Châteauneuf du Papes with Friends ... again and again!

For 24 years, I have rarely accepted invitations to dine with producers, simply because I don't want to be beholden to anyone for favors they extend to me. It's a tough call, and often I am falsely accused of being arrogant and aloof. However, I do make exceptions from time to time for reasons probably too difficult for even me to understand. They are usually people I just like and want to spend some time with, because not only do I admire them immensely, but I can learn something since they all tend to be the candid, open, no-nonsense sort of people whom I enjoy the most. This night I accepted an invitation to dine with Paul Féraud of Châteauneuf du Pape. I had never eaten with Féraud in the 25-plus years I have been visiting Châteauneuf du Pape, and besides, I had heard his wife was one of the best cooks in Provence and, loving that kind of cooking, I figured, why not?

The meal was classic Provençal cooking - eggplant, tomatoes, and wonderful lamb from the region. The wines included two bottlings I had never had before, the 1947 Châteauneuf du Pape Les Cailloux, served because obviously that is my birth year, which was showing some age but was still sweet and ripe. A real revelation was the magnum of 1971 Pégau Châteauneuf du Pape. 1971 was not a great vintage in Châteauneuf du Pape, but Paul Féraud told me that, in his lifetime, there have been only two vintages where he thought he had the potential to make perfect wine, 1971 and 1998. This wine was to die for, and could have easily sat there on the table with such legends of the last century as the 1947 Pétrus and 1947 Cheval Blanc - it was that remarkable. If the 1998s turn out to be half as good, I will be thrilled. Speaking of 1998, both the 1998 Les Cailloux Châteauneuf du Pape Cuvée Centenaire and 1998 Châteauneuf du Pape Cuvée da Capo, which I have written on extensively here in the Hedonist's Gazette, as well as in The Wine Advocate, are as great Châteauneuf du Papes as anyone can hope to taste. I only hope that in 30 years they will be as magnificent as Pégau's 1971 out of magnum.

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