A powerful but sophisticated wine with plenty of hedonistic appeal, the 2005 Domaine du Grand Tinel Cuvée Alexis Establet captures the very essence of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. It is both deep in color and highly aromatic. Its enchanting perfume, redolent with pure berry fruit, cinnamon, and garrigue, soars from the glass. Moreover, its savor fills the mouth with the taste of lush black fruits, oriental spice, and Provençal herbs, before gracefully exiting on a long, polished finish that is deftly bolstered by lush ripe tannins. And although this special cuvée tops out at 15% plus alcohol, it never appears out of balance or over the top. In fact, the 2005 Cuvée Establet comes across as smooth and silky on the palate, even at its tender young age. Beautiful now but built for the long haul, the 2005 Grand Tinel Cuvée Alexis Establet should continue to mature in bottle for at least several more years and drink well for up to ten years or more. We suggest serving this reserve Châteauneuf-du-Pape at either cellar or cool room temperature (57°-66° F), after at least 15-20 minutes of aeration.
Lamb and beef are the traditional accompaniments to Châteauneuf-du-Pape, and we would not argue with traditional wisdom on this account. However, if ever there were just a single wine for all occasions, it would have to be Grand Tinel's Cuvée Alexis Establet Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Indeed, the finest cuts of red meat make great partners with this reserve classic, but one should not overlook the virtue of sprucing up an ordinary meal with an "extra ordinary" wine like the 2005 Cuvée Establet, either. Consequently, some of our favorite offerings with the Cuvée Establet include braised lamb shank and beef tenderloin. For the beef tenderloin, we suggest cooking it medium-rare and serving it with thickly sliced portobello mushrooms in a red wine, shallot, and Herbes de Provence reduction. On a simple country note, old-fashioned lentil or split pea soup, served with crusty French bread and a spoonful of shaved hard cheese, makes for a splendid mid week banquet in the company of this excellent Châteauneuf-du-Pape, too, as does a salad of roasted red peppers, sautéed portobello mushrooms, roasted eggplant, tomato, caramelized onions, and a healthy crumbling of feta or other full-flavored cheese. Serve this healthy Mediterranean classic over a bed of complex greens or freshly baked focaccia, with a dollop of pesto mayonnaise or an olive and artichoke salsa or tapenade, and both the food and the wine will shine. Roast duckling, game, and most bean, sausage, and tomato-based dishes provide fine complements, too. Bon appétit!
Domaine du Grand Tinel is one of the largest estates in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. However, domaines are typically small in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, at least by New World standard. Moreover, Grand Tinel is very much a hands-on, boutique operation by virtue of its relatively small production and the fact that it is very much a family run winery. The very capable and talented owner Elie Jeune is both proprietor and winemaker. Nearly all of Grand Tinel's 136 acres are devoted to the production of the estate's very highly acclaimed red Châteauneuf-du-Pape. As is the case for most red Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Grand Tinel's red wine is fashioned primarily from old vine Grenache (80%), with the balance of the cépage shared by Syrah, Mourvèdre, Cinsault, and Counoise. By nearly all accounts, the wines of Domaine Grand Tinel remain some of the most traditional in style of all Châteauneuf-du-Pape. The house style underscores the full rich fruit of the appellation as well as the power inherent in the finest wines of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Nonetheless, Elie Jeune's wines are quite approachable when young and will hold for a dozen years or more in vintages as fine as 2005. In recent years, Elie Jeune has taken to fashioning two red Châteauneuf-du-Pape selections: an excellent regular estate bottled offering and the outstanding Cuvée Alexis Establet, the domaine's special reserve or tête de cuvée offering from very old vines. In addition, Domaine du Grand Tinel turns out a small quantity of admirable white Châteauneuf-du-Pape from Grenache Blanc, Clairette, and Bourboulenc. Châteauneuf-du-Pape Châteauneuf-du-Pape is the Rhône Valley's most important appellation. Located in Provence, astride the swift moving Rhône River, this sun-drenched locale is blessed with a dry Mediterranean climate that is nearly ideal for the cultivation of vines and the production of red wine. Châteauneuf-du-Pape also possesses some of the oldest vines in France; the average age of the vines in Châteauneuf-du-Pape is in excess of 40 years, by far the oldest of any major appellation in France. In addition, the entire production of this great wine is hand harvested. Moreover, we have not yet mentioned the region's fabulous terroir – large flat stones known as galets roulés that are mingled with plenty of decomposed gravel. The remnants of Alpine glaciers that once covered southern France, Châteauneuf-du-Pape's glacial till provides excellent drainage and imparts subtle nuances of flavor to the appellation's outstanding wines. Châteauneuf-du-Pape, meaning the Pope's new castle, derives its name from the sprawling edifice that the Roman popes built as a summer palace during the Babylonian Captivity. Forced to flee the political tumult of Rome from 1305-1378, Pope Clement V, a Frenchman, and his successor, John XXII, left indelible marks on the history of wine by planting vines around their château and producing some of the medieval world's most noteworthy wines. Later, during the 1920's, Châteauneuf-du-Pape would once again play a significant role in the history of wine by voluntarily adopting a set of controls and guidelines put forth by Baron Le Roy of Château Fortia. This action became the model for the entire French system of Appellation Control, which prevails today, and nearly all other subsequent attempts around the world to guarantee the authenticity of wine and improve the wine of individual geographic locales. However, the glory of Châteauneuf-du-Pape belongs as much to today as to posterity. The red wines of this sun-drenched appellation enjoy the highest standards of production in France and by all acclaim constitute some of the finest red wines in the world. Increasingly, white Châteauneuf-du-Pape approaches the quality of the appellation's red wine, but white wine still comprises less than 5% of Châteauneuf-du-Pape's entire production.
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