Here are a few really cool reds I've had in the past two months. Different countries, different regions, different grape varieties, but each have strong, noble personalities that suggest great and long lives lived on their terms. If you don't like tasting notes, move along.
Vieux Télégraphe Châteauneuf-du-Pape La Crau 1998
I drank this elegant, beautifully poised VT in the heart of winter, just as one should. It showed no baby fat on night one, no exuberant fruit, yet it still drank very young and lacked secondary characteristics. It was also very clean, with no hint of brett or funk. It advanced significantly on night two – lots of tobacco and earth came to the fore, the umami was cranking, with soy and mushroom notes entangling the fresh purple berry fruit, and the tannins turned leathery. I won't pretend to understand this wine based on just one bottle but I get the sense this wine will have a lot to say over the next 10+ years as its tannins resolve and its fruit fades. If I had to do it all over again, I'd decant two to four hours ahead of time and make sure it was all gone by night's end.
Renaissance selects grapes from their best, rockiest soils for their VdT bottlings. As with their cabernets, their syrahs are living — and long-lived — wines that emerge on their own terms. Some go through more than one adolescent period before emerging into early maturity at, say, five to ten years. I tracked this seven year old over three days (with no preserving gas or whatever, just a dark place and a cork) and even at day three this was remarkably youthful. It showed lively and spicy tannins, robust acidity, primary fruit, and serious, refined minerality. It actually started off middleweight, then with air gained heft without ever losing its freshness, proportion, and balance. Despite its 14.5% alcohol this shows not heat but rather cooling mint tones on the palate. Otherwise, the wine is characterized by Provencal herbs, black pepper, blackcurrant (this is not a fruity syrah), and rocks. This rough-elbowed youngster is evolving into something very promising, indeed, and in many ways already evokes a very good Cornas, and it certainly will have the life span of one.
Giacomo Conterno Barbera d'Alba Cascina Francia 2005
Even five years in the acidity is very strong willed and I waited, on its terms, for it to decide when it wanted to be drunk. Even 24 hours later ('twas left in bottle with only one glass consumed) it was a very firm if exotically scented barbera, all cedar and huckleberry laced with meatiness and spice, and the tannins delivered a swift slap to the cheeks. It's concentrated, yet almost weightless, and very fresh and pure, and really it needed quite a bit more time. Given its tannins I thought this would go well with steak but the fruit was too bright - pasta bolognese, maybe?