“Slinky” as a descriptor is one I use rarely, especially to describe the smell of a wine, although I’ve used it to describe an aspect of the taste of wine 20 times,
according to my FileMaker Pro tasting note database of many tens of thousands of wines. “Slinky” plus “sexy” I employ even less frequently: I’ve used the combo just twice. It’s quite obviously a highly subjective descriptor and to many might not convey much. But Daniel Brunier of Vignobles Brunier knew exactly what I meant when I deployed “slinky-sexy” to describe one of the reds in his family’s formidable portfolio (the Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Domaine de La Vieux Télégraphe, being internationally acknowledged as one the finest estates of the appellation).
“Oh, if it’s slinky-sexy, you must be be talking about the Télégramme,” he said as he sat down for a chat after I’d concluded tasting a random line-up of eight wines.I looked again at my tasting notes and cross-referenced them with the list of order of wines I’d been given and
voilà: Télégramme. The 2013 Télégramme is a blend dominated by grenache, a grape for which I have considerable affection (the first wine that really got me hooked was a grenache-based red).
When I tell Brunier this, he informs me that he was rather disappointed with the prevailing feeling about the grape variety when he first visited Australia several years ago. “It was strange that grenache is not well considered. I was a bit disturbed by that.” A situation which is all the more remarkable when you consider that Australia has one of the greatest resources of old vine Grenache anywhere in the world. The Télégramme, he tells me, is one of just two of his wines which does not contain any stems (i.e. the grape berries have been removed from the bunches). The majority of Vignobles Brunier’s reds, including the aforementioned Domaine de La Vieux Télégraphe have a good portion of whole-bunches in them.
He says of stems and Télégramme that, “We don’t keep stems in this wine, because if you keep the stems in wine, it has to be discreet. Stems is not [a] simple thing.” Now whole-bunch fermentation is a topic du jour in Australia; I guess it has been for best part of five or six years now (in a more mainstream way). So I ask him how long the domain has been employing whole bunches in ferments? “One hundred and ten years,” he replies matter-of-factly. I double-check just to clarify, and seeing the look of incredulity on my face, he laughs, “Or 112 or 116 … During a long, long period everything was not destemmed, but from [the] ‘90s we did mourvèdre, cinsault and young vines of grenache.” “Young vines” in the Brunier viticultural lexicon transpires to mean 30-35 years old! He continues, “We changed because we thought there was this vegetal thing
Les Pallières La Racines 2013 – 95(96)/100 – $94
Powerful smelling with prune, demi-glace, charred beef ribs and some lavender-like aromatics. Concentrated, but still fresh smelling. As it is in the mouth with pomegranate-rose hip edginess and incredible fruit length and depth. Tight and chewy, and ideally needs another five years to show its best. Cave at: natural cork.