Yeah, yeah, I know, yet another Rhone red wine. So shoot me. I just love 'em. They're cheap (in general), they're good, and they're easy to drink. Plus, I don't have the money/tasting skills to move on up to Bordeaux or Burgundy. Bow down before the southern Rhone!

OK, enough of that and onward to the wine. This is one I bought on impulse, being the cheapest of the various Chateauneuf du Papes available at the time. The company, Barton & Guestier, imports a whole lot of crap vin de pays into the US, so I was skeptical; but at about $15 for a 1998 C9, the price was right.

I didn't like my first sip of the wine, but now I love it. It's a real pale red, uncharacteristically, and the 14% alcohol content got me thinking they were trying to hide something. I chilled it down to about 60° F to help being out the aromas and flavors--with great success. The scent is reminiscent of plums and presents a hint of vanilla (breathe deep for this one), and the taste reveals nice fruit, mild tannin, and maybe a touch too much acid--but otherwise, great balance. The finish is very low key, but long and pleasant. You'll be reaching for the glass before you know it.

Wine Spectator says this wine's best years will be from 2004-2010, but I think it's good to go right now. I'm buying at least three bottles for the cellar.

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