There is an interesting experiment ongoing among thoughtful French wine producers these days that attracts very little attention but affects, and will affect, all consumers of quality wine. It concerns just how much will be sacrificed in terms of "ageability," and the marvelous depths and complexity that appear in long-aged wine, in making wine that can be drunk with pleasure the day it's bought.
Today's consumers want a wine, a quality wine, they can buy on the way home from work and drink that evening. But traditionally good wine takes years to reach maturity. Since most wine drinkers lack a wine cellar where they can lay down multiple vintages, the alternative is to make wine that doesn't require cellaring. So increasingly producers are crafting wines that are accessible when young.
But how much is lost in this increasing accessibility? More optimistic producers claim none, while the more thoughtful adopt a wait-and-see attitude.
Châteauneuf-du-Pape is a region that has undergone a marked transformation over the last couple of decades but its red wines still require at least five years to show their true colors. Or at least that's what I thought till I tried this week's wine of the week, the Domaine Font de Michelle 2007, Cuvée Etienne Gonnet, Châteauneuf-du-Pape ($68).
Soft, juicy, and accessible, this is a gorgeous wine to drink today. It has tangy red berry flavors—I picked up strawberries and cherries—backed by subtle smoky undercurrents of pepper and licorice.
It has all the sun-splashed passion one expects in a Châteauneuf-du-Pape in a delightfully quaffable, ready-to-drink package.
To find this wine near you, try wine-searcher.com.
When to Drink: Now
Breathing/Decanting: Half an hour's breathing is essential
Food Pairing: Red meat, pasta, grilled veggies, game, richer sauces
Grapes: 60% grenache, 20% mourvèdre, 20% syrah
Region: Rhône Valley