I had been worried about my 1985 Bosquet des Papes because
of the ullage in the bottle. Ullage (pronounced ull — rhymes
with hull, not with full — idge, emphasis on the first syllable)
means, in a sense, the nothing that’s there: the wine that’s
missing from the bottle. The ullage in this wine is apparent in
the accompanying photo. If you picture the wine having once
come almost to the bottom of the cork, you can see that a good
deal of it has become what is called, more often in whiskey-making and referring to what liquid is lost through evaporation,
the “angel’s share.” Ullage can also occur because of leakage
through the cork (caused usually by excessive heat), and this
leaves a wine bottle ugly with label-stain and the wine at risk
As it turned out, the ullage here meant only that there was that
much less to drink of this wonderful wine.
The cork, after some 30 years in the bottle, broke in two and
then shredded. None of it remained in the bottle. If it had, I
would have decanted the wine. I try never to decant wine for
this column, because I like to taste the wine over several days
to track its evolution. And decanted wine matures much more
In this case, I probably should have decanted the wine anyway,
because, though it had been standing for several days and
showed no sediment when I looked through the bottle against a
strong light, the wine was definitely cloudy from the first pour.
And yet despite whatever particulate matter may have been
clouding the wine, it took away almost none of the wine’s core
of bloody beauty. This faded to gold at the edges in the glass
but was still much younger in color than I had expected it to be.
It was fully integrated on the nose. There was a sweet fruit in
the tasting of the wine, with an edge of earthy incursion, and
this created a perfect balance between light and dark. As in the
look of the wine, so in the taste.
It more than held its own—and held me captive--with rare rib-eye steak.
Most wine experts agree that CDP wines should not be aged for
more than 12 years.
Robert Parker, in his first (1987) edition of The Wines of the
Rhone Valley and Provence, said this 1985 Bosquet des Papes
appeared to be one of that vintages top CDP wines and would
plateau in 10 years.
Almost 20 years after this wine streamed onto that plateau,
it proved to be both youthful and mature. But imagine my
surprise when I came back home after over a week away and
found the bottle where I’d left it in the refrigerator door and,
after it had warmed up, poured out the little that was in it and
held my nose (from the inside) and took a sip. Still fine, not
only drinkable but stunning. It was a miracle! But, then, the
world of wine probably provides more miracles than does any
other world. If you believe in that sort of thing.