Many years ago I was invited to dinner at a very fine restaurant, The Inn at Sawmill Farm in Vermont. One of the truly spectacular New England resorts it featured a hotel and top notch restaurant, complete with one of the greatest wine lists and cellars in America. My host was kind enough to ask me to pick the wines, with certain instructions on how much I could spend- we settled on a 10-year old 1990 Coudoulet de Beaucastel. It was magnificent, stunningly elegant and still with the classic Rhone garrigue and spice. I hadn’t ever had a mature Coudoulet prior to that but I happily gained an appreciation for how special this wine is, coming from the humble Cotes-du-Rhone appellation.
The appellation of Chateauneuf-du-Pape has boundaries of course, and if you are outside of that particular boundary you cannot label your wine Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Well Coudoulet is a vineyard owned by Beaucastel that is just outside, in fact bordering, the edge of Chateauneuf-du-Pape, sadly the “wrong side of the tracks” to gain being included in the great appellation. The soil type is the same, the exposure to the sun the same, its just this road running between the two vineyards that leaves Coudoulet on the outs.
I’m going to cut to the chase, Coudoulet is a no-brainer, especially in a spectacular vintage like 2016. The Rhone Valley has experienced many more ups than downs over the past few years, but 2016 is an emphatic exclamation point on a string of successes. It is a spectacular wine to taste, gorgeous spicy aromas, with tremendous fruit, raspberry jam and a mineral undertone, its still a bit clunky on the entry, there is a lot of fruit, earth, spice and brilliance, and it is completely delicious, but to see it show off it’s best it must be decanted and allowed to breathe for one hour. Or cellared for a few years. I can tell you from my experience that a decade is not out of the question, in my opinion this wine will hit ten years in stride and keep moving forward towards 20 or 25!
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