Tasting through this year’s release parade of 2007 Cote du Rhones (CDR) reflects an intensity of reward found in vintages where mother nature sets the perfect table. I have been grinning and tasting the releasing 07 CDRs acknowledging their richness, depth of fruit, aligned structure, and across the board enjoyment. They offer a value buying opportunity with only one question; Buy just enough to drink over the next two years or recognize the special vintage advantages and acquire to lay away?
I don’t make a practice of laying down CDRs. With full disclosure, my palate leans towards the Rhone lured by a favoring bias to Chateauneuf du Pape (CDP), Cote Rotie, and Hermitage. It is not a secret that during 2007 the Southern Rhone’s absence of rain at the right moments combined with the benefit of the summer’s dry coolness tossing a wet blanket on the usually heat infused Mistral gusts and drove a rare buying opportunity for fans of the region like me. I am clearing space in the cellar now for the 2007 CDPs which I am gladly paying between $40 and $75 a bottle for thinking 12-15 years forward when I can reap the benefits of my patience and the climatic gifts bequeathed by nature.
But what about the vintage’s Cotes du Rhones, are they age worthy and do they also represent a chance to lay away wine at 1/3-1/10 th the price of CDPs?
Last year I brought an errant bottle of 1989 Coudoulet de Beaucastel that got lost in my cellar (I drank all I bought by the mid-nineties and had I known this one bottle was still hanging around it would also have been consumed earlier) to a friendly tasting dinner that involved some pretty high powered wines from the region’s northern and southern appellations. With enough of the big boy luxury CDP’s and single vineyard Cote Roties in the mix, I figured what the heck, there will be plenty of great wine and this will be interesting at the least. This might not be a fair test since the Perrin’s Coudoulet is not your run of the mill CDR and while 1989 was a great vintage in the Southern Rhone, it presented distinctly different climate and growing conditions than 2007. As it turned out, this 19 year old CDR was amazing, with slight orange and brown tinges on the edge, it showed continuing strength in its fruit core and touted the aroma and flavor benefits of bottle age that you would expect in a well made CDP. The room was blown away and while the $100+ bottles we tasted that night were inspiring, I concluded that had I been able to see the future I would still have stacks of 1989 Coudoulet sitting next to 1989 Beaucastels (uncontested special wine) in my cellar.
I ran accross a recent post from Paul Sharp’s Wine Consultant blog about a recently purchased 1986 Guigal Cote du Rhone that was still alive and kicking, yet the results lead to uncertainty in the value of 20 years of cellaring. Why wouldn’t a twenty year-ten dollar investment that produces living wine with desireable characteristics of age be worth it?
Will history repeat itself in this great vintage that was created under different growing conditions? Was the 1989 Coudoulet a fluke? I don’t know, but I am going to place my bet and stock up on $10-$18 2007 CDRs.
P.S. Some Southern Rhone tips from James Molesworth in a recent online Wine Spectator web feature.