We had a small, intimate gathering for our 1998 CDP Revisited Event, wherein we methodically tasted through twelve lovely wines.
The accompanying cheeses were incredible.
Camembert, in many people’s minds, is a synonym for “French cheese.” In fact, Camembert is an AOC (or name-protected) cow’s milk cheese from the Normandy region in northern France. It was invented in 1791 by Marie Harel and has a soft, white, bloomy rind; luxurious ivory paste; and buttery, grassy flavor. The taste of a ripe Camembert is reminiscent of wild mushrooms. Our Camembert, Chatlain, is an artisanally-produced beauty of quality largely absent from the vast majority of industrial Camembert available today. Camembert is a soft, creamy, surface-ripened cow’s milk cheese. Camembert was reputedly first made in 1791 by Marie Harel, a farmer from Normandy, following advice from a priest who came from Brie. However, the origin of the cheese known today as Camembert is more likely to rest with the beginnings of the industrialization of the cheese making process at the end of the 19th century. Before molds were understood, the color of Camembert rind was a matter of chance, most commonly blue-grey, with brown spots. From the early 20th century onwards, the rind has been more commonly pure white, but it was not until the mid-1970s that pure white became standard. The cheese was famously issued to French troops during World War I, becoming firmly fixed in French popular culture as a result. The variety named “Camembert de Normandie” was granted a protected designation of origin in 1992 after the original AOC in 1983.
Milk Type: Cow
Cheese Type: Washed-Rind
Roue Ardoisée, is a goat cheese from the Loire Valley. The wheel of cheese is often times referred to as a “donut” or “wheel” of cheese because of its shape. The wheel is dusted with salted, powdered charcoal to soften the acidity of the goat’s milk.
Milk Type: Goat
Cheese Type: Soft
Gubbeen Cheese is a washed-rind, semi-soft, cow’s milk cheese with a pink and white rind. The flavors are creamy with mushroom and nutty aftertastes but vary depending on the maturity of the cheese. Produced since 1979 by Tom and Giana Ferguson at the 250 acres Gubbeen Farm in Schull, County Cork. The name “Gubbeen” is an anglicisation of the Irish word “Gobín” which means a small mouthful, and to which a local nearby bay is referred. All milk used for the cheese comes from their own herd of dairy cows, which is a mixture of several breeds; British Friesian, Simmenthal, Jersey, and Kerry. The milk is stored in vats to which starter culture and rennet are added, causing the milk to set. This is then cut and stirred until the curds develop. The cheese is developed in curing rooms where the rind is washed daily. This is an important part of the process as the washing gives rise to the distinctive surface bloom and develops the characteristic flavors. The cheese develops deeper flavors as it matures. In 2001, a new strain of lactic acid producing bacteria, Microbacterium gubbeenense, was named after a study into the smear-ripening of Gubbeen cheese.
Milk Type: Cow
Cheese Type: Washed-Rind
Bleu d’Auvergne is a name-protected (Denomination Origine Protected, DOP) cheese from the Auvergne region in south-central France, where it has been made since the middle of the 19th century. Bleu d’Auvergne is made in the traditional manner from cow’s milk and features blue veining throughout. Its moist, sticky rind conceals a soft paste possessing a grassy, herbaceous, and (with age) spicy, pungent taste.
Milk Type: Cow
Cheese Type: Blue-Veined
We awakened our palates with a lovely Cremant du Jura from Domaine Montbourgeau. The wine was crisp and refreshing with firm acidity and yeasty palate. Perfect to start our event!
An overview of the region: Châteauneuf-du-Pape
Overall, the wines showed magnificently. A consistent theme of dried, cooked fruits with well-integrated tannins and moderate acidity prevailed. Many of the wines evoked memories of well-aged Amarone with their exotic spiciness and notes of raisins and dried currants. The flight of wines were as follows, in descending order of preference:
The overwhelming favorite with 16 points. Dark, brooding color belies the wine’s 25 years. Tight nose with gamey, stewed fruit hints. Explosive on the palate with black cherry fruit and a long finish of brambles and cacao. Simply stunning.
Another overwhelming favorite with 14 points. Faded garnet robe with a clear disc. Bright cherry and raspberry hints on the nose. Very well-balanced with moderate acidity. Fig and exotic fruit compote – like tasting well-matured Amarone. Delightful.
A not too distant third place with 8 points. Faded garnet with a clear disc. Dried fruit and old book leather on the nose. Well-balanced with moderate acidity. Fig and raisin notes. Perfectly at peak.
Fourth place with 6 points. Faded garnet with a clear disc. Bright cherry nose. Graphite and anise hints. Well-balanced with moderate acidity. Super-concentrated with blackberry jam notes. Long finish. Very seductive.
The general consensus is that this vintage is at peak and that revisiting the wines in the next five years makes sense. It is likely that some of the wines will, at that time, be sliding into decay, but given the exemplary showing, that descent should be gracious and elegant.