Notes from a Vieux Donjon vertical tasting dinner at a local restaurant.

2017 Chante Cigale Extrait blanc – mid golden colour, and a nose of honeysuckle and peach, smooth and long on palate with a hint of marzipan in the finish. Very good. (We couldn't find a bottle of Donjon blanc)

1990 – light garnet colour, not notably browning at the edges, and a typical lightly funky with black pepper nose with some herbal content and a long smooth finish. Almost elegant now, this was my wine of the night. Classic.

1995 – darker wine with orange edges, and with definite garrigue and a very pleasant floral component (violets?) in the nose. Fully resolved and presenting a smooth polished impression with medium long finish.

1998 – riper spicy nose with raspberry and cassis, excellent fruit levels and still showing a lot of soft tannin. A very good show, and would have been my WOTN had the 1990 not eclipsed it. I tasted this on release and promptly bought two cases and this tasting confirms my early judgement of it. I intend to tuck into this in a major way from now on.

2001 – significantly funky nose (in a good way) with herbs (thyme?) and red fruit, a tad jammy but not to excess. In the mouth some lovely pure fruit notes and a smooth clean finish. I haven’t opened any of my own stash yet, but after this it will be hard not to yield to temptation.

2004 – decidedly odd nose – a spoiled bottle that we were unable to assess.

2005 – with this vintage we were back to pepper and light fruit, but also some heat, a bit briny on palate. Decent but not particularly endearing.

2006 – slightly hot nose, but good fruit on palate and no heat, medium bodied, medium length. Workmanlike presentation.

2007 – I went out and bought a bottle of this on release to see if it was going to be a ‘bad’, i.e. over ripe fruit bomb wine, or a ‘good’ Chateauneuf with balance but without the ripeness and heat of many other examples in this vintage. I concluded at that time that this would be one of the ‘good’ wines and bought a case. I now wonder if I wasn’t in error as what we saw here was a dark sweet wine with some good elements in both nose (herbal, plumy fruit etc.) but overshadowed by the ripeness on palate and an almost roasted impression. I will reserve final judgement on this wine and will live in hope that these issues may resolve by the time I retaste it, maybe five years hence.

2008 – cooler year and that showed in the nose which was mainly a smoky red fruit based one with some coffee hints. The mocha notes persisted into the finish. Drinking well now with very decent concentration and length, this was the best wine tasted since the 2001.

2009 – coffee and kirsch in the nose and on palate good fruit, ending with medium length. Very decent.

2010 – odd sweet nougat and rubber nose, but aside from that the fruit wasn’t at all roasted and the tannins were still firm but not overly hard. This may turn out quite well given some more time. Very tasty now, but resist the urge.

2017 – a quick look at this recently released vintage. Sweet nose of cassis and middling ripe fruit on palate, this is surprisingly drinkable, but doing so may deprive you of later pleasure when it smooths out and develops some secondary characteristics. It surprises me that some critics say to drink as soon as three or four years from now – I wouldn’t touch it for a decade.

This was a great tasting that highlighted my stylistic preferences for the older well aged and complex vintages over the new style of very ripe fruit bombs that often show as slightly roasted. I have a hard time understanding how critics that rated the 1990s vintages highly could do the same for those in the next decade as they are so stylistically at variance. When I say that several of the ripe 2000s vintages would find favour with those who love Australian Shiraz, that is not a compliment. We will see what the future holds. Hopefully the 2015 and 2016, which I own, will turn out well.

Must do a similar retrospective tasting of some other properties – Pegau, Vieux Telegraphe, Beaucastel....

I've done this same vertical sort of tasting in years past, but this time I must thank my friend David Cooper for arranging the event.