Over the weekend, I kept pulling bottles from the same area in my cellar. Before too long, a theme had arisen. The theme just happened to be '98 Châteauneuf-du-Pape.
The ’98 vintage was warm, and the wines were ripe and powerful when they were released. The vintage is not unlike '03, though it is less extreme in style. The '98s also shut down fairly quickly, as CdP typically does, and they've been rather reticent until the last year or so. Many of the regular cuvées are starting to reemerge, while the older vine and other special cuvées still need some time. (Note: I did not review the '98 CdPs for Wine Spectator, as that was before I started covering the region).
Here are my unofficial notes and scores (since they were not tasted blind):
1998 Pierre Usseglio Châteauneuf-du-Pape
This was deliciously ripe, with lots of currant, black cherry, pepper and mineral. Long, sanguine finish. Drink now through 2012. 91 points.
1998 Domaine de la Janasse Châteauneuf-du-Pape
This has the domaine's telltale profile—lots of raspberry ganache. Very silky texture, with notes of truffle and cocoa starting to fan out on the finish. Really opens up nicely with air. Drink now through 2012. 92 points.
1998 Château de Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-Pape
This is the most seriously structured and backward of the three, with iron, game and herb notes followed by red currant and fig flavors. Brawny and muscular still, this opened slowly and steadily in the glass. Best from 2008 through 2015. 94 points.
Based on tasting these three wines, the vintage is humming along nicely, and there's no rush to drink them either. Another two to three years and the bulk of the top wines will likely be hitting their peak.
After reporting on a retrospective of the ’95 CdP vintage at the end of 2005, the ‘98s are next in line for a more comprehensive look back ('96 and '97 are weaker years for CdP). Hopefully on my next trip to the region, I can get it organized. It's a tough job, but someone's got to do it.