I've been buying Vieux Chene wines since the 1980s. The wines have always been good but since the 2004 vintage they seem to have taken several steps forward in quality and now rank as one of my top three or four Cotes du Rhones.
I've written previously about the owners, Jean Claude and Beatrice Bouche. A visit to their web site, www.bouche-duvieuxchene.com, will give you an idea of how much care the Bouches take in tending their vineyards and producing a wine that reflects the special qualities of their vineyards. I love both the CDR Capucine and the CDR Haie aux Grives Cotes du Rhones; they are special wines. Because of its lowly appellation and price, I expected little--but got a great deal more--from this Cuvee Friande.
In its youth, this wine is a deep plummy red. The aromas are fresh and forward--ripe red berries and an almost yeasty, vanilla quality that does not come from new oak. Flavors are very ripe but are supported by a peppery structure. Wild flowers and herbs are more apparent on the finish than on the nose at this stage of development. The blend is 80 percent Grenache, 20 percent Syrah, and the Grenache charm seems to be carrying it at this stage. Skin tannins become more apparent on the second night, covering some of the ripe red berry fruit but revealing that the wine has substance and staying power. I drank the 2004 Cuvee Friande over the first two or three years but it was still on the upswing when I had the last bottle about a year ago.
At $9.19 a bottle at D&W FreshMarket, Cuvee Friande is, in my opinion, probably the best wine for the price in my market right now. Drink it now but buy plenty so that you can chart its progress over the next couple of years.