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1. GIGONDAS 2007

Gigondas did well in 2007 and 2008, helped in both cases by its late ripening location. A signal advantage for this appellation is the freshness of its wines - provided growers do not seek to make fruit bombs targeted at overseas markets. There is thus the chance to taste, drink and enjoy wines that are free in expression, that skip along the palate, and are not too demanding in potency.

Vinification standards have risen at Gigondas in the past 10 years, with once lesser domaines now catching up the traditional leaders - the latter grouped around Cayron, Grapillon d`Or, Pallières, Raspail-Ay, Saint Gayan, Santa Duc, and Tourelles (now part of the Perrin & Fils empire). 

Hence names to come forward in the past decade: Pierre Amadieu - a surge forward here in the quality, which is very important for the appellation given the longstanding name and its large vineyards - Bouïssière, Roubine, Saint Damien (mega high profile oenologue Philippe Cambie`s advice is given here), Château Saint Cosme. But also old domaines where youth has played a role in providing impetus: Les Chênes Blancs, Mavette, Les Mas des Flauzières (calming down the extraction has helped a lot), Notre Dame des Pallières. Ticking away soundly are domaines such as the longtime organic Clos du Joncuas, Boissan, Cabasse, Espiers, Font-Sane, Gour de Chaulé - Stéphanie Fumoso a charming new face - Moulin de la Gardette, Pesquier, Teysonnières and now veterans that include Jean-Pierre Cartier at Les Goubert. It is also good that the Cave de Gigondas is switched-on enough to forbid machine harvesting by its members, and to commit to quality in the wines that comes through in wines such as their Signature Gigondas.

The beauty of the domaines mentioned above is their diversity of style - from the slow to unfurl, sturdy Grenache qualities of the Clos du Joncuas to the honesty and interest in the evidently hand made wines of Jean-Baptiste Meunier at Moulin de la Gardette. Or the fruit clarity and ease of the Espiers to the robust, almost searching characteristics of the Bouïssière.

2007 is recognised as an excellent vintage in the Southern Rhône, and I would say that Gigondas is indeed one of the leaders this year. It has been encouraging to note the development of the wines from promising beginnings to a state at two years` old where they are really taking off, moving to shades of complexity and variety that only really good vintages can provide.

My first proper look came in June 2008: I felt that the majority needed leaving until 2012, a few a bit longer. Colours were universally sound to full; there was evident palate fruit that was open and expressive, and good tannins, not angular at all, showing up from half way, and set to meld in well. I reckoned a life ahead of 14-18 years. Aromas were full, quite abundant.

My next and wider inspection came in November 2008: here I felt that the wines were starting to show good integration, and stylistically were capable of drinking well all through the calendar year, rather than the 2006s that are more suited to game and winter drinking. Most of the wines tasted were still in cask, so the third big inspection came in December  2009. I now found more upward than downward revisions in the quality, with a host of wines in the 4 star bracket - meaning they are likely to be good value for money, as well, unless over-hyped and oaked up in special cuvée form. I also found these Gigondas reds moving from vintage-influenced wines to more genuine terroir wines. They were fresh and STGT in several cases.

I would buy 2007 Gigondas with great confidence. It is a vintage for lovers of structured wines that hold a certain reserve. European palates would much appreciate their style. In the USA, where opinions seem often radical and closed to alternative views or mindsets, the wines most appreciated would be the sweeter ones, where late harvested crop has been used. Anyone dizzy over all the 2007 Châteauneufs in their guises ranging from structured and balanced to over the top, heady and cumbersome, will have to cherry pick their 2007 Gigondas. Tannin is still a word alive in the dictionary at Gigondas, I am happy to say.

Some impressions of 2007 from a diverse set of growers follows, speaking to me at different times.

Philippe Archimbaud, Château de Montmirail: "I like the 2007s Gigondas a lot - they were straightforward to vinify."

Christian Bonfils, Domaine de Boissan: "because the Grenache was high in alcohol, we used more Syrah this year - 30% instead of 20% in our Cuvée Victor [which is his oaked cuvée]."

Mathieu Boutière, Domaine du Pesquier: "we had a lot of Mistral before and during picking - it was very useful. 2007 is less robust in its tannins and content than 2005, and there is less life in it than the 2005 - it is a wine of finesse."

Bernard Chauvet, Domaine du Grapillon d`Or: "the crop in 2007 was as healthy as it was in 2005 - it`s good."

Roger Cuillerat, Domaine des Tourelles: "2007 is a year for the real amateurs of Gigondas, and is better than 2006."

Yves Gras, Domaine Santa Duc: "I picked in the last week of September, ending on 4 October. The crop was in great shape."

Eric Michel, Domaine Cros de la Mûre: "I find 2007 a vintage of good class - the tannins slip along well, are pure, and better than usual. I picked the 28 September, about 5 days ahead of usual."

Joël Saurel, Domaine Saint Damien: "We were hopeful at harvest time. The grapes were magnificent, the weather lovely, and the colour was full, even the bunches were in the harvest buckets. I rate it more beau and rich above all than 2005, a lot of finesse and unctuous tannins in the wines. The only defect is a bit too high a degree of alcohol. We had to pick quickly since this year the sugars and the polyphenols ripened together, in step with one another."

Eric Ughetto, Domaine La Roubine: "When you taste a 2007 from the vat, you already taste a harmony between the tannins, the roundness in the mouth and the colour of the wine. I finished my sugars eventually in July 2008 - the Vacqueyras and the Gigondas took a long time to drop from 10 gm to 2 gm of residual sugar - I don`t use any products to encourage that, only natural yeasts. You could argue that the style of 2007 is so abundant that it is not a vintage that gives access to terroir." 

Below are listed the top wines so far tasted, as of the end of December, 2009, with likely length of life, and the date last tasted. For other wines of less than 3 stars, please use the Search engine under 2007, entering Gigondas, 2.5 or 2 stars, for instance.

LEADING GIGONDAS 2007s

*****  Domaine La Roubine  2019-21  11/08  be stroked
*****  Xavier Vins Xavier  2020-23  12/09  real thing 
****(*)  Pierre Amadieu Grande Romane  2022-24  12/09  progressing 
****(*)  Domaine La Bouïssière La Font de Tonin  2022-24  12/09  STGT within oak 
****(*)  Domaine de Cassan  2022-23  12/09  STGT, progress 
****(*)  Domaine des Espiers La Cuvée des Blâches  2023-24  11/08  silk texture 
****(*)  Le Moulin de la Gardette Cuvée Zoë 2022-24  12/09  gd oaking 
****(*)  Domaine La Roubine 24M  2022-25  03/11  oak, curvy 
****(*)  Domaine Saint Gayan  2021-23  12/09  quiet class 
****(*)  Domaine Sainte-Anne  2022-24  07/11  drive, plenty 
****  La Bastide Saint Vincent 2018-19  12/09  Gren purity 
****  Château Redortier 2021-23  12/09   
**** Château de Saint Cosme Le Claux 2026-28 07/11 sweet, perfumato
****  Château de Saint Cosme Hominis Fides  2022-23  12/09   
****  Château de Saint Cosme Valbelle  2020-22  12/09   
**** Clos du Joncuas  2027-29 10/17 dense, savoury
****  Domaine Brusset Le Grand Montmirail  2023-24  12/09  big, no hurry 
****  Domaine de Cabasse  2021-22  11/09  modern, stylish 
****  Domaine Les Chênes Blancs  2020-21  12/09  STGT 
****  Domaine Cros de la Mûre  2021-22  12/09  gd poise 
****  Domaine de la Daysse  2022-24  07/11  full, deft 
****  Domaine des Espiers Cuvée Tradition  2016-17  11/08   
****  Dom de Font-Sane Terrasses des Dentelles  2020-22  12/09   
****  Domaine Les Goubert  2021-23  12/09  gd heart 

****

Domaine du Grapillon d`Or 1806  2019-21  12/09  w.o.w. young 
****  E.Guigal  2024-26  07/11  2007 mass 
****  Domaine de Longue Toque  2022-23  12/09   
****  Domaine de la Mavette  2022-23  12/09 STGT 
****  Le Mas des Flauzières La Grande Réserve  2021-23  12/09   
****  Le Moulin de la Gardette La Cuvée Tradition  2022-24 12/09  gd heart 
****  Le Moulin de la Gardette Ventabren  2021-22  12/09   
****  Domaine Notre Dame des Pallières  2021-23  11/09   
****  Dom N Dame des Pallières Bois des Mourres  2020-21  12/09   
****  Domaine Les Pallières Terrasses du Diable  2021-23  12/09  STGT 
****  Domaine du Pesquier  2019-21  12/09  STGT 
****  Domaine Santa Duc Tradition  2018-20  02/09   
****  Ogier Oratorio  2018-19  12/09  w.o.w. 
****  Perrin & Fils La Gille  2019-20  11/08  v ripe Gren 
***(*)  Pierre Amadieu Grande Réserve  2020-22  12/09   
***(*)  La Bastide Saint Vincent Costevieille  2020-22  03/11  warm, bit oak 
***(*)  Delas Les Reinages  2020-21  11/09   
***(*)  Domaine de Boissan Vieilles Vignes  2019-20  11/08   
***(*)  Domaine Brusset Les Hauts de Montmirail  2019-21  12/09  cool fruit 
***(*)  Domaine du Cayron  2021-23  06/08  basilic airs 
***(*)  Dom Le Clos des Cazaux La Tour Sarrazine 2020-21  12/09  dble decant 
***(*)  Domaine du Grapillon d`Or Excellence  2019-20  12/09   
***(*)  Le Mas des Flauzières Four Danuga  2021-23  12/09  modern 
***(*)  Montirius Confidentiel  2020-22  12/09  decant 
***(*)  Domaine Paillère et Pied Gu 2020-22  07/11  gutsy, full 
***(*)  Domaine Les Pallières Les Racines  2019-21  12/09  fresh, juicy 
***(*)  Domaine Raspail-Ay  2021-23  12/09  can improve 
***(*)  Ravoire et Fils Olivier Ravoire  2021-23  12/09  gutsy 

***(*) 

Domaine Saint Damien Les Souteyrades  2018-20  12/09  elegant Gig 
***(*)  Domaine du Terme "black label"  2020-22  12/09  purposeful 
***(*)  Domaine des Tourelles  2020-23  06/08   
***  Cave de Gigondas Signature  2017-18  12/09  easy to like 
***  Chât de Montmirail Cuvée de Beauchamp    06/08  smooth 
***  Château Raspail  2020-21  12/09   
***  Château du Trignon  2019-20  12/09  dble decant 
***  Domaine de Boissan Sélection de Victor  2018-19  11/08  30% Syrah 
***  Domaine des Bosquets  2019-21  12/09   
***  Florent & Damien Burle  2016-17  03/09  STGT 
***  Domaine La Fourmone Cuvée Fauquet  2021-22  07/11  trad, dense 
***  Domaine La Garrigue  2022-24  11/08   
***  Domaine Les Goubert Cuvée Florence  2021-23  12/09   
***  Domaine Gour de Chaulé Cuvée Tradition  2020-22  12/09   
***  Domaine du Grand Bourjassot Cuvée Cécile  2022-23  12/09   
***  Gabriel Meffre Laurus  2018  12/09   
***  Domaine de Montvac Adage  2020-21  12/09   
***  Domaine Saint Damien  2017-18  11/08  sleek, juicy 
***  Domaine Saint Damien La Louisiane  2018-20  12/09   
***  Domaine Saint Gayan Fontmaria  2019-21  12/09  international 
***  Domaine du Terme "white label"  2020-22  12/09  also ****(*) 
***  Perrin & Fils Vieilles Vignes  2025-28  11/08  near OTT 
         

2. CHÂTEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE RED 2007

Let us start with the bulging dossier that is Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2007. After all the fanfare and yes, the hype, what is to be made of 2007 at Châteauneuf? Merchants in England for one report very brisk en primeur sales of these wines. The lack of competition from Bordeaux is significant, and I would go as far as to define 2007 as the first year there has been a definite separation in buyers` minds between Bordeaux and the Rhône.

Ever since I was a young`un covering the Rhône in the early 1970s, buyers took what happened in Bordeaux as a guide to the rest of France, and so vintages such as 1980 and 1981 in the Rhône (not great years in Bordeaux) did not receive the favourable coverage and sales that they merited at the time. In 2007, that has flown out of the window, and if I once more refer to periods when the Rhône has temporarily become "hot" in the marketplace ( I can think of the early 1970s) - that may presage a setback as prices rise ahead of reality.

So any look at 2007 must include a look at 2008 as well -  a year which is certain to be derided after the dodgy summer and the sometimes very heavy early September rains. Early tastings of 2008 indicate a standard Rhône phenomenon - that of good white wines and very acceptable, easy to drink rosés. Alcohol degrees are lower than usual, no bad thing. But merchants cannot look at the Rhône as their large revenue earning region until at least late 2010, when the first 2009s will be coming on to the market - although their quality, in what is low yield crop, suggests promise in its earliest stages of the harvest.

2007 is a contradictory vintage at Châteauneuf-du-Pape - one that surprised growers. On the surface I find it textured and very agreeable, but structurally I find issues. One is the lack of acidity, the other is the extreme ripeness of the tannins. Sugar levels were very high in the grapes: one domaine did not show me its 2007 in March 2009 because it still has unfermented sugar in the vat, and elsewhere this is something of a feature in some 2007s, especially for those following organic or biodynamic routes.

Didier Fabre of Château Mont-Redon commented on the vintage as follows: "2007 was a very surprising year. We had rain and mildew in May and June, and the start of botrytis, but were saved by the dry weather that was effectively a drought. There were two rainfalls of around 15 mm (0.6 inch) total at the end of September, but the last real rainfall here was 45 mm on 17 June, and now it is mid-November."

This scenario was echoed by Anne-Charlotte Mélia of Château de La Font du Loup, who in 2008 reflected thus: "we had a lovely quality crop in 2007 - not a grain of rot. The dry weather started around 8-10 July, and lasted until Christmas, the climate marked by a lot wind and sun. Before that, May and June had been anxious times thanks to the rain."

Didier Fabre is in the north-west of the appellation, and Anne-Charlotte in the east, north-east; also from that latter side of the village, on the east side, Jean Lançon at Domaine de la Solitude observed: "the bunches were very tight, and if we had had any early September rain, it would have been a disaster. As it was, there was some healthy Mistral."

Not far away, towards Bédarrides, Daniel Brunier of Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe felt quite strong mildew pressure at the start of the summer, but added, "from my point of view, the summer was great - it was a year for the peasant, not for the tourist, since it was hot but not too much so, and above all was dry. We had two very well-timed rainfalls on 14 July and 15 August, while the Mistral wind during July helped to construct the tannins. September saw not a drop of rain, was great weather. The luck we had in the Southern Rhône compared for example to Bordeaux was our dry September." 

When the first Californian Rangers visited Châteauneuf in the late 1970s or so, there was frequently surprise expressed at the important role played by wind across the appellation. The prevailing north wind, the Mistral, was central to the shape of the 2007 vintage, as mentioned by Daniel Brunier, and its cleaning forces probably saved the vintage from outright disaster, both in quality and economics. It headed off the onset of rot, and contributed to a very fast late ripening, which provoked its own problems - notably high alcohol and low acidity. But the crop quantity largely survived, and that will prove very important for growers faced by a less than perfect, low quantity 2008.

Jean-François Méry of Les Clefs d'Or has his main vineyards north and east of the village. For him, there is the issue of residual sugar in 2007: "that is because the end of ripening was rapid; in June and July we were worried, and while August wasn`t good for the tourists, it was good for the vines, bringing a fast late gain in degree. The tannins are fine, which is rare to find. We picked the 9-10 September, and were confident about the crop quality. 2006 was more uneven." 

From Clos des Papes, Vincent Avril picked up on the low levels of acidity, and the nature of the tannins in 2007: "2003 and 2007 have been the slightly lower acidity years here," he states. "What I like about 2007 is the tannins - the wine remains silken even after the tannins have come along. You had to wait in 2007, past 15°, to get the tannins ripe. Going from 14.5° to 15.2° or 15.3° made the difference."

Cool nights also helped, but I agree with Marc Perrin of Château de Beaucastel when he comments, "you need Mourvèdre and Syrah to lower the alcohol and to provide backbone, tannins and freshness in 2007. Our Mourvèdre was exceptional this year - it had very integrated, ripe tannins but present ones. The Grenache-only wines are so rich and so round that they can be too heavy."

It`s interesting to note that Château La Nerthe are not making a special Cuvée des Cadettes in 2007; this moves between 17% and 33% Mourvèdre when it is made - most vintages. But Alain Dugas found that the crop lacked the structure for the wine - "notably the Mourvèdre and the quality of its tannins that were not ripe and did not have enough tannin." He added that the 2007 vintage tannin index was 50 - low against 2005 in the high 60s, and 2006 on 60. I agree with the low tannin comment, but must add that La Nerthe have a reputation as early harvesters, and I think that policy did for them in 2007. 

The benefit of Mourvèdre is exactly what I found when tasting wines such as 2007 Clos des Papes - the extra structure, but also textural looseness supplied by the non-Grenache grapes was very welcome in freshening and balancing the wines, especially on their finishes. Indeed, the profile of a vintage achieved late in the season tallies closely to the Mourvèdre`s nature of being a late ripener. 

The Domaine de la Côte de l'Ange chose 2007 to launch a new wine, the Secret de l`Ange, composed of 70% Mourvèdre, and 30% Grenache. "We waited until the end of September to pick the Mourvèdre," recalls Yannick Gasparri. "It made steady progress, and would have been even better but for some late September rain. It is easily as good as the Grenache this year." His Mourvèdre vines are reasonably mature, dating from the late 1960s and 1970s.

Many mainly Grenache wines in 2007 have received the fashionable school long maceration after a late, high sugar picking, and the drinker can be left to swoon in a sea of alcohol and sticky red fruit. Whatever happened to the notion of drinking wine for fun and conviviality, rather than making it an endurance test? Interestingly, across a broad section of international visitors to the Découvertes en Vallée du Rhône event in Avignon in mid-March 2009, many emerged from the Châteauneuf day with similar comments: they were usually the more experienced (20 years or more in the trade), and they mostly resided in Europe.

Marc Perrin's final word on 2007 is encouraging: "we think 2007 has exceptional keeping potential (like the 2005) but also a flesh and form of tannins that make it appreciable straight away - a rare combination. It is a great vintage. The crop was lovely and ripe, but with fresh nights, so there was a balanced acidity."

In June, 2008, I asked three growers in a joint meeting their views on 2007 against 2006. My exact question was: "is 2007 more profound than 2006?" Patrick Brunel of Château de La Gardine said "No, nor at Lirac for us. 2006 is a wine of longevity; 2007 is so good now, it may not last." Anne-Charlotte Mélia of Château de La Font du Loup and Christian Voeux of Château Mont-Redon both replied "Yes." Christian added "the 2007 tannins are a bit more firm; 2006 is similar in depth (profondeur), but the 2006 tannins are more silky, and the 2007 tannins more powerful."

Régis Barrot, of the excellent traditional Domaine Lucien Barrot et Fils, when asked the same question, replied: "2006 and 2007 are very similar in alcohol - 15.2° for us - but you find it more on the finish of the 2006s than the 2007s. I regard 2006 as a good, but not a great year. Our 2007 has good acidity, and will keep easily 10 to 15 years, about 5 years more than the 2006." Claire Michel, now in the front rank of daily operations at the esteemed Le Vieux Donjon, found 2007 closer to 2005 than 2006: "2007 is more founded and complex than 2006," she told me.

While for me the way the 2007 ripeness was achieved poses questions for the quality and endurance of the wines, there is certainly no equivocation about the quality of the crop itself. "It is a long time since I saw such pretty grapes - there was regularity in their colour, which was very even across them. We needed to do very little sorting across all the varieties" is how Emmanuel Reynaud of Château Rayas summed it up. Laurence Féraud of Domaine du Pegaü was in complete agreement: "2007 is 1990 for me - there were lovely grapes in the vineyard when you ate them. The crop was already beautiful before we vinified."

Pursuing the 2007 versus 1990 theme, the yardstick Domaine de Font de Michelle at Bédarrides, under Michel and Jean Gonnet, put the vinification of the two vintages in perspective. ""1990 was the first year we destemmed - 33% of our crop," related Michel. "In 2007 we destemmed 75%. In 1990 we only did pumping overs during the vinification, while we also did about 4 to 5 cap punchings in 2007. The 1990 fermentations didn`t end until December, while the 2007s ended much earlier. There was also the vineyard approach that has changed: in 1990, if the grapes reached 14° we picked; now we wait to make sure the polyphenols are ripe (stems, tannins), so in effect we wait longer and are more precise." Thus much less is left to chance these days, and the wines are bound to be "tidier." 

Frédéric Boutin, a promising grower who has made good progress at his Domaine La Boutinière since joining his dad in 1997, when only 4,000 bottles were produced, agreed completely about the quality of the 2007 crop: "the harvest was of great quality, and 2007 will be very good; I rate 2007 ahead of 2005 - 2005 was more complex at the start of harvesting (no doubt, referring to the drought, and the thick skin, low juice crop). After vinifiying it, I thought 2007 was truly beau and complex - it could be equivalent and superior to 2005." 

Stylistically, these are wines of immediate pleasure. I have written elsewhere that there are two voices in my head on 2007, both from the English Civil War. One is the Royalist - the supporter of King Charles I - who liked to enjoy himself and carouse and make merry, the good lad. He would have taken a sip of a typical 2007, all plushly textured, swimming in supple red fruits, and said the seventeenth century equivalent of "Bring it On".

Enter, to boos, no doubt, Oliver Cromwell, self-styled Protector of the Faith, and indeed the man who created a British government that led to the Commonwealth, in 1653, four years after Charles had been beheaded. Given to black clothing to reflect his Puritan take on life, Cromwell would have derided the 2007s for their instant glamour, and queried their apparent lack of backbone - wines all in the here and now, but what about their future development?

André Brunel, of the excellent Les Cailloux, had this to say on the above point when I spoke to him in November, 2008: "the acidity is quite low, and the degree is marked via this ripeness - it is 15°, for instance, on my Côtes du Rhône red. The 2007 Châteauneuf red has closed a little and may gain some tannin and chewiness. There is certainly less tannin than 2005. At first, we thought it was like 1990, but it won`t keep as long as that - the acidity is low. Three months ago there were very good tannins, but now the wines are evolving."

The question of tannins is not entirely straightforward in 2007, since their incidence varied, with Christian Voeux, the winemaker at La Nerthe who previously worked for many years at Mont-Redon reporting: "there was a lot of difference between zones for tannins in 2007. Mont-Redon had a lot more tannin than La Nerthe in 2007, but both were picked at similar times - it`s not easy to explain why that should be." La Nerthe is just on the east side of the village, while Mont-Redon lies to the north-west.

Michel Gonnet at Domaine de Font de Michelle, raised the stylistic point as well: "there are a lot of overripe grapes in the 2007s at Châteauneuf, but remember that those growers with 17° on their Grenache actually wanted to have that."  For growers with an STGT take on life, this is of course excessive, and Jacqueline André at Domaine Pierre André summed up the vintage style for those of a measured approach thus: "the 2007 red always had lots and lots of fruit, and is very pure - it is not as dense as 2005 - it is more facile."

As to the buying and cellaring of these wines, they will appeal greatly to those who have something of a sweet tooth, and who like their wines to really deliver - open, broad aromas, plenty of sunshine in the glass, and fleshy, textured palates with no rough edges. The Grenache red fruits race across many glasses, and the attack on the palate is often a moment of bursting bounty. You can lap this up, and forget the finish that may taper or dip.

Any domaine that works in a way that allows the grapes to express themselves, is non-interventionist in the cellar, and also careful about avoiding excess levels of sugar and alcohol, will be doing well in 2007. Any domaine with mature vines of Mourvèdre, Syrah, even the peppery, live Counoise will do well. The Mourvèdre`s success was also noted by Domaine Grand Veneur, in the northern zone near Orange: "the Mourvèdre was more tannic this year than in 2006," commented Sebastien Jaume - obviously a good sign for the keeping abilities of wines that contained decent amounts of it. A single cuvée Mourvèdre, Le Tintot, from Mas de Boislauzon is an interesting Prestige wine, for instance.

This line of equilibrium has been crossed by some of that group that I would term a mixed blessing, the Prestige Wines. These wines have been great providers of prosperity to the growers of Châteauneuf, with their high prices and their fanfare on the chat rooms and merchants` lists, garnished by glowing tributes from critics. But they depart from the centuries-long tradition of blending in southern climes, and so do not represent the appellation area of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, with its wide variety of soils, and its wide variety of holdings built up over the decades by marriage, kinship and so on.

Once these wines, all issued in small quantities, are then given the cosmetic treatment of extreme ripeness, long macerations, new or very young oaking, and - the final anti-ecology insult - a heavy bottle, they become a sham. I cannot think who really enjoys "drinking" 16° wine with shards of new oak in it. I certainly don`t.

The best Prestige wines in 2007 are those that extol simplicity - the Marcoux Vieilles Vignes (3 sites, 1 variety - Grenache, oak barrel then vat raising) is a beauty (just like the 2006), and others that run along similar lines are Les Cailloux Cuvée Centenaire (2 sites, 3 varieties, Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre, 80% vat, rest new-1 year oak) and the Clos du Mont-Olivet Cuvée du Papet (3 sites, 3 varieties, Grenache, Mourvèdre, Syrah, vat then large barrel). They all present finesse and a silken bundling of the vineyard`s talent. They are worth the money.

Out front in 2007 are two absolute classics, the Château Rayas and the Beaucastel Hommage à Jacques Perrin. Rayas has been storming back to form recently across the whole stable of wines - allez, Emmanuel! The Fonsalette and the Château des Tours are also very good, but the Rayas 2007 evokes my early days visiting his grandfather Louis and tasting (well, drinking actually) such gems as the 1962 or 1967: fantastic purity of fruit, with the wonderful caress of a textured wine, an object of true beauty, a show stopper, even for an impetuous young man.

The Hommage Beaucastel salutes the mighty Mourvèdre in 2007. with 60% of it taken by that variety. It, too, caresses the palate, and holds what I call a cornucopia of possibilities. Like the Rayas, it has been tasted out of cask or large barrel, so the judgment is a pre-bottle one, as it is for many of these 2007s.

Many of the 2007s may live for around 15 years, but the best, and those that contain Mourvèdre and Syrah, will live well - 25 years or so, even given modern, destemmed vinifications and riper tannins than used to be the case in previous great years such as 1978.

2007 is a very good year, with some great wines here and there. But I cannot hail it as universally great vintage. Let`s just hope prices do not become absurd.

For interest, here are some of the domaines whose wines contain significant amounts of Mourvèdre:

Brotte Cuvée Prestige   80% Mourvèdre  ***(*) 
Château de Beaucastel  30% Mourvèdre  ****** 
Château de Beaucastel Hommage à Jacques Perrin  60% Mourvèdre  ****** 
Château de la Gardine Tradition 20% Mourvèdre  ***(*) 
Château de la Gardine Cuvée des Générations  20% Mourvèdre  ***** 
Château de Vaudieu Val de Dieu            20% Mourvèdre  ***(*) 
Le Clos du Caillou La Réserve  25% Mourvèdre  ****(*) 
Clos des Papes  20% Mourvèdre  ***** 
Clos Saint Jean Deus ex Machina  40% Mourvèdre **** 
Clos Saint Michel Cuvée Réservée 30% Mourvèdre  ***(*) 
Cuvée du Vatican Réserve Sixtine  20% Mourvèdre  ***** 
Domaine Bois de Boursan Cuvée des Félix 25% Mourvèdre  ***** 
Domaine de la Côte de l'Ange Vieilles Vignes   20% Mourvèdre ****(*) 
Domaine de la Côte de l'Ange Secret de l`Ange   95% Mourvèdre  **** 
Domaine de Cristia Renaissance  30% Mourvèdre **** 
Domaine du Galet des Papes Vieilles Vignes  30% Mourvèdre  **** 
Domaine Grand Veneur Les Origines  25%+ Mourvèdre **** 
Domaine de la Graveirette  40% Mourvèdre  **** 
Mas de Boislauzon Cuvée du Quet  20% Mourvèdre  **** 
Mas de Boislauzon Le Tintot 100% Mourvèdre           *** 
Saint Cosme  40% Mourvèdre  **** 

Below are listed the top wines tasted, with likely length of life, and the date last tasted. For other wines of 3 stars or less, please use the Search engine under 2007, entering Châteauneuf-du-Pape, 2 stars or 3 stars and up, and up will come the many wines of that quality.

LEADING CHÂTEAUNEUF-du-PAPE 2007 REDS

******  Château de Beaucastel Hommage à Jacques Perrin   2038-41  05/11 
******  Château de Beaucastel  2034-37  05/11 
******  Château Rayas 2035-42  11/08 
***** Henri Bonneau 2033-36 11/15
*****  Château de la Gardine Cuvée des Générations  2025-27  11/08 
*****  Clos du Mont-Olivet La Cuvée du Papet  2024-26  11/08 
*****  Clos des Papes  2033-36  11/15 
*****  Cuvée du Vatican Réserve Sixtine   2024-26  11/08 
*****  Domaine Bois de Boursan Cuvée des Félix   2024-26  11/08 
*****  Bosquet des Papes Chante le Merle Vieilles Vignes   2024-26  11/08 
*****  Les Cailloux Cuvée Centenaire  2026-28  11/08 
***** Domaine Charvin 2031-33 11/15
*****  Domaine Font de Michelle  up from ***(*) 2018-20  04/10 
*****  Domaine Giraud Les Grenaches de Pierre   2025-27  11/08 
*****  Domaine de Marcoux Veilles Vignes  2025-27  11/08 
*****  Domaine Mathieu Marquis Anselme Mathieu   2024-26  11/08 
*****  Domaine Monpertuis Secret de Gabriel  2029-32  03/11 
*****  Domaine du Pegäu Cuvée da Capo   2027-29  11/08 
*****  Domaine Roger Sabon Les Olivets  2022-24  11/09 
*****  Domaine de Saint-Paul Cuvée Jumille   2025-26  11/08 
*****  Dom de la Solitude Réserve Secrète 2023-26  10/10 
*****  Domaine Pierre Usseglio Cuvée de mon Aiëul   2025-28  11/08 
****(*)  Château de la Gardine L`Immortelle  2021-23  11/08 
****(*)  Château Gigognan Clos du Roi 2023-26  11/08 
****(*)  Château La Nerthe  up from ***(*)  2023-25  07/11 
****(*)  Le Clos du Caillou La Réserve  2024-25  11/08 
****(*)  Domaine La Barroche Terroir  2021-23  11/08 
****(*) Domaine Lucien Barrot et Fils  up from **** 2026-28 10/13
****(*)  Bosquet des Papes La Folie   2024-26  11/08 
****(*)  Domaine La Boutinière Grande Réserve Vieilles Vignes   2023-24  12/09 
****(*)  Domaine Chante Cigale   2020-22  11/08 
****(*)  Les Clefs d'Or Les Craus Centenaires  2023-25  11/08 
****(*)  Les Clefs d'Or Sélection   2021-23  11/08 
****(*)  Domaine de la Côte de l'Ange Vieilles Vignes   2024-26  11/08 
****(*)  Domaine Font de Michelle Elegance de Jeanne  2023-26  11/08 
****(*)  Domaine de Marcoux 2020-22  11/08 
****(*)  Mas de Boislauzon  2021-23  10/09 
****(*)  Domaine Monpertuis Classique  2029-31  03/11 
****(*)  Domaine du Père Pape   2020-22  03/09 
****(*)  Domaine du Pegäu Cuvée Réservée   2024-26  11/08 
****(*)  Domaine Jean Royer Cuvée Prestige up from **** 2021-23  12/09 
****(*)  Dom de la Solitude Cornelia Constanza  2024-26  10/10 
****(*)  Le Vieux Donjon   2026-28  03/11 
****(*) Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe La Crau  2032-35 11/15
****  Le Cellier des Princes Les Hauts des Coteaux  2020-21  10/09 
****  Château Beauchêne Grande Réserve 2019/21  04/10 
****  Château Cabrières Prestige 2021-23  10/09 
****  Château de La Font du Loup Le Château   2023-25  06/08 
****  Château Fortia Tradition  2019-21  11/08 
****  Château Maucoil L`Esprit de Maucoil  2019-21  09/09 
**** Clos Saint Jean 2031-33 11/15
****  Clos Saint Jean Deus ex Machina  2019-22  11/09 
****  Delas Haut Pierre  2018-19  11/09 
****  Domaine La Barroche Fiancée  2033-36  11/15 
****  Domaine de Beaurenard Boisrenard  2020-22  11/08 
****  Domaine La Boutinière   2020-22  12/09 
****  Domaine des 3 Cellier Privilège   2022-24  11/08 
****  Domaine Chante-Perdrix  2019-22  11/08 
****  Domaine de la Côte de l'Ange Secret de l`Ange   2023-25  12/09 
**** Domaine de Cristia up from ***(*) 2042-44 03/20
****  Domaine de Cristia Renaissance  2024-26  11/08 
**** Domaine Durieu Réserve Lucile Avril 2032-34 10/15
****  Domaine de Ferrand  2030-32  11/15 
****  Domaine Font de Michelle Cuvée Etienne Gonnet  2024-26  11/08 
****  Domaine du Galet des Papes Vieilles Vignes  2024-27  11/08 
****  Domaine Giraud Les Gallimardes   2025-27  11/08 
****  Domaine Giuliani  2019-21  11/09 
****  Domaine Grand Veneur Les Origines  2018-20  11/09 
****  Domaine de la Graveirette up from ***  2025-27  05/12 
****  Domaine de la Janasse   2022-24  11/08 
**** Domaine de la Janasse Chaupin 2030-33 11/15
****  Domaine de la Janasse Vieilles Vignes  2019-22  11/08 
****  Vin di Felibre d'Anseùme Mathieu de Castèll-Nòu-Dóu-Papo   2024-26  11/08 
****  Domaine de Nalys   2019-21  11/08 
****  Domaine de Panisse Noble Révélation  2020-22  11/09 
****  Domaine Roger Perrin Réserve des Vieilles Vignes 2019-20  11/09 
****  Domaine Pignan Coralie et Floriane Le Soleil de nos Vignes  2024-26  11/08 
****  Domaine Porte Rouge   2019-20  11/08 
****  Domaine La Roquète L`Accent de la Roquète 2023-25  11/08 
****  Domaine Roger Sabon Réserve 2021-22  11/09 
****  Domaine des Sénéchaux 2022-24  04/10 
****  Domaine de la Solitude  2022-24  10/10 
****  Dom de la Solitude Cuvée Barberini  2026-28  10/10 
****  Domaine de la Vieille Julienne   2020-22  03/09 
****  Mas de Boislauzon Cuvée du Quet  2020-21  11/09 
****  Saint Cosme  2022-25  06/10 
***(*)  Brotte Cuvée Prestige  2017-20  11/08 
***(*)  Brotte Vieilles Vignes  2019-21  11/08 
***(*)  Château des Fines Roches Cuvée Fines Roches  2021-23  11/08 
***(*)  Château de la Gardine Peur Bleue  2016-18  11/08 
***(*)  Château de la Gardine Tradition   2019-21  12/09 
***(*)  Château Maucoil Tradition 2020-22  11/09 
***(*)  Château Mont Thabor  2021-23  11/08 
***(*)  Château de Vaudieu Val de Dieu 2023-26  11/08 
***(*)  Bosquet des Papes Cuvée Tradition   2021-22  11/08 
***(*)  Bosquet des Papes A la Gloire de Mon Grand-Père    2020-21  11/08 
***(*)  Château Maucoil Privilège 2020-21  06/09 
***(*)  Clos de l`Oratoire des Papes  2020-21  11/08 
***(*)  Clos de l`Oratoire des Papes Les Chorégies 2022-23  11/08 
***(*)  Clos Saint Jean  2020-22  11/09 
***(*)  Clos Saint Michel Cuvée Réservée  2018-20  11/09 
***(*)  Domaine Pierre André  2023-25  03/11 
***(*)  Domaine Paul Autard Cuvée La Côte Ronde  2020-21  11/09 
***(*)  Domaine Benedetti  2018-20  11/08 
***(*)  Les Cailloux  2020-22  11/08 
***(*)  Domaine du Caillou Les Safres  2019-21  10/09 
***(*)  Domaine de la Charbonnière Mourre de Perdrix    2021-23  11/08 
***(*)  Domaine de la Côte de l'Ange   2022-23  11/08 
***(*)  Domaine de Cristia Vieilles Vignes   2023-25  11/08 
***(*)  Domaine de Fontavin  2018-20  11/08 
***(*)  Domaine Giraud Tradition   2019-22  11/08 
***(*) E.Guigal 2027-28 05/13
***(*)  Domaine Patrice Magni  2018-21  11/08 
***(*)  Domaine Mathieu   2020-22  11/08 
***(*)  Domaine La Mereuille   2017-19  11/08 
***(*)  Domaine La Millière Vieilles Vignes   2020-21  03/09 
***(*)  Ogier Les Closiers  2020-21  11/08 
***(*)  Domaine du Père Pape La Crau de Ma Mère   2021-23  03/09 
***(*)  Domaine Pères de l'Église Le Calice de Saint Pierre Héritage   2023-25  11/08 
***(*)  Domaine du Puy Rolland   2019-21  11/08 
***(*)  Domaine Jean Royer Cuvée Tradition up from * 2017-18  12/09 
***(*)  Dom Jean Royer Hommage Mon Père up from ***   2022-24  12/09 
***(*)  Domaine Raymond Usseglio et Fils Cuvée Impériale  2020-21  11/08 
***  Domaine Jean Royer Sola Syrah down from **** 2018-20  12/09 
**(*)  Domaine du Grand Tinel  down from ***(*) 2019-20  04/10