Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Chateau Les Quatres Filles Cairanne, 2006

I have been reading about the Barolo Wars of the 1990s when the clashes between modernists and traditionalists became bitter. Elio Altare, a modernist, took a chain saw to his father's large Slavonian oak barrels and replaced them with new barriques. His father, in turn, disowned Elio and bequeathed his land to his daughters. I was reminded that much the same thing has been happening in the Southern Rhone over the past two decades. I don't know if the conflict has affected winemaking families as it did in the Piedmont, but it has influenced my buying a great deal.

I love Cairanne, and the estates that satisfy my tastes--primarily L'Oratoire Saint Martin and Rabasse Charavin are traditionalists, using mostly large, seasoned foudres, rather than new oak barriques. I know very little about Les Quatres Filles, but when I saw it available for $10 a bottle, I bought a couple of bottles. Opening one tonight, I am disappointed because it is clearly a modern version of a traditional favorite.

Inky dark. Barriques. Beautiful scents of fresh strawberries, flowers and vanilla. Some interesting flavors opening up on the palate, but there is still significantly more tannin than I expect from a 14-year-old Southern Rhone. And the peppery structure I love in Rabasse Charavin has been replaced by sweet vanilla and chocolate. A good wine and a bargain at $10...but not my style.

It's an interesting contrast. In Barolo, barriques were introduced by modernists in order to make the wine easier to drink young. In the Southern Rhone, most CDR Village wines drink beautifully from day one...unless the Grenache has been aged in barriques, adding oak tannins that linger, sometimes too long.

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