2006 Domaine de la Colline St. Jean Vacqueyras Vieilles Vignes
You've either got it or you don't. You can't just go out and buy 80-year-old, gnarly, head-trained Grenache vines set in full view of the majesty of the Dentelles de Montmirail. Especially not when your neighbors are the likes of Domaine de la Formane, Font Sarade, and Monardiere. Colline St. Jean's 6 acres of ancient vines account for just 500 cases of this luxury cuvee each year. Very little makes it across the ocean. About half of the production. In 2006, we took it all.
But as much as these vines are something to see (can those things talk?), it's the measured way in which Cyril Alazard handled these super-concentrated berries in 2006 that explains all the chewy, hedonistic richness of this ancient vine bottling. Alezard went for the gusto, treating the Grenache to 35 days of extended maceration, infusing the finished wine with all of the elixir-like, deep red fruit flavors of the vintage. But he did one more. By judiciously adding 20% of the whole clusters into the fermenter, he layered in more texture and ripe tannins (the seeds came in perfectly ripe in 2006), giving all that jammy fruit just enough muscled balance to carry the day.
"A la fin," Cyril told us, "people like to give credit to the winemaker. But when the vines are 80 years old, and the fruit is as perfect as it was in 2006, there's little to do. The old vines made the wine. I was just a guide."
So why did we travel back to Vacqueyras last month, scavenging only the very top cellars for wines from 2005, 2006? Two reasons. First, while the appellation has really blossomed on the international market in the last 5 or 6 years, it still lags well behind Gigondas in the commercial consciousness. Next, some of the greatest 2006s were miraculously left behind with all the journalistic hoopla of 2007.
Old Vine Grenache
"The 2006 Vacqueyras Vieilles Vignes (70% Grenache, 25% Syrah, and 5% Mourvedre) is a deep ruby/purple-tinged wine with an opulent mouthfeel. A delicious concoction of black cherries, black currants, cedar, licorice, and bouquet garni emerges from this full-bodied effort. With abundant flesh and depth, it should drink beautifully for 5-7 years. It is a brilliant example of the 2006 vintage in Vacqueyras."
91 points--Robert Parker, Wine Advocate