Paul Jaboulet Ainé Le Grand Pompée 1999 Saint-Joseph
This is the sort of Syrah that simply could not be from anywhere else in the world but the Northern Rhone. Richly fruity, earthy, meaty and floral all at the same time. The nose is a glorious cacophony of bramble and black/red currant fruits, violets, beef gravy and autumn forest floor, with hints of old wood, lapsang tea and mixed curry spices. It is just so damn complex - a true wine for contemplation. And the palate certainly doesn't disappoint, with such glorious red and black fruit flavours, again a touch of savoury beef/soy and myriad secondary flavours. What tannins remain are beautifully ripe and almost completely resolved, whilst the acidity is just so delicious - and at just 13.0% abv, there is nary a hint of alcohol. Modern winemakers take note - I know about global warming and all of that stuff, but still, if the grapes are picked at "optimum" ripeness (i.e. when ph/acidity and phenolics are all in sync) rather than "maximum" ripeness, then you will have balanced wines.
This wine actually comes from a period when Jaboulet wines in general were hit and miss to say the least (the glory years of the 70's, 80's and early 90's ended with the untimely death of winemaker Gerard Jaboulet in 1995). Indeed, the 1999 Hermitage La Chapelle was thoroughly slated by the critics (I have a single bottle, upon which I will one day make my own judgement). But this Saint-Joseph performs way above its relatively low denomination and is actually as good as quite a few Hermitage(s) I've had. As the old saying goes, there are no great wines - just great bottles. And this was definitely one of them.
Incidentally - and this may be of purely academic interest, to wine geeks such as myself - just look at that cork. A beautiful specimen if ever there was one, with hardly any visible faults/fissures, and with no more than a millimetre of staining at the end. The sort one finds with (un)surprising regularity in Portugese wines (Portugal being by far the biggest cork producer). If only all corks were so perfect, TCA (i.e. cork taint) may be far less of a problem.............