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Wine of the Week

Drink This Châteauneuf-du-Pape Tonight

There is an interesting experiment ongoing among thoughtful French wine producers these days that attracts very little attention but affects, and will affect, all consumers of quality wine. It concerns just how much will be sacrificed in terms of "ageability," and the marvelous depths and complexity that appear in long-aged wine, in making wine that can be drunk with pleasure the day it's bought.

Today's consumers want a wine, a quality wine, they can buy on the way home from work and drink that evening. But traditionally good wine takes years to reach maturity. Since most wine drinkers lack a wine cellar where they can lay down multiple vintages, the alternative is to make wine that doesn't require cellaring. So increasingly producers are crafting wines that are accessible when young.

But how much is lost in this increasing accessibility? More optimistic producers claim none, while the more thoughtful adopt a wait-and-see attitude.

Châteauneuf-du-Pape is a region that has undergone a marked transformation over the last couple of decades but its red wines still require at least five years to show their true colors. Or at least that's what I thought till I tried this week's wine of the week, the Domaine Font de Michelle 2007, Cuvée Etienne Gonnet, Châteauneuf-du-Pape ($68).

Soft, juicy, and accessible, this is a gorgeous wine to drink today. It has tangy red berry flavors—I picked up strawberries and cherries—backed by subtle smoky undercurrents of pepper and licorice.

It has all the sun-splashed passion one expects in a Châteauneuf-du-Pape in a delightfully quaffable, ready-to-drink package.

To find this wine near you, try

When to Drink: Now

Breathing/Decanting: Half an hour's breathing is essential

Food Pairing: Red meat, pasta, grilled veggies, game, richer sauces

Grapes: 60% grenache, 20% mourvèdre, 20% syrah

Appellation: Châteauneuf-du-Pape

Region: Rhône Valley

Country: France

Price: $68

Availability: Limited

Nick Passmore is an independent wine writer and consultant based in New York. For five years he contributed a widely read monthly wine column to, in addition to which his work has appeared in such publications as Forbes, Discover, Town & Country, the Robb Report, Wine Enthusiast, Saveur, Sky, and Golf Connoisseur. He is currently artisanal editor for Four Seasons magazine and contributes a twice monthly column to He is also a judge at the annual Critics’ Challenge wine competition.

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