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I recently purchased 6 bottles of 2005 Domaine La Milliere Chateauneuf-du-Pape Vieilles Vignes from WineAccessDirect @ $31.99 each, no tax or shipping.

As I was putting the new wine away in my cellar, I compared the label to that of the 2003 Domaine La Milliere Chateauneuf-du-Pape Vieilles Vignes, and I noticed a couple of differences.

The two vintages were imported by different companies: the 2003 by North Berkeley Imports in California, and the 2005 by Village Wine Imports in NYC. The labels differ, mostly regarding information about the different importers.

However, what troubles me is that while the front label of the 2003 includes the words "Cuvee Unique," those words are missing from the 2005.

North Berkeley's website indicates that their bottles of the 2005 also include the words "Cuvee Unique" on the label. Again, those words are missing from the 2005 imported by Village Wine Imports, the wine I purchased.

Does this difference simply reflect the different importers, or are there in fact two different 2005 Chateauneuf-du-Pape bottlings from Domaine La Milliere, a "Chateauneuf-du-Pape Vieilles Vignes" and a "Chateauneuf-du-Pape Vieilles Vignes 'Cuvee Unique'"?

Or could the wine I purchased, which was advertised by WineAccessDirect as having received high marks from RP and IWC, be a lesser cuvee?

I'd appreciate your thoughts on the subject.

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I can't speak to the particular CdP in question, but I can say that it would not be unusual for a specific importer to have a proprietary blend from an estate, particularly from Burgundy.

It's a practice (the special cuvee) that seems to have been more prevalent in years gone by, but I don't see why it shouldn't be happening now, either. That the N. Berkeley wine is called Cuvee Unique suggests that it is such a wine.

Sometimes cuvee is not quite accurate either, as the selections can simply be barrel lots.

In any case, the proof is in the pudding, as they say. Taste them side by side.

I doubt that you've been suckered in any way, so I wouldn't worry about that. You may have, in fact, two slightly different wines. Or not. Cool

Hope that helps!
I posed the same questions to WineAccessDirect and received this reassuring answer:

Here is the deal - 'Cuvee Unique' is a series of wines from North Berkeley Imports, a retailer and importer in California. They go to the winery, taste through different lots of wines, and select the ones that they would like in their bottling. Whether this is simply a marketing gimmick, or a truly a way to make superior wine, is open to debate. I personally don't think a winemaker is going to give up the best part of a particular vintage to one importer and allow the rest of the world to get a 'lesser' wine.

As I haven't tasted the North Berkeley bottling, I can't tell you which is better - but I liked the one you got enough to purchase a case for my personal cellar. In addition, the IWC {the toughest critics anywhere} gave that same bottling a huge 92-95 point score. I can't think of a stronger recommendation than that.

I hope this helps you out. Enjoy the wine!

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