Sunday, April 27, 2008

Reserve Grand Veneur Cotes du Rhone, 2005

This is a Cotes du Rhone produced by Alain Jaume's Chateauneuf du Pape estate that has received praise from influential critics such as Robert Parker and Steve Tanzer. It is ordinarily more expensive than other Cotes du Rhones, but when I saw it for $10 at Binny's in Chicago, I picked up a bottle to try.

The color is a very deep ruby, almost purplish. The first sniff reveals some hard tannins and then a burst of concentrated raspberry fruit with black peppercorns. The smells and flavors are what you'd expect from a good Cotes du Rhone in a good vintage. The cepage is 70 percent Grenache, 20 percent Syrah, and the berry/pepper qualities are all present. But there are more hard tannins on the mid-palate than I would expect. Those tannins, plus the purplish tones, indicate to me that the wine has seen some new oak and/or other New World winemaking techniques. Alain Jaume's Reserve Grand Veneur is a well made wine, and it apparently comes from fairly old vines north of Orange in Vaucluse. But, at least at this stage of development, I prefer the fruit complexity, depth and hedonistic charm of the Domaine du Grand Prieur [April 24 and February 20, 2008]. The wood tannins hide some of the full range of smells and flavors I expect from a good Southern Rhone. And even the color keeps me from seeing what is going on with the development of the fruit.

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