1995 Clos du Mont Olivet: Another Lesson In Aging Wine

This is the last in a series of recent posts on cellar treasures for a while; I promise (fingers crossed behind my back).  In 1998 I bought a few bottles of **** 1995 Clos du Mont Olivet Chateauneuf du Pape that stashed itself away, incognito-like, in my cellar’s Rhone Valley section.  Having completely forgotten about them, I pulled one of these bottles last week for a dinner with Rich, one of my respected tasting buddies, at AKA Bistro.

1995 Clos du Mont Olivet

The Clos du Mont Olivet estate has winemaking history dating back to the 16th century and is currently under guidance of the notably capable Sabon family.  Their premium Cuvee du Papet bottling is consistently remarkable and expensive while this regular Mont Olivet bottling is, say, regularly very good.  Cement fermentation tanks and oversized wood barrels help create traditional styled Chateauneuf du Pape.  The latter bottling is probably not at the top of everyone’s shopping list for laying away.  Probably, much of it is drank close to release. Simply as a point of reference, when the 1995 was released Parker awarded it 90 points saying:

The deep ruby/purple color is followed by straightforward, ripe aromas of raspberries, cherries, and pepper. Dense, concentrated, full-bodied, and tannic, with more acidity than the 1994, the 1995 should turn out to be at least excellent, but will it equal the 1994? The 1995 does not possess the up-front charm of the 1994, and will require 3-5 years of cellaring.

This was not the wine I drank two weeks ago.  Density and concentration evaporated.  There was no longer any  tannic emphasis nor interference, cherry and raspberry brightness turned into mellow fruit tones, and while the acidity held onto a delineating excitement, the wine stunk from tapenade.  When we decanted it and then three of us separately stuck our noses into our glasses, we all simultaneously bounced our heads back in surprise saying “tapenade” in unison.  In addition, the aromatics were slightly brightened by green olive to go along with the tapenade theme.  The only pepper in evidence was akin to the small dose you might detect in a fresh tapenade mash of anchovies, garlic, capers, and black olives.  All abrasive youthfulness vanished, replaced by exotic fruits, secondary aromas, and a thinned silky mouthfeel that once again reinforced the magical and captivating rewards of patient cellaring.

Coincidentally, not only was the vintage 1995, but so was the $19.95 price tag that still stuck to the bottle just off center and above the label.  Somewhere around 1998 I anted up twenty bucks and forgot about it. Fourteen years later we were treated to a delicious and riveting wine that, sadly, not too many people will ever get to experience.  The liquid tapenade married mellow berry fruits delivering their new savory character.  I say few people will ever get to enjoy this wine because it is not at the top of most collectors’ lists for extended cellaring…Parker suggested 3-5 years…and if you search the web or WineSearcher.com you won’t find a bottle for sale anywhere (the search did turn up a dozen going at Christy’s auction in New York in 1999 for $748).

Aged wines made from classic old world vineyards in average and good vintages often deliver results that outstrip their youthful enjoyment and value

Some will fairly NPV my $20 investment and question the wisdom behind tying up money for fourteen years. Rest assured that the 1995 Clos du Mont Olivet that Rich, Christian, and I tasted outperformed, in one-of-a-kind fashion, any other kind of financial return that 1998′s $20 bill could produce over fourteen years.

You can buy the current release 2010 vintage for $25-$28 a bottle now to stick away in your cellar or some other dark cool place.  If you plan to be alive in 2026, this could be one of the smartest forward thinking moves you make all year long inside your own world of wine enthusiasm.