Tag Archives: Cote-Rotie

Sunday Tasting Group – Northern Rhone wines

The Bentleigh Tasting Group has reconvened recently, and has also relocated thus necessitating a name-change. It’s been a while since I’ve joined this group of mostly sommeliers, so I’m a bit rusty on my blind tasting. It’s also been even longer since I’ve delved into the Northern Rhone Valley, not really since I was actually there in May of 2012. I found myself thinking back to my visits and tastings, considering the specifics of each appellation. But as always, the notes are from my blind tasting finishing with my guess as to the origin and vintage, and you can see how close I was. Some pretty amazing wines and a really interesting cross-section of styles in this one.

Doing it in style at The Point Albert Park

Doing it in style at The Point Albert Park

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A pleasant surprise (Rhone Valley, France – Day Six)

There are few who would argue that the most important grape variety by far in Australia is syrah, or as we call it shiraz. The range of styles produce from this grape, or a blend including this grape, is pretty big. The wines can range from jammy fruit bombs, to tannic oak monsters, to intense fine and peppery, and in many cases somewhere in between. Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot of mediocre shiraz made in Australia, which is not surprising as it is the most planted variety and you would struggle to find a region that doesn’t have at least some shiraz. There is a reason why Australian shiraz is so strong both domestically and overseas, and it is partly because of the quality and partly because of the value. Considering this, I find it very surprising that wines from the Rhone Valley, particularly those from the Northern Rhone aren’t the most popular imported wines. It may have something to with the fact that for many years the majority of wines produced here are too expensive for most Australians, but did not have the acclaim of Champagne, Bordeaux or Burgundy. With the increased value of the Australian dollar against the Euro, now is an ideal time to be investing in the Rhone Valley as you can still find some absolute bargains in every appellation and price category. Just don’t expect it to be like most Australian shiraz. The two producers I visited in the very Northern Rhone Valley on Day Six are both at the pinnacle of syrah production, but have slightly different approaches.
Cote-Rotie vineyards

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Pierre Gaillard – 26/05/2012

Saint Joseph Blanc 2011

Quite tight mineralic lees notes on the nose, pear, peach apple and star fruit. Soft gentle and rich on the palate, pure and focused fruit with good approachable texture and depth.

Cotes-du-Rhone Blanc 2011 (technically Saint Joseph but includes viognier)

Very blossomy floral aromas, vibrant apricot freshness and some candied fruit notes aromatically. Great depth, vibrancy and volume, focus drive and fruit richness with a bit of creaminess on the back.

Condrieu 2011

Very delicate floral notes and sweet spice on the nose. Intensity richness and viscosity on the palate, focus drive and elegance but good restraint and balance, textural yet fine and structured.

L’Octroi Condrieu 2011

The best white wine by far, incredibly subtle yet intense, red mineral notes with some flinty granitic characters and bright golden delicious aromas. Expressive yet linear and confident, bold texture but not at all hot or fat, not at all creamy or blunt.

Asiaticus Vin des Pays 2007 (vineyard in Viennes)

Tight focused and very delicate in colour, intense small blueberry characters, very dry tannins, ripe broad and soft with violet floral aromas, but somewhat unsure of itself.

Saint Joseph Rouge 2010

Young delicate and fresh, very vibrant round and full-flavoured with good intensity and integrity. Fruit notes of raspberry and cherry spice.

Clos de Cuminaille Saint Joseph Rouge 2010

Earthier red fruits, less vibrant spice notes, more minerality on the nose. More mature expression on the palate, developed intensity and power, density of fruit and tannins with great depth and approachability.

Les Pierres Saint Joseph Rouge 2010

Wilder mushroom and dark earth aromas, quite perfumed blackcurrants and violets. Crunchy tannins and vibrant acids on the palate, bold and forward but somewhat overworked in terms of density and lacking subtlety somewhat.

Cote Rotie 2010

Purity of fruit, somewhat full on the palate, not heavy but very expressive, good balance of fruit and tannins but lacking in depth and extension on the palate.

Rose Pourpre Cote Rotie 2010

Insanely complex, complete mature aromatics, perfectly balanced intense and elegant, nothing stands out at all, a very rare complete wine. The best of the range.

Cornas 2010

Very closed, intense oak aromas, sweet very black fruits, full broad and generous on the palate with lively intensity ad softness.
Pierre Gaillard Condrieu

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Domaine Barge – 26/05/2012

Saint Joseph 2011 (barrel sample)

Dark spice pepper, dense chalky minerality. Elegant and approachable yet masculine and mature, great character for a wine of this appellation, good savoury notes and spicy game and earth.

Combard Cote Rotie 2011 (Old Francois Freres barrel sample)

Amazingly mature spice pepper, smoky toasty popcorn with blackberry fruit. Delicate and fine, fresh and bright, pure and generous with contemplative confidence and peppery tannins.

Combard Cote Rotie 2011 (new oak barrel sample)

Slightly more closed and toasty from the new oak, juicier fruit character and weight, creamier texture and extraction from the new oak tannins, slight vanilla element.

Combard Cote Rotie 2011 (one-year old Francois Freres barrel sample)

Same toast popcorn brittle character as the first sample, a more youthful expression of the fruit with more oak texture, fuller and more powerful but hiding the terroir a little.

Duplessy Cote Rotie 2011 (barrel sample)

Bold dark fruits, slight floral and reduced pepper spice, retaining maturity on the nose. Vibrant fruit and fresh acids on the palate, powerful mid-palate but with elegance, generous tannin structure.

Cote Brune 2011 (barrel sample)

Wild masculine nose of spices and balsamic, herbs and roasted elements. Powerful intense concentration, expressively complex and long, still approachable and not at all aggressive, subtle and supple tannins.

Duplessy 2010 (barrel sample)

Violets, black olives and balsamic notes surrounding blackcurrants and crushed dry pepper on the nose. Concentrated finesse and length on the palate, purity and liveliness with a core of liquorice, youthful expression and brightness.

Combard Cote Rotie 2007

Garnet, violets, very delicate black pepper spice, some red fruits and generous ripeness, but showing some development. Very closed at the moment, took a while to open up after some breathing, soft in tannins and structure but not yet velvety, compact and lean but the complete package.
Domaine Barge

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All things considered (Rhone Valley, France – Day Three)

The Rhone Valley is arguably one of the most diverse regions in France, if not Europe. Covering over 200 km from north to south it is one of the longest regions, and with the difference in climate and soil conditions provides many opportunities for viticulture. The region is split from Valence, about 100km north of Avignon and 100 km south of Lyon. North of Valence has a much more continental climate, cooler and well protected from winds and rain. South of Valence is more Mediterranean in climate, warmer with more wind influence. This is probably the most important difference between the north and south. Throughout the entire region, there are a multitude of producers of different size and style. Growers who may not make or bottle their own wine may be part of a cooperative that vinifies the fruit, and either sells the wine in bulk or bottle. There are more artisan producers who only produce wine from their own estates, whether in a single appellation or several. Then there are those in between, who produce wine from their own estates, and also purchase fruit and/or wine from growers to produce/bottle under their own label. It is very common for producers in the Northern Rhone Valley to operate in this model, as in the north there are not enough vineyards and they are also very expensive to purchase and manage, and so they compensate by bottling wine from the south were fruit is less expensive and in much larger supply. In several cases a Cotes-du-Rhone Rouge wine may account for 50% of the bottles sold each year. The first appointment for my third day epitomises this model (Guigal), the second has only just started to move into this realm (Chateau Font de Michelle), and the third only produces wine from their own estates across three appelations/vineyards (Domaine de la Renjarde/Le Prieure de Montezargues).

Only days away from capfall and flowers developing

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