When drinking wine with friends and family, I love to serve two related bottles at the same time—from the same appellation or same vintage, perhaps—in order to show the contrasts between wines. This past weekend, with the grill getting its springtime dust-off, the food begged for some Châteauneuf-du-Pape reds.
The Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe Châteauneuf-du-Pape La Crau 1998 comes from a big, muscular vintage that is just now starting to hit its stride. This wine, typically rugged when young, has slowly but surely evolved into a mouthfilling wine loaded with black currant, bacon fat, tar and grilled herb notes. There's still plenty of grip for additional aging, though the wine has softened enough to now be approachable. I gave it 94 points, non-blind, which is consistent with the review I gave it when I did a retrospective tasting of 1998 Châteauneufs back in 2007.
I also opened the Domaine de Beaurenard Châteauneuf-du-Pape Boisrenard 2001, the domaine's top cuvée. It's sourced from a couple of plots of 100-year-old vines that are still worked by horse-drawn plow. The 2001 vintage doesn't have the muscular grip of 1998; instead it's a racy, driven, mouthwatering year. The Boisrenard is also far more modern in style than the Vieux Télégraphe (thanks to a new-oak barrel-aging treatment that lends the wine a lusher, velvety texture) and shows captivating blueberry, fig and boysenberry flavors. The 2001, which has always been among the top vintages from this estate, has finally absorbed its oak treatment and is now gliding along beautifully. 95 points, non-blind.
Wine Spectator.com members: Read the official blind-tasting reviews and check auction prices for:
Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe Châteauneuf-du-Pape La Crau 1998 (93, $37 on release)
Domaine de Beaurenard Châteauneuf-du-Pape Boisrenard 2001 (95, $55 on release)
• Plus, get scores and prices for recently rated Châteauneuf-du-Pape reds.