Châteauneuf du Pape, Some Fabulously Aged Steaks and a Handful of Friends

Why is it that Châteauneuf du Papes never disappoint, whether they are young or mature? The surprise of the evening was the incredible performance of Pierre Usseglio's 1999 Châteauneuf du Pape Cuvée Cinquantenaire. A spectacular effort, it is a candidate for wine of the 1999 vintage, a decidedly lighter, more elegant, less concentrated year than 1998. Nevertheless, it is an excellent year that is likely to be forgotten sandwiched between the blockbuster 1998 and 2000 vintages. This wine has a good twenty years of life remaining, and it is a testament to the young Usseglios, who are turning this estate into one of Châteauneuf du Pape's superstars. That was followed by a corked bottle of one of my favorite producers, the 1998 Les Cailloux Châteauneuf du Pape Cuvée Centenaire, and the closed, tight, but extremely promising and actually more precocious 1998 Beaucastel Châteauneuf du Pape. After that, a sumptuous bottle of 1998 Charvin Châteauneuf du Pape was drunk. He is a producer doing fabulous work in Châteauneuf du Pape from extremely old vines and natural winemaking. The most internationally styled Châteauneuf was the 1998 La Gardine Cuvée des Générations. I have been purchasing this cuvée since 1989, and it needs a good ten years to demonstrate its Châteauneuf du Pape typicity. This wine tends to reveal too much oak early on, but has fabulous concentration.

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