2001 Domaine de l'Espigouette Côtes du Rhône Vieille Vignes. Mid-quality, gutsy Rhône. Medium deep ruby color, showing no age yet. Intense nose of berries, spice, earth, forest floor, with a hint of menthol. The mouth shows less fruit and more of the earthy component and alcohol than the nose would suggest, but pretty mouthfilling. Medium length, slightly hot finish with some dry, harsh tannin. Drink up, as the remaining fruit will fade and the tannins and alcohol will increasingly take over. Purchased in Austin, TX at Grapevine Connection (off MoPac) for about $15 last summer. 84.
2003 Château Maucoil Châteauneuf-du-Pape. A rip-off. Medium ruby color. Gangly nose of overripe cherries (cherry cough syrup?), pepper, and foresty scents. Lots of somewhat flat cherry cough syrup flavors in the mouth. Big, but a bit hot and disjointed. Fades quickly in the mid-palate. 82. Reasonable price for Châteauneuf these days ($19.99 at Whole Foods on Bellaire),
but . . .
[here comes the rant]
I'm really unhappy with the trend that has begun to take over among Châteauneuf estates to make two or three cuvées. It used to be that only the real, de facto "first growth" Châteauneuf domaines (Rayas, Beaucastel, Bonneau, etc.) put out two or three cuvées. And that was OK. The regular cuvée would still be really good and relatively affordable. The reserve or special cuvée, while expensive, would be correspondingly above and beyond the normal Châteauneuf.
Nowadays, however, it seems that everyone and their chien in Châteauneuf puts out at least two, and sometimes more, cuvées. While the regular cuvée remains "Châteauneuf-priced," the price of the special cuvées has gone through the roof. The problem is, the regular cuvées taste like second wines rather than real Châteauneuf. The Château Maucoil reviewed above is a case in point. It's more like a decent Côtes du Rhône than a real Châteauneuf. None of that special fragrance, depth, and "tèrroir" one expects from Châteauneuf. Instead, it tastes like what it probably is: leftover barrels and wine from young vines thrown together after all the good stuff was chosen for the more expensive cuvées.
Of course, there are (mercifully) still many exceptions to this rule. But this seems to me to be the increasing trend. And I don't like it un peu bit.