Of the many wonderful transformations that have characterized the last decade in wine, perhaps the most heartening has been the stylistic swing back toward balance and nuance.
This shift comes after a long period in which exaggerated red wine ruled. Ultraripe, jammy fruit bombs — lacking freshness and structure (other than the tannins contributed by new oak barrels) — seemed for too long to epitomize what powerful critics sought and what many producers were all too willing to provide.
These overblown wines surged to become prominent in many different regions, but none more so than Châteauneuf-du-Pape, in the southern Rhône Valley of France.
Châteauneuf has always been a big, powerful, rough-hewed wine, capable of majesty yet always a bit tattered. As I was learning about wine in the 1980s, I drank a lot of Châteauneuf, which back then was a more affordable great wine than Bordeaux or Burgundy...