Over the years we have had the opportunity to observe all facets of the wine business. One thing that has always been a little quirky (OK, there are a lot of quirky things but that’s a piece for another day) is how older wines get distributed. People wonder where we get all of the older Bordeaux we come up with on a regular basis. The answer is simple…they are out there. They are out there because there is an established, rather vibrant market supported by the negociants from older stocks, library holdings of some sort from most of the top chateaux, ‘exchanges’ of sorts like the one called ‘Livex’ where dealers all over the world can trade among themselves, and of course auction houses where consumers can buy or sell personal holdings. That’s a lot of options, and no other genre has anything close to that.
For most everything else, one is relegated to finding older goods as they resurface in the auction market. The frequency with which things appear there has a lot to do with the goods themselves. Bordeaux and older domestic wines are most common because those are the most popular categories overall and fueled by a certain level of speculative buying. At the other end of the spectrum, you see very little from certain categories like Burgundy and Rhone because those buyer purchase such wines to drink and very few scenarios would motivate them to part with those wines. Very few of the producers themselves keep healthy back stocks for an extensive set of reasons we won’t get into here.
Our point here is that opportunities to buy older vintages of top quality Chateauneufs are rare by definition, and clearly something this rare and unique even more so. The Chateau La Nerthe Chateauneuf Du Pape 2007 was a remarkably delicious surprise that appeared before us very recently. You simply don’t see a lot of 10-year-old Chateauneuf from iconic vintages floating around out there, period, let alone with compelling reviews at palatable prices.
The wine is a textbook example of what a well-made Chateauneuf from a ripe vintage should be, a little bit of grilled herbs to the inviting nose of confectionary cherries, some spice and pepper woven into the lush, kirschy palate, resolved acidity, and resolved ripe tannins. The quality of this particular bottling was enhanced because the domaine chose not to bottle their reserve Cuvee Cadettes and added that juice to this cuvee. Why they would do that in a vintage of this caliber is anyone’s guess But that is the fact and clearly that took this wine to another level.
There are compelling notes from Robert Parker and a 93-point score back in issue 185 (October, 2009), but we’d suggest even more relevance to the notes from Jeb Dunnuck in a 10-year Chateauneuf retrospective in February of 2017, “Still youthful and not yet fully mature, the 2007 Châteauneuf du Pape (which includes all the grapes that would normally have gone into the declassified Cuvee Cadettes) is full-bodied and impeccably balanced, with a fresh, focused bouquet of cassis, licorice and charred meats. This cuvee always ages beautifully, and this is one of the more fresh, lively and focused 2007s out there–and it still has present tannin. It’s certainly enjoyable today but should be even better with a year or two of additional cellaring…94 points.”
Great older wine isn’t easy to get, great old Chateauneuf is super rare. So take the time to reward yourself for the holidays, or for whatever reason you want, with this very special edition of Chateau la Nerthe. Just don’t take too long (there’s not a lot).