Have you been on the Sideways Pinot Noir bandwagon and maybe, possibly, kinda, finally gotten bored with all that silky, lush, Californian cherry cola? Want to try something new? Let us go to France.
I have long loved winery Vieux Télégraphe: named after an old tower built there in 1821 by the inventor of the telegraph. The name conjures up steampunk visions of world fairs, top hats, trains, and mythic wines. For six generations, the Brunier family has tended the vines around the tower since 1891. Their Châteauneuf-du-Pape will cost you $80. Luckily, we can dip a $45 toe with their cleverly titled and flip-labeled, baby CdP: Télégramme.
Everything about Télégramme centers on youth, freshness, and approachability. First, easy, thin-skinned Grenache leads the blend at 80 %, followed by a dash of 10% Syrah, 6% Mourvèdre, and 4% Cinsault. The grapes come from extremely young (for France) 30 year old on average vines. Methods are obsessively gentle. They pick by hand, sort in the vineyard and again at the winery, destem to avoid bitterness, pneumatic press to, well, you get the picture.
The Bruniers age Telegramme so you don’t have to: 10 months in vats, then 7 months in French oak foudres (30 hl).
Can it convert a Pinot Noir fanatic?
Well, the APPEARANCE looks clear, medium intense bright ruby, with medium legs.
AROMAS pounce with youthful, Pinot-like, pretty, vigor, reminiscent of bright red cherry, raspberry fruits, granite, and a whiff of turpentine.
The PALATE is succint, dry, with medium acidity, an extra crack of cedarwood tannins, medium plus, warm, pleasant alcohol, leading to a medium body: lean but complex.
Ample FLAVORS range from dried boysenberry, flint, dried tobacco, cinnamon, nutmeg that last a medium length.
Do not think of Vieux Télégraphe’s Télégramme as a Châteauneuf-du-Pape, even though it is. Our cliché of CdP being big, spiced, grippy, et cetera might disappoint here. But wine appellations are not McDonalds. Expect consistency and reveal your ignorance. Instead, think of warmish Pinot Noir: smooth, ripe, yet still lean, pale and pleasant.
Télégramme is a wine for now, although it will hold up five or more years. It is very good (4 of 5). Just use it like a Pinot: alone, with lean meats, salmon, delicate dishes, fresher cheeses.