Tesco Finest Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2011

Marketed as part of Tesco’s Finest range, this sits at the upper end of what I’ve seen on the supermarket shelves here in the UK. The embossed bottle certainly looks the part, although for some (no doubt parochial on my part) reason it remains disconcerting to see supermarket own-brand wines. This was in fact produced by Les Vins Skalli.

The nose is quite pretty, showing clean red fruits, edging towards but not becoming confected in character, along with a bit of darker spice and even a hint of meatiness. It is very fresh smelling and well balanced, but lacks the sort of richness one might expect.

The palate highlights this wine’s lack of stuffing. There are more clean red fruits, a bit simple, surrounded by a framework of spice and vegetation. Palate weight is light to medium bodied, and the wine seems to lack texture, gliding across the tongue and not seeing fit to leave much of a trace either in mouthfeel or indeed persistence of flavour. What’s here is clean and correct, there’s just not enough of it.

Tesco Finest (but really Les Vins Skalli)
Price: £14.99
Closure: Cork
Source: Retail

Le Domaine du Père Caboche Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc Élisabeth Chambellan 2003

A little oxidised, but still in good-enough condition to taste and enjoy. I must admit, I have little experience with Châteauneuf-du-Pape whites, so was quite curious to taste this. I can see no evidence of this label on the producer’s site, which suggests it is no longer made. Perhaps a knowledgeable reader can further enlighten us.

The nose definitely shows some bottle age, with honey alongside a crisp biscuit note and beeswax. There was some discussion at the tasting bench regarding what type of biscuit the wine’s aroma most resembles; consensus was Milk Coffee. Fruit isn’t represented much within the aroma profile, but the array of notes feels complete in its own right.

The palate shows a structure that remains alive with acid and texture. Again, there isn’t much fleshy fruit of note, but a gentle spiciness joins honey and biscuit to create an attractive flavour profile, only slightly marred by oxidiation. The wine has good thrust through the palate and decent length. It’s weighty and surprisingly fresh-feeling.

A pristine bottle would be a lot of fun; even this was pleasurable and interesting.

Le Domaine du Père Caboche
Price: $N/A
Closure: Cork
Source: Gift

Le Vieux Mas de Papes Red 2001

Yesterday, after a trip to the recyclers’ to rid ourselves of the accumulated shippers and empty cases that built up over the winter, my partner and I headed to downtown San Diego to pick up a dozen or so cases of wine. Having just moved here last July, I’ve been without access to most of my wines until just this month; we finally cleared out enough space in the garage to install a modest refrigerated cabinet, and now it’s time to begin hauling the thirty or so cases in storage back home.There are only twenty cases left in storage at this point: all of the Riesling and most of the Rhône type stuff are now safely home. To celebrate progress, I picked the ugliest bottle I could from the cellar: a generic Châteauneuf-du-Pape that I don’t remember buying (perhaps it was a gift?) with a washed out yellowish label and absolutely nothing interesting on the front of it.I poured a couple of glasses, noticed that the wine looked as washed out as the label, and steeled myself for watery disappointment. Instead, I found myself enjoying one of the best bottles I’ve had in weeks. The nose of the wine eventually reminded me of French sunflower honey, all summer sunlight with notes of hay and dried herbs. Distinctly acidic, the wine offered up smokey gravel, dried Montmorency cherries, dust, dirt, and something like ocean breezes washing across cool ocean meadows and onto hot sand. The smokey note reasserted itself on the finish, with a decidedly sweet (and I mean in the sense of sucrosité, not California super-ripe sweetness) finish trailing off into lazy trails of autumn hay.What an incredible wine, and what a wonderful reminder that restraint often pays incredible dividends. We finished the bottle over a course of several hours, unwilling to put a stop to the experience; at first, the acidity was unsettling, but it settled down with some air. All in all, this was as wonderful as a walk through the redwoods here in California: cool, majestic, quiet.Vignobles BrunierPrice: likely around US $25Closure: CorkDate tasted: March 2008