The vintages

The figurs are from The Wine Advocate Vintage Guide (2013 - 1970)
1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006
94 95 65 78 85 86 90 82 82 98 90 98 96 58 90 90 95 90
2007 2008 2009 2010 2011
98 86 93 97 88

Sometimes you meet the argument, that the wines of Chateauneuf du Pape from different years don't differ much in quality. The argument is based on the pleasant climate, where the amount of sunny hours nearly always are satisfying and where the often heavy rainfalls are short in time and mostly are quickly neutralised by the mistral. Therefore if the weather in September makes it possible to pick the grapes in dry periods when they are matured it's easy to make good wines in the appellation. Furthermore you can see that the prices at the producers are very constant - they rise a little every year but don't differ much in different vintages.
These arguments are often used by wine merchants and make some sense but it's not the whole truth. They will probably not tell you that the real reason for stable prices are the fact that the producers can't reduse the prices without leaving a signal af a bad vintage.

You can also meet the argument that with the modern tecniques available in the vinification process the modern educated wine maker can make good wines every year. Perhaps this argument makes some sense for industrial produced wines, but if you listen to the small but experienced producers in Chateauneuf du Pape you will hear another story. They will tell you that "in the cellar you can't repair the wines but you can easily spoil them" (Gerard Charvin - photo to the right). The essential basis for a good wine is the quality of the grapes when they arrive at the cellar.

The real decisive factor behind a good vintage is the weather conditions through the whole growing season. Of course it's important that the weather in the harvest season allow the grapes to be picked at the excact right moment but it's also important that the flowering in spring is succesful and that rain, wind and sun are present when needed. Too much rain can bring disease. Drought can result in small grapes and a low yield. 
As all farmers around the world the wine growers in Chateauneuf du Pape look at the sky every day to follow the weather. Even if every thing through the year seems perfect you can't be sure of anything. Vines are unpredictable. 
Thank God for that!

It can be difficult to predict how a wine will evolve after bottling. If a wine is tasted very young (1-3 years old) - and this will be the case if you visit producers and taste the available wine from barrels or bottles - it's not certain this wine will redeem its promises some years later. Wine evolves constantly over the years and may surprice you when you retaste it after some years or some weeks or even next day.

If you rely on the points or rankings from the wine writers you have to take in account that different people have quite different expectations to the taste of a wine. Some want a wine to be able to be kept for many years and will constantly tell you that it's too young.
Others (including me) are of the opinion that a wine should taste delightful shortly after bottling and if it's a top wine it should also taste delightful whenever you want to drink it. Too much to demand - I don't think so.

No doubt that the winemakers in recent years have put more focus at the drinkability of the young wine. Most of the wines are enjoyed shortly after bottling!

The last 20 years has offered two vintages of a very rare quality, 1998 and 2007.
What was most remarkable was the high quality of wines from all producers from the most unknown to the most recognized. This was really vintages where the wines made themselves.


Gerard Charvin in his Cotes du Rhone vineyard by the domain.

Philippe Gimel in his Ventoux vineyard in La Barroux. Photo: Jens Hork.

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Updated 10-01-2015