No Chateauneuf du Pape this year for Christmas dinner, but the 1998 Le Sang de Caillou Vacqueyras is a worthy stand-in. Compared to the Italian Nebbiolos on the table beside it, it has a somewhat rustic, earthy demeanor that is typical of its appellation.
Dark crimson. Cherries, berries, and spice with a touch of black pepper. Creamy smooth and somewhat fat on the palate, but that's in comparison to the Piedmont wines on the table. This is really a pretty spectacular wine and a perfect match for the New Zealand leg of lamb. Flavors get deeper and more enjoyable with every sip. It's really hard to quit sniffing and sipping.
This is probably the best Vacqueyras I've had and it competes favorably with many Chateauneufs du Pape.