these are made traditionally--moreso than the Terrasse)--and I have never found sulfide smells in any of them.

    The Pesquie Terrasses is not "off." The stinkiness blows away and there are some nice flavors underneath. But the stinkiness is a winemaking flaw. And, I agree, it is strange that all the critics, with all their sensitive palates and noses, were unable to spot this very obvious flaw. I have learned that sometimes you have to be a bit skeptical of high ratings.

  5. Drank a bottle of the 2007 last night and felt the same stinkiness and the wine was a bit fizzy. A lot of oak too. Will try a second bottle. I am also very surprised that critics have not mentionned any of this at all.

  6. I don't have a lot of experience with Pesquie, but I do have a lot of experience with Cotes du Ventoux wines. This is one of my favorite appellations. Pesquie is the Ventoux most likely to get high marks from critics, but from my experience it is nowhere near as good as my favorites--wines that I have found to be excellent year after year: Font-Sane, la Vieille Ferme, les Trois Messes Basses and Marotte (I haven't encountered this label in my area since the 2001 vintage). All of these wines are priced about 50% lower than Pesquie.

    It's the same with simple Cotes du Rhones and some CDR Villages. The best wines, IMO, never get mentioned by the big name critics. My only guess is that these wines are represented by importers who network less effectively with these critics.