Wednesday, February 22, 2012
Chateau La Nerthe: Lobster & White Châteauneuf-du-Pape
--Eric Asimov, The New York Times
Last October, I attended a fascinating and delicious lunch at L'Espalier with the wines of Chateau La Nerthe, spawning my article Chateau La Nerthe: All About the Blends. In addition, that wine lunch became my 2011 Favorite Single Winery Tasting. This week, Chateau La Nerthe returned to Boston for a wine lunch at Bistro du Midi, and it too was a tasty and interesting event.
Bistro du Midi is a French Provençal restaurant on Boylston Street, and its second floor dining area is elegant without being pretentious, with large windows overlooking the city, an open kitchen visible through another window and even another window looking into a wine cellar. They served us a three-course lunch, and our first two courses are regular menu items and the cheese course is likely available as well. Though I attended a wine reception there before, this was the first time I actually dined there, and I was impressed enough that I will return.
All About the Blends. We began our lunch with an apertif, a glass of the 2011 Prieure de Montezargues Tavel Rosé. As was their 2010 Rosé, this was a superb wine with plenty of complexity, and I could easily enjoy it year round. This wine was only bottled a few weeks ago so we were the first people in the U.S. to taste it. It possessed a paler pink color than last year's vintage though its flavors were very similar. It is available in this special magnum bottle, which has a long, extended neck. I give this wine my strongest recommendation and will be seeking it out myself as well.
With this pasta, we sampled the 2009 and 2010 Chateau La Nerthe Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blancs as well as the 2009 Chateau La Nerthe "Clos de Beauvenir" Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc (about $140-$150). The 2010 was exuberant in its aroma and flavors, while the 2009 was much more muted, having shut down to a degree. That is partially because 2009 was a warmer vintage while 2010 was an excellent vintage. The 2009 Clos de Beauvenir, of which only about 250 cases were produced, thoroughly impressed me once again. A sublime, albeit expensive, wine that is sure to please any wine geek.
The winery tends to harvest early, as they want to preserve freshness and fruit flavors, and are usually one of the first, if not the first, to harvest in the region. For example, during the last couple years, they harvested on August 20 and 24. In general, good white Châteauneuf-du-Pape tends to be very aromatic when young but after 2-5 years will experience a shut-down stage, which will also last for 2-5 years. After that, the wine will tender to emphasize its minerality. The winery tends to use higher percentages of Roussanne as it creates a more aromatic wine than will Grenache Blanc. Whatever they do certainly works well.
We tasted the 2007 and 2008 Chateau La Nerthe Châteauneuf-du-Pape Rouges as well as the 2005 Chateau La Nerthe Cuvee des Cadettes Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Back in October, I got to taste older vintages, as far back as 1982, so it was interesting to taste their more current vintages of these wines. 2007 was supposed to be a great vintage while 2008 was a difficult one, with maybe the smallest yields of the last 25 years. Both wines were excellent though, albeit with their individual differences. The 2008 had more prominent fruit though the 2007 still had good fruit flavors. Neither was overly tannic, and both, to different degrees, possessed elements of minerality, spice and earthiness. They are excellent food wines, with a nice aging potential and worthy representatives of the quality that can be found in the Châteauneuf-du-Pape region.
The 2005 Cuvee des Cadettes was a superb wine, a perfect balance of elements with plenty of depth and complexity. It is a bolder wine than the prior vintages I have tasted, yet still elegant and refined, and should age wonderfully. This wine also deserves my strongest recommendation.
Domaine de la Renjarde. Though the La Nerthe wines tend to be pricier, these wineries produce more inexpensive, value wines.
The 2010 La Petite Fontaine Côtes du Rhône Rouge ($10-$15) is a blend of 60% Grenache Noir, 20% Syrah, 15% Cinsault and 5% Carignan. This is the first year that this wine is being produced. This was a simpler wine than the others we had tasted so far, yet still with its own allure. Dominant black fruit flavors with a spicy backbone, moderate tannins and a mild earthiness on the finish. A delicious, every day drinking wine, that would work with pasta to burgers.
The 2009 Domaine de la Renjarde "Massif d'Uchaux" Côtes du Rhône Villages ($15-$20) is a blend of 65% Grenache Noir, 17% Syrah, 11% Cinsault, 4% Carignan, and 4% Mourvedre. This wine had a bit more complexity than the Fontaine, again with dominant black fruit but a stronger spicy element as well as mild notes of vanilla and chocolate. Its tannins were a bit stronger, yet still far from overpowering, and its finish was lengthier. Again, this is a delicious, every day drinking wine yet with potential to age well. Both the Fontaine and Renjarde offer good values.
Chateau La Nerthe delivers once again, and I have even more respect for white Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Unfortunately, not much is produced in the region, though it can compete with the best white wines of any region.
What's your experiences white Châteauneuf-du-Pape?