2010 Tardieu-Laurent Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée Spéciale
Expert Rating
WS 95 points
(Read the full review below)
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Wine Spectator's
Châteauneuf-du-Pape Honor Roll
Wine Retail Price Score
2010 Clos Des Papes Châteauneuf-du-Pape $128 98
2010 M. Chapoutier Châteauneuf-du-Pape Barbe Rac $120 97
2010 Château de Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-Pape $120 96
2010 Tardieu-Laurent Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée Spéciale $85 95
2010 Jean Royer Châteauneuf-du-Pape Les Sables de La Crau $156 94
2010 Alain Jaume Châteauneuf-du-Pape Domaine Grand Veneur Vieilles Vignes $121 93
2010 Château La Nerthe Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée des Cadettes $170 93
The “Chauffeur’s” 95pt Châteauneuf-du-Pape

In Socialist France, now more than ever, if you want to get rich, it's best to be born that way. Only on the country's top wine trails does one find daring counterexamples — none more so than Michel Tardieu.

While in his late 20s, Michel answered an ad in a local paper and landed a job as a chauffeur for a public official. His days and evenings were spent behind the wheel of a Citroën sedan, escorting his well-heeled employer from one meeting to the next. But as his client's lunch meetings were often long and drawn out — and no one had yet come up with the idea of Uber — whenever possible, Tardieu snuck off to visit the top cellars of the Rhône Valley.

Sixteen years later, Michel Tardieu felt like he'd spent as many daylight hours underground as above-ground. His knowledge of the Rhône was encyclopedic, trumping even Robert Parker and Jancis Robinson. Soon after retiring, in 1994, Tardieu was introduced to the affable Dominique Laurent, whose story much resembled his own.

Laurent is a big, cheerful man, trained as a master pâtissier. But by 1993, Dominique had grown tired of 4 a.m. pain au chocolat wake up calls. He needed a change. As the story goes, Laurent sought out the owners of some of the most prized parcels in the Côte de Nuits, paying top dollar for a few tons of Grand Cru Burgundy. His first wines were exquisite, combining wild-berry intensity with riveting fruit purity — immediately wowing both Robert Parker, Jr. and Stephen Tanzer.

Michel TardieuThe chauffeur and the pâtissier immediately hit it off. It wouldn't be long before Tardieu-Laurent was formed. While Dominique remained in Burgundy, Tardieu adopted the patissier's cellar protocol in the southern Rhône. And the payoff can be seen in the 2010 Tardieu-Laurent Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée Spéciale.

Upon release, Michel said that the tiny harvest of 2010 gave birth to the purest, most ethereally concentrated Châteauneuf-du-Pape since 1978. In the months that followed, Wine Spectator (95 points) echoed Tardieu's refrain.

A spring frost crippled yields early in the campaign. Most affected were the 100+ year-old Grenache vines growing on the cobblestone moonscape of La Crau from which Tardieu draws his world-class Cuvée Spéciale. The summer turned cool and dry — almost too dry — before a timely September storm revitalized the head-trained plants. Cautious growers picked in late September. But the appellation's greatest risk takers — none greater than Michel Tardieu — waited until mid-October, harvesting a small crop of ancient-vine clusters. Natural sugars were high, but far more importantly, acids were more Burgundian than southern Rhône.

The 2010 Tardieu-Laurent Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée Spéciale is one of the greatest bottles of this monumental vintage. Bright ruby to the rim, infused with luscious, crushed red fruit, sweet herbs and Vosne-like juiciness. Even if Tardieu's powerhouse 2010 comes out of the gate like gangbusters, dividends will be paid to the patient. After two hours in oversized Riedel, the fireworks begin, the mid-palate filling out, putting on wild-berry weight, while the finish remains bright, vibrant and persistent.

Tasting Notes

2010 Tardieu-Laurent Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée Spéciale
"A lush, opulent style, with captivating blackberry sauce, plum preserves and linzer torte notes draped over dense but polished tannins. Lots of dark licorice, cinnamon and roasted tobacco leaf notes fill in on the finish, which has the heft and cut of the vintage. Best from 2014 through 2028. 830 cases made."
95 points -- Wine Spectator


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