With the memory of the 2012 Domaine Pegau Chateauneuf du Pape still lingering in my memory from the night before, this inexpensive Cotes du Rhone was a delight to drink. The aroma of red berries, cherries and spice was powerful and similar to those of the Pegau Chateauneuf du Pape. But what's the surprise? Both wines are about 80% Grenache from what is obviously an excellent vintage for that grape. The Vieux Chene vineyards are only about 30 miles away from those of Pegau. But, oh, what a difference those 30 miles can make--a $90 Chateaneuf du Pape versus a $10 Cotes du Rhone!
The flavors of the Vieux Chene are equally intriguing--spicy and intense with a backbone of tannin and acid (although not as much nor as refined as in the Pegau). Lingering flavors of peppercorn and red spices. Of course, the $10 wine is less concentrated and lacks the depth of the Domaine Pegau Chateauneuf du Pape, and the Chateau Pegau Cotes du Rhone and Cotes du Rhone Villages. But it is still a delight to drink.
With all due respect to Laurence Feraud, the major difference is not the "superstar" winemaker, as some have suggested, but rather the vineyards and soil. Laurence Feraud is a great winemaker because she respects what the vines give her and lets the grapes speak in their own voice without the trappings of new oak and modern methods. Jean-Claude Bouchet of Vieux Chene follows much the same course. If you can't afford $90 for a bottle of wine, don't fret. It's still possible to find excellent traditionally made Cotes du Rhones and Cotes du Rhone Villages for a fraction of the price.