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2006 Châteauneuf du Pape, Domaine de Cristia

I recently heard a snippet of a radio programme that was discussing the secret of happiness. From what I could surmise, the way to succeed in this is not to have high expectations of anything and then you will never be disappointed. Hmmm, not sure this is the path for me as nothing can supress my current excitement for my next pint of bitter at the pub.

The reason I mention this is that it reminds me of my experiences of tasting fine wine. Over the years I have been lucky enough to taste (please excuse the name dropping) Latour, Margaux, le Montrachet, Yquem and DRC to name but a few. All wines that were priced at hundreds of pounds per bottle but did not always surpass expectations. Whenever I am asked about my most memorable bottle of wine I immediately answer 1970 Château Haut-Marbuzet, a ‘left bank’ Bordeaux from St. Estephe, drunk with relish in 2004 and for sale at under £30. When I pulled the cork that day I wasn’t even sure if the contents were going to be drinkable, but the mature fruit, complexity and vibrancy of the wine was so pleasantly surprising that I can remember exactly where I was, the people I shared it with and the client that ended up with the remaining 11 bottles.

Back to 2021 and I’ve recently treated myself to a bottle or two of aged premium wines to celebrate a landmark birthday and as enjoyable as they were, they won’t be toppling the 1970 Haut Marbuzet from its podium. However last weekend I had another mature wine to look forward to tasting – a 2006 Châteauneuf du Pape from the esteemed Domaine de Cristia – and I am delighted to say the only disappointment I had was when the final glass had emptied. The wine was sublime.

Châteauneuf du Pape is the joint oldest cru of the Southern Rhône and one of the most recognisable names in the wine world. However its distinction can also be its handicap as there are a number of wines made there that are pretty mediocre as some producers rely on the name’s reputation for sales rather than concentrating on quality. In his recently published book, Wines Of The Rhône, Matt Walls of Decanter magazine mentions that there are over 300 producers in the region but lists only a handful that are worth seeking out. Domaine de Cristia is one of these select few.

2006 was a very good vintage sandwiched between two ‘great’ vintages, 2005 and 2007 but were hailed so during a time when ripe, rich and extracted wines were ‘en vogue’ and ‘Parker Points’ ruled. Today these ‘great’ vintages are not known for their longevity and some of the wines have not aged particularly well, which was why I punted for a sample of the 2006. I had a feeling this cooler vintage would have produced a fresher fruit character and balanced acidity and I was right, here with have a wine of complex, spicy and mature fruit but with underlying freshness – much better suited to wine tastes of the present day.

Finding mature Châteauneuf du Pape isn’t easy as it drinks so well in its youth; finding it at this price is nigh on impossible. The wine will be retailing at £29.75 – a Super Bargain!

2006 Châteauneuf du Pape, Domaine de Cristia @ £29.75

“The cork was in top notch condition which was very encouraging as it confirms the wine has been impeccably stored. The colour had turned a beautiful brick red on the rim but still had a vibrant dark red cherry shade to it. The mature fruit aromas were very pronounced from the beginning with ripe raspberry and black cherry along with touches of rose petal, white pepper and spice. It’s the kind of wine that you can sit and nose for hours. The palate is delicious – warm and spicy yes, but with a silkiness and underlying freshness that keeps the power in check. This tastes like a 15 year old wine but a 15 year old wine that has no intention of retiring yet and the finish is long and satisfying. This is a perfect example of mature Rhone -soft with underlying power and spice and more satisfying than recently tasted wines from other regions that were 3-4 times the price of this.” Jonny Wren

If you are looking for something special to open for friends and family in the coming months that won’t break the bank then you’ll be very hard pressed to find anything better than this. What was so enjoyable was how well it was drinking so soon after opening – I decanted it, washed out the bottle (there is a little sediment), repoured back in and within half an hour I was enjoying a very expressive and totally delicious first glass.

It is due to arrive on Thursday 8th April and will be available to order from then.



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