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Wine of the Week

1998 Pignan Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Rhone Valley

Wine of the Week

March 21, 2001|S. IRENE VIRBILA

While the eccentric but much-admired winemaker Jacques Reynaud was still alive, his second Chateauneuf, Pignan, was eclipsed by his deeply concentrated, marvelously complex and much sought-after Chateau Rayas. Pignan comes from a piece of vineyard adjoining the narrow swatch of Rayas vineyard, is made exactly the same way and primarily from old-vine Grenache. It can be just as alluring as Rayas, in its own way-and at half the price.

The 1998 reveals itself slowly. When it's first opened, it's hard to fathom the wine. Leave it in the glass. Better yet, leave it in the decanter overnight. The next day it will be easier to understand some of this wine's fascination. Left on its own, it opens like one of those compressed Chinese paper flowers in water.

Definitely not on the sweet spectrum of things, it has something wild, something stony in its character. A taste of dried plums and scents of leather and forest make this Chateauneuf a beautiful match with black truffles, game and red meat in sauce. This is not a wine for everyone, but if you're interested in the alchemy that occurs with aging, lay this one down for a while. Whether it's five years from now or 15 years from now, when you open the bottle, you'll realize what the wine geeks are talking about.

*

About $48. Available at Hi-Time Wine Cellars in Costa Mesa, (949) 650-8463; Du Vin in West Hollywood, (310) 855-1161; Woodland Hills Wine Co. in Woodland Hills, (818) 222-1111; and Wally's in Westwood, (310) 475-0606. If you can't find this wine, have your local retailer call the importer, Martine's Wines, (415) 883-0400.

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