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Clos du Mont-Olivet Clos du Mont-Olivet 1998 Chateauneuf-du-Pape ($27.99)
Chateauneuf-du-Pape is one of my favorite wines, and I've been excited about the 1998 vintage ever since tasting several '98s at the Boston Wine Expo in February and again in France in May. It took until late July for the first few bottles to start trickling in locally, and I impatiently grabbed this one even though the hype about the vintage is already resulting in prices a bit above the level I like to pay for everyday wine.

This one's worth it, though. Very dark garnet, it breathes ripe black-fruit aromas surrounded by cedar and roses, fragrant black pepper, lavender and the herbal garrigues of Provence. Full, peppery and lush on the palate, it offers extracted fruit and firm acidity backed by soft but perceptible tannins. Like most bigger '98s of the region, this one should drink very well for another year or two before going into a "closed" period, after which it should be held until around its seventh birthday. U.S. importer: Vintner Select, Cincinnati. (July 28, 2000)

FOOD MATCH: An unbeatable match with rare rib-eye steaks sizzling from the charcoal grill.

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All my wine-tasting reports are consumer-oriented. In order to maintain objectivity and avoid conflicts of interest, I purchase all the wines I rate at my own expense in retail stores.

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