Last night I opened a half-bottle of the 1995 Vieux Telegraphe Chateauneuf-du-Pape, to have with dinner, partially to celebrate the holiday, and partially to celebrate the fact that my allergies had abated sufficiently that I could actually smell something. No clue why the pollen count has been so bad lately, but last night was a welcome respite and a great bottle of wine. The 1995 VT is the wine which convinced me to start collecting, a little more than a decade ago, so it has a special place in my cellar. The wine is superb, but not the dense or massive wine one expects in the greatest years. But given the tendency of Chateauneuf producers lately to make high-alcohol, highly extracted wines, I actually find older wine and second-tier vintages to be more my cup of tea. The 1995, and often VT in general (apart from the massively cough-syrupy 2003, which I couldn’t stand on release), have a balance and elegance which is missing when — to be frank — producers fight to achieve high Parker scores.
The 1995, upon opening, had herbal notes on top of a deep tarry or leathery funkiness, all overlaid on a background of dark cherry, the “signature” of this vintage and wine I’d come to expect from drinking a good deal of this after release. After an hour in the decanter, the leathery component had largely gone, leaving a deep red fruit and slightly herbal quality. In the half bottle, the aging curve may be a little faster, with a slight bricking to the color, but otherwise I don’t see any signs that the wine needs to be drunk up soon. I haven’t touched my full bottles of this vintage yet, and I expect to start doing so little by little over the next five to ten years, depending upon how it ages. But I still have 1988, 1984, 1983, and 1982 in my cellar, all second or even third-tier vintages, and most of them are elegant and lovely. If you’re interested in an older, more elegant, less massive style of Chateauneuf, Vieux Telegraphe continues to be a good bet.