Bricks Wine Advent Calendar 2018: Day 9

9 12 2018

By Peter Vetsch

Before getting into tonight’s wine, allow me a brief moment of self-reflection.  I realized partway through the current Advent blogging blitz that one of these recent half-bottle calendar posts marked the 500th piece of posted content in Pop & Pour’s history.  I have been writing this blog since March 2011, and never in my wildest dreams did I think it would reach half a thousand articles.  So much has changed in my life, my work and my family since then, but PnP has remained a constant, and it has been immensely gratifying to see it grow and expand with new writers, each with their own new approaches and perspectives.  It has been even more gratifying to have people engage with the site and remind me that I’m not just writing into a vacuum, screaming into the void.  See you all in a few years at post #1000, I hope.


Back to tonight.  After Ray enjoyed consecutive new takes from Moldova (of all places) and cool-climate Cali, I jump back into the fray and seem to continue the Advent 2017 nostalgia tour, with yet another bottle that takes me right back to last year around this time.  Day 8 of 2017 was the 2012 Chante Cigale Chateauneuf-du-Pape, a bottle that I felt was already markedly past its prime, a surprising disappointment from a top-end region.  Tonight brings another five year-old half-bottle from CNDP, this time the 2013 Domaine de Cristia Chateauneuf-du-Pape, from which I hope for better things.


This family estate started 70 years ago with 2 hectares’ worth of Grenache plantings owned by founder Etienne Grangean.  Etienne’s son expanded the property and added Syrah and Mourvedre to the varietal mix a few decades later (although Grenache remains 85% of the total acreage), and a decade ago Etienne’s two grandchildren came on board.  Now the Domaine has 58 hectares under vine, 20 of which are in Chateauneuf-du-Pape proper, in the eastern sandier part of the appellation. The parcels there face northeast, away from the afternoon sun, promising slower ripening and longer hang-time.  Domaine de Cristia was certified organic in 2008 and use no chemical fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides in its vineyards; it also focuses on indigenous yeast fermentation in the cellar, at lower temperatures in an effort to preserve freshness.  “Of prime importance are finesse and elegance”, says their website.  Sounds good to me, but the proof, as always, is in the bottle.

This particular vintage of Domaine de Cristia clocks in at 70% Grenache, 15% Syrah and 15% Mourvedre, about as classic a Southern Rhone varietal split as you can get.  Hoping for a better experience than last year’s prematurely shot Chante Cigale, I pour, look and smell and write my first tasting note:  OH COME ON.  The 2013’s colour is quite advanced, fully garnet with clear bricking at the rim.  It smells dank and completely tertiary, a melange of fresh pavement, burned pot roast, charcoal, grease smoke and other things that have been scorched, singed or otherwise set on fire.  Barbecued pickles, melted elastics and olive juice lurk around the edges; expired fruitcake is as close as things come to the primary fruit spectrum.  This is being opened before its producer-recommended drinking date of 8 years from vintage (the full drinking window purportedly extends 15+) — what gives?

IMG_7406 2

Cork Rating:  8.5/10 (Near-pantheon cork for me – great graphic coverage, simple yet effective design, love the portrait vs. landscape orientation, and the iconic keys.  Boom.)

The mystery continues on the palate, where a medium-bodied yet leathery texture meets substantial grainy tannin but lacks any trace of the freshness and elegance stated by the winery itself to be its calling card.  After a few sips of fig, date and stout beer flavours and perversive chewy gaminess, this becomes a bit of a slog to get through, crying out for some contrasting element of life, purity or primacy to give it an energetic boost.  The mouthfeel and structure are impressive, and complexity is there, but this has hit the accelerator on its aging curve and left some of its potential in the dust.  Do I have some sort of CNDP Advent curse on me or something?  Someone else can take the Chateauneuf in next year’s calendar – this is starting to weird me out.

87 points



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