The day was cool although it was spring-meaning greenness everywhere and wide-leaved grapevines were growing rapidly. I was eager and excited to visit the historic Chateauneuf-du-Pape again, especially as a greater respect had been developed for the vine variety grenache, and here in this village appellation is one of the most notable producing regions on earth. Better still, with a healthy interest in Italian wine production also, we were to visit a Milanese family who have migrated to this part of France a long time ago, and has now woven themselves into its vineyards and wine styles-the Usseglios. The best means to understand a domaine producer is to try the entry level wines first-as the attention to detail will give many hints about what to expect. Here the first impressions were all good and there will be many wines to be enjoyed. Usseglio Cotes du Rhone 2010; 13.5%; AUD 25 is going to be one fabulous wine just by smelling it; a cracking nose of ripe berries greets the nostrils; it has lush fruits and just great intensity; drink now and drink many. I further discovered it is a grenache (80%), mourvedre (20%) blend from 65, 40 and 30 yo grenache, and 30 yo mourvedre. A humble wine made from resilient vines. This wine does not need oak aromas and that is kept away from the prying by using 2, 3 and 5 yo large barrels and some lined cement tanks. Usseglio Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2009; 15%; AUD 60 is masterful; bursting with berryfruit, tons of it; luscious, layered, filling, asking for more in the mouth, drying yes, but softly so-no aggression despite its alcohol! Then there is the 2010 of the same wine; less brutal, little earthiness showing through, very trite, firming and never to be the bruising wine of 2009.
This property’s blend of Chateauneuf is grenache (80%), syrah (5%), mourvedre (5%) and cinsaut (5%) as the vineyards are planted. There is no new oak used (which blesses it), 50% is in cuves (tanks), 30% in foudres (larger oak, 3-5000 litres) and 20% in barrels; oak is 1-3 years old. Usseglio Chateauneuf-du-Pape Cuvee de mon Aieul 2009; 15.5%; AUD 99 is a special blend of older vine grenache from three vineyards; Les Serres (95 yo); La Crau (78 yo) and La Guigasse (70 yo); it means ancestors’ cuvees, extremely minty from concentration; fleshy, lots of black fruits, something I could drink all day. Also tasted was 2010-15.5%; a monster too, simply the coolest grenache I tasted all year.
Usseglio Chateauneuf-du-Papes Reserve des 2 Freres 2009; 15%; AUD 150 is a dalliance with more modern winemaking, New World style, so there is a little more new oak around; though its bigger fruit, sweet fruited palate is as one could find in Australia’s Barossa valley where juicy grenache hangs out; and in this there is a small amount of syrah; differs from the standard blends but eminently a flag bearer in a New York cafe for brothers’ wine.