As I've grown older I've developed an appreciation for wines that are immediately gratifying but that can also provide great satisfaction over several years. Which means that while I adore Bordeaux, and was fortunate enough to purchase vintages that are now reaching full maturity, I can no longer buy a young Bordeaux and wait 20 to 25 years for all the elements to come into perfect harmony. Today, the wine that I find myself turning to most often is Châteauneuf-du-Pape.
Although Châteauneuf-du-Pape, from France's Rhône valley, may never possess the elegance and longevity of a great Bordeaux, the mystique and prestige of a wine from the famous vineyards of Burgundy or the perfume or rarity of a top-notch Barolo or Barbaresco, what it does offer is immediate gratification both intellectual and hedonistic in nature. Its wide array of aromas and flavors are reminiscent of a Provençal marketplace while its texture—rich and round, sumptuous and opulent—is virtually unmatched by most of the wines of the world.
The best Châteauneuf-du-Papes are among the most natural expressions of grapes, place and vintage. Châteauneuf-du-Pape vineyards are farmed organically or biodynamically, and the region's abundant sunshine and frequent wind (called le mistral) practically preclude the need for treating the fields with herbicides or pesticides. The wines themselves are equally pure, their flavors rarely masked by aging in new oak.