I’m not great at detecting cork taint. I know what the telltale aromas of a corked wine are supposed to be (damp basement, wet newspaper, mildew), but I’ve only come across a couple of bottles in my life that were indisputably corked; who knows how many other bacteria-riddled bottles I’ve downed without knowing any better. I’ve met people, including my WSET instructor, Marnie, who could instantly detect even the slightest whiff of taint, and I wish somebody like that was over at my house for dinner tonight, because I’m about 70% sure that I opened a corked bottle. Due to this suspicion, I won’t be giving the Chapoutier Gigondas a score or saying bad things about it, but I figured I’d post the review regardless so that if you ever find yourself in my situation you’ll know what to look for…or at least you’ll be able to self-commiserate and know you’re not alone.
This bottle was a particularly unfortunate candidate for TCA (trichloroanisole, the bastard bacterium that ruins non-screwcapped bottles worldwide) because I got it from a friend at work (thanks anyway, Fiona!) after an important group/company success on a big project. I’ve been saving it for months waiting for the right time to open it, and I thought that Christmas week was an ideal time to enjoy some wine that people have been nice enough to give me over the year. Instead, I discover the down side of writing a wine blog: when someone gives you a bottle that doesn’t work out, there is a better than even chance they will find out about it.
Chapoutier is one of the Rhone Valley’s biggest names, one of the few producers who has managed to meld quality with quantity of production. Gigondas is possibly the best Chateauneuf-de-Pape alternative region in the Southern Rhone, located near to and making very similar wines using generally the same grapes as its more famous neighbour (predominantly Grenache, but also Syrah, Mourvedre, and others) but with much more appealing price tags. Fresh out of the bottle, this wine was looking like the killer deal that it probably is: a gorgeous, translucent blood red in colour, it almost shimmered in the glass. Then the problems started. Expecting a big, fairly fruity nose, I instead was greeted with something green, subdued and thistly, grass and brambles mixed with a strong vegetal odour (peas and celery) and a notable mustiness lurking in the background. There was definitely wet cardboard there, a used papery aroma I can best sum up as “blue bin”, and while I got some strawberry fruit and black tea buried under the danker flavours, it was only with a fair bit of effort. The fruit was similarly muted on the palate, where I got a sense of what the wine would likely have been at full health: raspberry red fruit, earth and dust, rhubarb, savoury spice and a peppery finish. All that was there, but the volume was turned down to 5 or 6 from 10, and as a result it just tasted tired. All in all, pretty depressing…thanks Monday.
I will make a point of grabbing another bottle of this wine at some point so that I can see if my suspicions were correct or if the Chapoutier is just make in a style I totally don’t appreciate. I’m a Rhone disciple, though, so I’m thinking it’s much more likely to be the former than the latter…not that that comforted me as I was pouring this quality bottle down the drain. Boo.
NO SCORE (likely corked)
$35 to $40 CDN