Blind Wine Tasting Notes from a Master Sommelier: ‘9 years old and eclectic’

One of the roles of the sommelier is to keep tasting notes which are invaluable aid when writing about my wine tasting experiences.  Today I am recalling a 2012 tasting of a Chateauneuf du Pape with enthusiastic amateurs and friends, our  theme was blind tasting wines that were  ‘9 years old and eclectic‘.

Among the panel of wines, 11 to be precise, this wine stood out in the decanter by the sheer depth of its colour. When I came up to this specific wine I immediately realised that youth and depth were the main tune I would encounter, so I decided to move it to the end of the row and to start with the other wines – don’t forget this is a blind tasting so I had no idea what was on offer!

Blind Tasting Wines:

CDelalonde Wine Aeration QuoteAfter the first tasting, we consulted our wine tasting notes (much needed with 11 different wines) and talked of our impressions. Finally, we drafted a conclusion for each individual wine before moving on to dine and continue the wine tasting with food.

It was at dinner that I suggested to the generous provider of this specific bottle (at that stage still un-named) that it might be interesting to decant the second bottle and pass it through an additional wine aeration process to get it going or “liven it up”.

It is worth noting that 2003 was, generally, through-out Europe a very hot and dry summer lasting almost 3.5 months. The season culminated with the picking of the grapes in unusually hot weather, in some areas the harvest took place at 45 degrees Celsius/113 degrees F during the day.  However, regions like Burgundy and Bordeaux are not used to these temperatures and a certain panic started to spread amongst growers at harvest’s time. The Rhone region was not spared either, both the north and south Rhone were experiencing the heat, so now the harvest is starting to get interesting!

Grenache and Mourvedre are the true great grape varieties for the southern side of the Rhone; they like and need the sun to ripen perfectly.  The soil of Chateauneuf du Pape , covered with those famous pebbles which absorb heat very well and retains and continues to release the day time heat at night. Whilst the southern Rhone region is more used to these high temperatures and stress on the vines from lack of water, so 2003, despite the extreme, was not so unusual for the region.
Back to the wine itself – it had that oven cooked black fruit, fig and tar taste to it. Layers of spices and cocoa powder aromas came through to assist with the identification process (remember this is a blind tasting). The palate had so much depth – dense texture as well as some sweet fruit with mocha and a touch of residual sugar. Such concentrated flavours.

My tasting notes recall that the aeration action in the second bottle lifted the acid structure to bring more balance in the mid-palate. As well as developing more bright fruit, still super ripe flavours,  the aeration managed to blend that residual sugar touch into the elegant charisma of the wine. Powerful and big, it was just a monster of layers and infinite flavours. You could look into it for minutes and find tens of different tones each time. Still vibrant and mineral, with all its might blended within its core – what a young expression!

In summary, the wines from this region are almost certain to need the extra aeration for the next 7-10 years but are very interesting and a record of a long-hot summer.


Christopher Delalonde M.S.


Chateauneuf du pape Guigal 2003Editors Postscript:

We did some further research into the wine, and widened it beyond 2003,  and maybe you could try your wine tasting experiences with a Penfolds Bin 138 Grenache Shiraz Mouvedre blend from Australia or a Chateau de Beaucastel, Hommage á Jaques Perrin from France or a Malumbres Garnacha from Spain.  In the USA you could try a Mathis Sonoma Valley Grenache or Ledson 2003 from the North Coast of California and we also located one kosher Grenache wine by Capcanes, Peraj Petita (Monsant) Tinto, 2009 in the USA. As you can see there are plenty of different wines in these varietals and many different countries to experiment with in your tasting journeys. Have fun and travel the world from your own home and try to keep those wine tasting notes to record your thoughts.


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