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2001 Domaine du Galet des Papes, Vieilles Vignes, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, France

Domaine du Galet des Papes takes its name from the large galet stones (literally "roller" or large round stones) which lie in piles over the extent of the twenty-some-odd acres farmed by Jean-Luc Mayard and first established before the turn of the century. From the cellars built by his father in 1929, he produces only 3,500 cases of wine.

Mayard farms a bunch of small parcels in the Chateauneuf appellation, the youngest of which contains vines with an average age of 50 years. He produces two wines only " the first a traditional Chateauneuf-du-Pape that is about 80% Grenache and the rest split between the typical varietals of Syrah, Cinsault, Mourvedre, Vaccarese and others.

For the last 15 years he has also been producing this second wine, made from a single section of his vineyard that has been worked for 100 vintages. These twisted and tortured 105 year old vines have been buffeted by the Mistral winds that come off the Mediterranean and sweep up over the low mountains in the south of France. They yield exceptionally small amounts of fruit (1.5 tons per acre) which possess extremely concentrated flavors. The mix in the vineyard is not the typical mix for the appellation, but Mayard doesn't care. He bottles it in the same proportion it appears in the vineyard: 60% Grenache, 30% Mourvedre, and 10% Syrah.

The harvest is done by hand and then entire clusters of grapes, stems and all, are lightly crushed and put into concrete vats for 18 to 25 days while fermentation takes place. The wine is then aged in large oak barrels called foudres, some of which are decades old and none of which are new. After 18 months and three complete rackings to eliminate sediment, it is bottled non filtered and non fined.

Tasting Notes:
This wine is a medium to dark garnet color in the glass with a spicy nose of green and black peppercorns, black tea, and a hint of cassis and red berries. In the mouth it is powerful and a little raw for a Chateauneuf, with primary flavors of cassis, black raspberries, sandalwood, and a bit of the black tea as it tapers to a very long finish. The wine has an excellent mouthfeel and wonderful balance to it, all the while managing to be a bit more burly than one might expect.

Food Pairing:
This is a pretty intense wine that could be served with any kind of roast or grilled red meats. I served it at a wine dinner with a smoky roast squab and olives over a bed of wild mushrooms and greens.

Overall Score: 9/9.5

How Much?: $34

This wine can be purchased from several Internet merchants.

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