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Tasting Report: Usseglio mon Aieul Chateauneuf-du-Pape

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

One of the great joys of writing this blog is how it gives me justification, however bogus, for opening nicer bottles of wine. With 2010 Châteauneuf-du-Pape offers arriving in our inboxes on a daily basis (pronounced Chateau-noof-dew-pop) I thought it would be a good time to crack a highly regarded 2009: The Pierre Usselgio Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée de mon Aïeul. With an eye toward deciding whether to buy more of of this bottling in 2010 of course.

Resolving ones view on CdP pricing is tricky. On one hand it's a bargain compared to Bordeaux and Burgundy. On the other hand it's undeniably pricey. It's tough to find a bottle of Châteauneuf south of $30 to get excited about.

But no matter how you look at it, Châteauneuf-du-Pape is a fantastic category to check out if you prefer fruit forward domestic wines and you're interested in getting a little more exotic with a French import. Whereas affordable Bordeaux can be harsh and graphite-laden, and entry-level Burgundy can be thin and uninspiring, CdP tends to be boldly fruity and enjoyable even at more modest price points.

But it's also age-worthy. CdP has this unique thing where in its youth it's focused, fruity, and luscious. Then enters a dormant period. Then emerges after a period of 10 years or so as a complete wine. Unfortunately I rarely have the patience to wait nearly that long.

Against this backdrop the 2009 Usseglio mon Aïeul is about what I expected.

Priced in the low hundreds retail you can catch it for less if you look around. It seems to have a hard time supporting its $100 release price stateside - the CellarTracker Community Average of the '09 is just over $60. I'd place the mon Aïeul bottling just ahead of the La Craus, Pegaus, higher end St. Preferts, and Beaucastels of the world in terms of prestige.

But the 2007 mon Aïeul scored a perfect 100 points from Rober Parker. And early CellarTracker reviews of the 2010 are trending even higher than the 2007. Parker's barrel tasting score for the 2010 was "just" 94-96. But like Olympic gymnastics this stuff is all subjective so who cares about the scores, right?

2009 Pierre Usseglio Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée de mon Aïeul
1,000 Cases Produced
15% Alcohol
$111 Release Price

About 60% opaque and lighter in color and on the palate than I'd expect from a 15% abv bruiser. On the nose this was immediately ready to go and it only transformed slightly over the course of two hours in a decanter. On the nose I get nicely ripened blackberries, strawberries, and underlying signature meaty metallic CdP aromas. On the palate the wine is seamless. And a little plump. Or plush depending on how favorably you view round wines. There's a nice sweet spice note on the backend and undeniable heat. But it keeps it all together like a powerful quick linebacker.

93/100 WWP: Outstanding

Conclusion and Recommendations

I have to say I'm torn on whether to buy the 2010 Usseglio mon Aïeul after tasting this 2009. And even after tasting the 2010 at the Boston Wine Expo (more on that here including comparisons on CdP07 v. 09 v. 10). Both the '09 and '10 Usseglio mon Aieuls are outstanding wines no doubt. But how many pricey CdPs do I need clanging around here? At the same time how can the California Pinot Noirs vying for my attention, that weren't even around 10 years ago, rightly claim to be better wines?

I say buy a bottle or two, drink one in the near term and lay one down. Still a better buy than most every sub-$100 2009 or 2010 Bordeaux. Still, I'd rather have a 2010 Donjon CdP if I could find it at similar discount levels.

Question of the Day: Are you buying 2010 CdPs? Are you a buyer of the 2010 Usseglio mon Aïeul?

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