E. Guigal Châteaunef-du-Pape 2003
The tannins in this no-excuses-offered red Rhône have commandeered my mouth. I am
reminded of the manner in which my lips and cheeks seemed to stick together the first several
times I addressed a live audience. Public speaking is second nature to me now, and so are
these tannins; I can love them even as they tend to numb me. They carry the preserved
essence of fruit, what others call “jammy” (as if preserving the fruit weren't a noble aim): red
fruit like cherry, redcurrant and plum. The wine is 80 percent Grenache, 10 percent Syrah and
5 percent Mourvèdre among the thirteen grapes allowed in Châteaunef-du-Pape.
Fruit is not this $28 wine's main squeeze, however. Red licorice plays the role of understanding friend and confidante. Black pepper, thyme and soy sauce add their exotic elements. Saddle leather, tobacco, and wood shavings—all in the same barn at the same time—add their voice. And did I mention pure, unalloyed cocoa, with no milk, no sugar, and yet a fragrance through the bitterness?
The wine finishes long. It would be too much to claim that the elements all worked in concert
through every temporal stage. It is unquestionably true that the fruit has competition, but is
fruit the be all and end all of the vinous life? You may risk losing the fruit by cellaring this
wine, or accept the tannins as they are by drinking it as it is. Now.
I love Grenache, a grape that asks you to listen.
James Beard Award Nominee Elliot Essman