Bernard Latour's Domaine de l'Espigouette Cotes du Rhone Villages was for years one of my favorite wines, packed with all the things I love in Southern Rhones--well focused blueberry fruit, black licorice, minerals, peppercorn and garrigue. Even in terrible vintages such as 1992, I could count on this wine to deliver the goods. When I finished my last bottle of a case of 1998 l'Espigouette CDR Villages, I knew I had to re-load, and the wine that was available at that time was this 2004 CDR Villages Plan de Dieu. The price had gone up a bit, but I figured that was because of the new upgraded appellation status for the Plan de Dieu. L'Espigouette (along with Favards and Vieux Chene) is located on the Plan de Dieu, and I assume that most of their grapes come from the Plan de Dieu, an excellent, long undervalued appellation for Cotes du Rhone.
All that said, I'm glad I bought a half case rather than a full one, because this Plan de Dieu wine has been disappointing from the beginning. It's neither too old nor too young, but it simply does not deliver the qualities that attracted me for so many years to Bernard Latour's CDR Villages.
The color is a medium deep ruby--no sign of anything wrong but not really as brilliant as I expect from the best wines. On the nose, I get ripe plums, flowers and spice--again not very bright or intense. And the flavors are much the same. If I were drinking this blind, I would have a hard time linking it to the Southern Rhone because it's basically lacking in varietal traits expected from Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault or Mourvedre. Where is the black licorice? Where is the pepper? Where are the blueberries? Where is the garrigue? The wine doesn't smell or taste oaky, but I suspect that some lots may have been aged in small barrels rather than traditional barriques. Or it may be that the grapes were picked a bit later than usual, resulting in overly ripe, stewed fruit. The alcohol level is 14%, and, for Southern Rhones, I consider 13.5% to be ideal for my taste.
The wine is pleasant enough; I suspect other tasters would like it more than I do. But I want my old-style Domaine de l'Espigouette Cotes du Rhone Villages. If I buy more recent vintages of this Plan de Dieu, I'll do so a bottle at a time.