Bottle Notes, Châteauneuf-du-Pape

Pick My Next Bottle: 1998 Châteauneuf-du-Pape

1998 CdP

The December installment of Pick My Next Bottle focuses on 1998 Châteauneuf-du-Pape. As I mentioned in the July installment, the purpose of this series is to provide insight into specific wines or producers you may currently have in your cellar. I plan on opening the winning bottle on December 29th and publishing an in-depth bottle note on the 31st.

The ’98 vintage was widely heralded by almost all wine writers. The most acclaimed critic of the Southern Rhône is Robert Parker, who described the vintage as “sumptuous” especially in regards to Châteauneuf du Pape, concluding that one day it might surpass the amazing ’89 and ’90 vintages.

Weather conditions were exceptional in ’98 with a hot growing season spelled by well-timed rains that allowed Syrah and Grenache, the region’s two main red grapes, to develop under near perfect conditions.

The Contenders

’98 Beaucastel – Very youthful, with a juicy blast of red plum and fig fruit flavors on a racy frame, this also has plenty of spice, tar, plum cake and mineral in reserve, as the finish shows more structure and slowly darkens with time in the glass. Only just starting to hit its stride. 95 points from The Wine Spectator.

’98 Clos des Papes – Has a mature brick hint at the rim, but this is still very youthful, with an elegant, silky core of red and black currant fruit that holds the upper hand over the garrigue, graphite and licorice notes. The long, very fine-grained finish lets an alluring incense note peek in. A beauty, this is all about finesse and should cruise in the cellar. 96 points from The Wine Spectator.

’98 Vieux Telegraphe – This has always been one of the harder-edged wines of the vintage, but it is showing some signs of softening. The color remains dark, with aromas of grilled herb, tobacco and beef leading the way for currant, chestnut and garrigue notes that are carried by the prominent tannin structure. The chewy, mouthfilling finish is starting to let some sweet flesh come out from behind the iron and stone notes. Still needs time, but this is rock solid. 94 points from The Wine Spectator.

All of the above reviews above are from a 1998 Châteauneuf-du-Pape retrospective done by The Wine Spectator in 2007.

Which 1998 Châteauneuf-du-Pape should I open?

  • Vieux Telegraphe (40%, 23 Votes)
  • Clos des Papes (33%, 19 Votes)
  • Beaucastel (28%, 16 Votes)

Total Voters: 58

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Thanks for voting! I’d love to hear why you picked one bottle over another. Also, let me know if you have any suggestions for the January installment of Pick My Next Bottle.

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15 thoughts on “Pick My Next Bottle: 1998 Châteauneuf-du-Pape

  1. All of the three CdP listed are long aging wines. Each can easily age for 20-30 years in a good vintage, perhaps longer. My experience with CdP is that of the three wines listed, Beaucastel needs the most time. I think Vieux Telegraphe is usually an earlier drinking wine than Clos des Papes, but I don’t think so in the mentioned vintage. 1998 was a great vintage in the Northern Rhône, especially Côte Rôtie, but not particularly that good in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Moreover, the mature bricking at the rim (from your note above) hints at its current drinkability. I’d go with the 98 Clos des Papes.

  2. I think testing the Beaucastel at 15 years is not a bad idea. But we are splitting hairs here, any of the three will be fun to uncork! Would hate to let them slip over the edge in hopes of further improvement…

  3. I say the VT. I’ve had all 3 but more current vintages. I’ve heard great things about VT after aging. I’ve had the 07, 05 and 03 but was really disappointed with the 03. Tasted very tired and dull. It was tasted at Trey’s party last year so i’m not sure the storage conditions, how long it was opened, etc. Not to mention my palate might have been a bit tired, haha

    1. Small world. Myself and Charles Smith both brought an 03 VT to Trey’s. I can vouch for the storage on my bottle and seem to recall it showing pretty well. I did not try the other bottle.

  4. Voted Beaucastel. Drank the ’98 last year and it was drinking perfectly. I loved it (95 pts). Curious what you think to compare.

  5. Voted for the Clos des Papes. Close call b/t that and the Beaucastel. I don’t have any CdP that is that old myself, so went mostly on the 07 WS tasting notes. Sound like the VT could still use even more time. Doesn’t look like you could go wrong with any of these though.

    1. Thanks Julie. I had not seen that Beaucastel article though although you will notice I alluded to “mixed reviews” in a previous comment. Connecting the dots…RMP downgrades the wine and now his followers pour on with less than favorable tasting notes. Classic.

  6. Tom – I’ve had and enjoyed both the ’98 Beaucastel and the ’98 Vieux Telegraphe in the last two years but never the Clos de Papes. Judging by the brick hue in the Spectator note you provided, I’d be inclined to pop that one before the fruit fades too far from view. The other two, in my experience, had several years of potential still ahead. Cheers!

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