2010 Puech Haut Tete de Belier Rose

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(88 points) Composed of Grenache and Cinsault, the Puech-Haut 2010 Coteaux du Languedoc Saint-Drezery Prestige Rose offers a luscious, surprisingly full yet refreshing meld of red berries, honeydew, and watermelon tinged with mint and oregano. It will continue to be hard to resist for at least the next several months. (Their low-yielding Syrah – in Bru and Cambie’s opinions – doesn’t give fruit that tastes ripe- or interesting-enough at low enough alcohol levels to be useful for rose.)

I tasted the latest releases from Gerard Bru’s ambitious Chateau Puech-Haut with him; his hands-on cellarmaster Mathieu Ciampi; and a frequent inspiration and coach in matter vinous who since 2009 is the estate’s official enologist – Philippe Cambie. (Before that, Claude Gros advised here, and for a time, too, Michel Rolland.) The rotund devotee and guru of Chateauneuf has brought to these wines his flamboyant style and penchant for as he puts it “the maximum ripeness consistent with elegance.” There will certainly be differences of opinion as to whether the word “elegant” fits; and the wines succeed in varying degrees, largely according to whether new wood or alcoholic heat at all detract from other features, but there can be no doubt that the wines of Puech-Haut – like the men behind them – are both generous and formidable. And as often happens to me, amid wines of more lavish elevage, I found their ostensibly intro-level cuvee (now dubbed “Prestige”) more than held its own, resulting in outstanding value. Fermentation has moved entirely into enamel-lined tanks (albeit wood-paneled!) – the huge oaken tronconique having for some years now been “just for decoration” – and this step was undertaken not just on account of perceived thermal or hygienic advantages, but so as to accommodate the separate vinification of each parcel of this 250 acre estate. Much of the black fruit here is being left whole with its stems, while fermentative extraction was described to me as moving toward “infusion” and away from extensive punch-downs or pump-overs. More than once I heard allusions to Burgundy or to allegedly “Burgundian” approaches, although – abstracting from the prominence of barriques in their elevage – Chateauneuf-du-Pape would seem the more obvious analogy for these wines, not least now, given Cambie’s collaboration. Half of the elevage of the 2010 vintage – hence, encompassing the majority of red wines – was being carried out without sulfur, but even so, many lots were still in malo when I visited in April. To the extent that this vintage’s youthful red raw material could be assessed – with low sulfur admittedly coloring one’s impression – these will be extremely ripe and rich, often downright liqueur-like and frequently seductively floral wines for their vintage. The last grapes weren’t harvested until November 6, yet the team here made clear that they viewed the presence of “freshness” to accompany all that richness a great virtue of the 2010 vintage. That noted, the most successful of Puech-Haut’s many bottlings from torrid 2009 – which include several new, roughly 230-case, site-specific and single-cepage lots – have also managed to preserve a welcome degree of freshness. As for 2008, this is a vintage without any Pic Saint-Loup bottling as Bru and his team decided that the best they could do still did not make the grade, although their Saint-Drezery cuvees are highly satisfying, if less ambitious or seductive than their 2009 counterparts. Special note should be taken of the improvement shown here in recent white wines, the team having been at pains to capture freshness as well as richness by whole cluster pressing to tank or directly to barrel, and permitting the lees to work their magic undisturbed.
eRobertParker.com #196 Aug 2011 Reviewer: David Schildknecht
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