Arriving at Domaine de Cristia this afternoon, Dominique called to say she had a stinking cold and would not be able to see me which was a great shame as meeting up with her is one of the highlights of my visits. Baptiste was there though and his cousin Emmanuel (which gave me an opportunity to speak French even though it became apparent he spoke very good English). Not many wines from 2009 to taste as virtually everything has been sold now and the 2010s are mostly still fermenting. However, there were wines to taste and what wines!
We began with the 2009 Cotes du Rhone Vielles Vignes "Les Garrigues", a big brother to the Vieilles Vignes VDP Grenache I enthused about last Easter. This also is pure Grenache from a new vineyard (for Cristia; it is planted with 50-year-old vines) so, whereas the rest of the Cristia production is now certified organic, this wine has just started the conversion process. Bottled in September, it has a youthful nose with some oak evident but less than the VDP wine. The palate is sweet with some of the oak creeping in alongside the spicy, cherry and garrigue flavours. Some tannin is noticeable but the mouthfeel is quite creamy and fairly full and the finish long. Young but filled with potential. A great value wine.
Then came the Chateauneufs - wow! The 2009 Chateauneuf-du-Pape Rouge has a classic Cristia nose and palate, quite chewy at present with excellent Grenache (over 90% of the blend), big and rich, sweet fruit and no evident oak (I don't think this wine sees any oak). Very full, long, classic. Give it a couple years and drink it over the next five to eight.
2009 Chateauneuf-du-Pape "Renaissance" was presented next (60% Grenache, 40% Mourvedre from very old vines, 100+ years). The nose is quite oaky and there is gorgeous rich, sweet peppery fruit intertwined with Asian spices and some animal notes (the Mourvedre) and the toasty oak. Pretty close to perfection, the wine needs three or four years for those Mourvedre tannins to melt and the oak to give way to the fruit. Very long. Baptiste said he had intended this to be the power house of the vintage and the Vieilles Vignes to be more feminine but, in the end, things turned out the other way. However, as always, I enjoyed the complexity of the Renaissance blend.
Finally, the 2009 Chateauneuf-du-Pape "Vieilles Vignes", 100% Grenache from 85-year-old vines planted at the Cristia lieu-dit which is adjacent to Rayas. Despite all the new oak thrown at this cuvee, it is barely noticeable because of the fullness of the sweet, pure Grenache fruit. Very rich and full-bodied with considerable weight and perfectly rounded for drinking over the course of the decade (although, if recent tastings of earlier vintages are anything to go by, expect it to close down at around five years for a couple of years or so).
Most years I have a strong preference for the Renaissance over the Vieilles Vignes. This year it's too close to call.
Baptiste then brought out another barrel sample, this time the very young 2010 Chateauneuf-du-Pape Rouge from grapes harvested exactly three months earlier. Packed with fruit and remarkably similar to the 2009, this is clearly going to be another good year at Cristia with superb balance although quantities are down 25%.
On leaving, Baptiste gave me some 2006 Chateauneuf "Vieilles Vignes" in magnum - looking forward to Christmas now!