Pretty good without being exceptional, this is approaching full maturity with tertiary notes of garrigue and underbrush combined with dried red fruit. 13.5% alcohol so not heavy, neither clumsy, just a little boring perhaps.
Wine Dinner Party (San Francisco, CA): Color has very slight bricking appropriate for age, still quite youthful; nose has red cherry fruit, leather, very slight heat, cranberry, good complexity; palate is light-medium bodied with some medium tannins providing some structure, pretty good acid throughout, some red fruits through the midpalate; finish has slight heat. Overall a pretty good CnDP showing some maturity, fairly good balance though a bit of characteristic heat for 1998, maybe a bit short on the palate, a bit of excess alcohol, and finish is short. 90, likely will stand up to 5 years but won't improve.
Last bottle of this - and the first acceptable one - serious variation here. For the first tome, no pruny, tired character, rather a lightness and some freshness to this wine, that seems fully mature, but with plenty of life and fresh fruit. It is a medium bodied neuf that was tonight showing elegant, restrained, even, with the tell-tale notes of sweet grenache supplemented by garrigue. Had all bottles been like this, I would have loved it ... but no, I have not been buying this wine since.
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(Bosquet des Papes Châteauneuf du Pape Chantemerle) I have to confess this is one wine I approach with trepidation, having experienced it before. It has a deep colour. The nose has many of the elements that I have previously noted, namely aromas of roast beef, balsamic vinegar, treacle and the like. The palate is soft and textured, with a fat and creamy presence, carrying some roasted and slightly high-toned flavours. It has a baked, slippery, oily feel and this struggles even in the face of decent acidity; there is just no freshness here. There are some bitter notes on the finish, and here it seems very disjointed too, with overt alcohol that has me wondering - at some moments - whether I am drinking a gin & tonic rather than a glass of wine. As I noted previously, a true casualty - to my palate - of the vintage.
(Bosquet des Papes Châteauneuf du Pape Chantemerle) Of all the bottles in my cellar from this vintage, this is the one that has perplexed me most. Some previous bottles have been very brawny and volatile, sufficiently so for me to find them undrinkable. Others have been passable if not good. How would this bottle fare? In the glass it has a good deep colour, a mature hue but nevertheless this wine is still holding onto a lot of red pigment too. The nose is reassuring, showing lots of deep, spicy, meaty fruits although with a deep, raisined character. There is certainly a resemblance, on this basis, with the basic cuvée, and I think now, having tasted both together, I understand why I have struggled with this wine. There are some other complexities which demand further analysis, notes of intense, salty Bovril and balsamic vinegar, although the palate actually seems more harmonious than previous bottles. There is, surprisingly, quite firm acidity which helps, but with this there is a meaty texture, a sweet yet firm structure, and it is grippy and rich in extract and weight. It finishes well. I think my problem with this unusual wine is its edge of raisined, cough syrup fruit, which is a result of the hot vintage. I find it troubling, and it matches nuances, such as soy sauce, a medicinal character and especially the kick of alcohol that I have previously noted in the wine. I do not like it so much. Will it just fall apart? I am unsure; it will be fascinating to taste again in the future.
(Bosquet des Papes Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée Chantemerle) Dark cherry red color with thick, clear meniscus; cocoa powder, rip plum, kirsch and clove nose; chocolatey, mature tasting tart cherry with sous bois; long finish 94+ pts.