ROBERT PARKER'S WINE ADVOCATE - JOE CZERWINSKI - DÉGUSTATION SEPT. 2021

05.05.2022

I arrived at VT during the 2021 harvest; they hadn't picked the previous two days, waiting for the vineyards to dry out a bit after the second of two rain events. "You can't have two storms like this without having some effect on structure and concentration," said Daniel Brunier. "Here, at least, we had no [spring] frost, but we lost 80% in the Ventoux." Although I tasted those wines during this visit, the Famille Brunier wines from other appellations will be covered in the next installment of Southern Rhône coverage. Piedlong is still listed here, while Clos la Roquete has its own listing, basically since that's the way they've long been listed in our database. Going forward, those, too, will be listed under the Famille Brunier umbrella. Looking at the 2019s and 2020s from this historic estate in quick succession, the differences between the vintages were readily apparent, with the 2019s being darker-fruited and perhaps a bit more structured. "The vintages are brothers," said Brunier. "The tannins in '19 are a bit more dry. It's rare to have two vintages together that are so similar. The differences are there, but not that much. The biggest difference is in the tannin structure. "The 2020 vintage was very dry until the end—maybe a bit too dry—but the rains in November and December 2019 helped, and the low yield means you don't see the dryness, because the vines didn't suffer. Harvest began August 22 or 23, and we finished on September 19. The fruit was so clean, the weather so dry, it was easy to pick." A visit to Vieux Telegraphe also means a chance to revisit past vintages, so Brunier opened bottles of the 2011 and 2001. "Arriving after 2010, which was great, I don't have a good memory of that vintage [2011]," said Brunier. But the wine showed well, mature and nicely evolved yet still offering a few more years of drinkability. Of 2001, Brunier remarked, "It was a normal summer, normal rain at normal times, with no big, defining feature. But this is the kind of vintage I can drink a bottle by myself. It's not a big vintage by the numbers, but it has aged well because it is balanced." Amen to that.

 

2020 Vieux Télégraphe – (93-95)

Tasted as a tank sample of the final blend, the 2020 Chateauneuf du Pape La Crau is a blend of approximately 60% Grenache, 20% Mourvèdre, 15% Syrah and 5% other permitted varieties, with about 30% whole bunches used in the ferments. Marked by ripe cherries and hints of complex garrigue notes on the nose, it's full-bodied but also really elegant, with fine-grained, silky tannins, ample concentration and a long, surprisingly crisp finish.

 

2011 Vieux Télégraphe – 93

Showing beautifully on this occasion, the 2011 Chateauneuf du Pape reveals a bit of bricking, with hallmark notes of iodine, sweet red cherries and a delicate touch of fine leather. Medium to full-bodied and bolstered by soft tannins, it finishes long, with notes of salted licorice. I wouldn't plan on holding it much longer, but it should please those looking for a mature bottle over the next few years.

 

2001 Vieux Télégraphe – 95

Showing a bit of brick at the rim, Vieux Telegraphe's 2001 Chateauneuf du Pape remains a wonderfully complex, vibrant wine. Marked by scents of pressed flowers, a hint of button mushrooms and plenty of cherry-raspberry fruit, it's medium to full-bodied and silky textured, finishing long and complex.

 

2019 Vieux Télégraphe – 96+

The 2019 Chateauneuf du Pape La Crau is a hugely successful vintage, marked by scents of sun-warmed stones, garrigue, black cherries and black olives. Full-bodied, rich and velvety, it finishes with tremendous length and softly dusty tannins, which should help ensure a long, positive evolution.

 

2020 Piedlong – (94-96)

The 2020 Chateauneuf du Pape Piedlong is 90% Grenache from the lieu-dit le Pied Long (sometimes written as one word), plus 10% Mourvèdre from Pignan, so sandy soils—in contrast to Vieux Telegraph's preponderance of la Crau's galets roulés. At 50% whole bunches, it's a bit stemmy and herbal but also soaring and gorgeous on the nose, with scents of roses, menthol, cherries and raspberries. Full-bodied but airy in feel and silky in texture, with a long, lingering finish, it looks to be pretty special this vintage.

 

2019 Piedlong - 95

From largely sandy soils, and composed of 90% Grenache (the other 10% is Mourvèdre from the Pignan lieu-dit, also sandy), the 2019 Chateauneuf du Pape Piedlong delivers scents of black cherries and ripe plums, tinged with hints of menthol and green stemminess. Give it a couple of years in the cellar, and it should be singing, as it's full-bodied, rich and velvety, while remaining long, vibrant and mouthwatering on the finish.

 

2020 Vieux Télégraphe blanc – 93

Coming from a single parcel of 50- to 55-year-old vines in la Crau, Vieux Telegraph's 2020 Chateauneuf du Pape Blanc is a blend of roughly 45% Clairette and 30% Grenache Blanc, with the balance split equally between Roussanne and Bourboulenc. Two-thirds were matured in foudre, with the other third matured in demi-muids, leading to a slightly honeyed nose with hints of toasted grain and gently warmed pineapple. It's full-bodied and creamy, balanced by a hint of bitterness on the long finish.

 

2019 Vieux Télégraphe blanc – 93

Hitting on all cylinders, the 2019 Chateauneuf du Pape Blanc boasts enchanting aromas of toasted grain, honeyed pears and ripe pineapple, with what seems like a bit of mocha or struck match as well. It's full-bodied, on the rich, corpulent side, but not overdone, remaining clean and citrusy-fresh on the lengthy finish.

 

2020 Clos Roquète - 92

From 40-year-old vines on sandy soils, the 2020 Chateauneuf du Pape Blanc is a blend of Clairette, Roussanne and Grenache Blanc, matured in demi-muids and foudres. Hints of honey, toasted grain and ripe pineapple appear on the nose, while the medium-bodied palate is clean, fresh and citrusy, finishing with an appealingly silky texture and ample length.

 

2019 Clos Roquète - 93

A blend of Clairette, Grenache Blanc and Roussanne, the 2019 Chateauneuf du Pape Blanc features notes of honey, wood spice (it's matured in foudres and demi-muids) and pineapple. Full-bodied, rich and expansive without being heavy, it finishes with hints of citrus, a slightly chalky feel and plenty of length.

 

2020 Télégramme – (91-93)

Comprising old vines not from la Crau or le Pied Long (two years ago, the Bruniers purchased eight hectares of 60-year-old Grenache, specifically for this cuvée) and young vines from those lieux-dits, the 2020 Chateauneuf du Pape Telegramme delivers pretty notions of strawberries and raspberries, plus just a hint of chocolate. Full-bodied but silky, fine and elegant, this looks like the finest wine I've tasted under this label—a solid wine of its own.

 

2019 Télégramme – 92

Full-bodied, rich and highly textural, the 2019 Chateauneuf du Pape Telegramme is atypically concentrated and dense, reflecting the addition of more old-vine Grenache to the cuvée. Black cherries, salted licorice and dark chocolate all make appearances, and the wine finishes long and velvety.