Tag Archives: Rhone Valley

M. Chapoutier – 28/05/2012

Les Meysonierres Crozes-Hermitage Blanc 2011 (100% marsanne)
Quite honeyed stone fruit citrus notes, subtle richness of oil and floral aromas. Generous and full on the palate, clean yet concentrated, with some nutty texture late on the palate, fresh but complete and complex.

Les Granilites Saint Joseph Blanc 2010 (100% marsanne)

More concentration and density of fruit, bolder riper honey and subtle spice aromas. Intense texture, very linear but will develop further over time.

Chante-Alouettes Hermitage Blanc 2010 (100% marsanne)

Quite closed and subtle, ripe and rich yet fresh and tight, with some shy green fruit notes. Wonderful persistence and balance, good length and intensity, with plenty of ageing potential considering the vintage.

Les Meysonnieres Crozes-Hermitage Rouge 2009

Delicate spice aromas nice to see for the vintage in this appellation, dark fruits floral and pepper. Very tight and intense on the palate, good integrity and approachability, not jammy or broad at all with freshness and depth.

Les Granilites Saint Josph Rouge 2010

Young subtle and delicate on the nose, expressing green pepper and thick skinned blackberries. Elegant restraint on the palate, spicy depth and approachably bold fruit, fine and tight tannins and generosity.

Sizeranne Hermitage 2009

Bright intense purple colour, juicy juby dark fruit forward nose. Very mellow and full on the palate, gentle and broad, a little too heavy in the extraction of tannin from the skins and oak, on the aggressive side.

Le Pavillon Ermitage 2008

A truly exceptional wine; beautifully aromatic yet subtle floral, red currants, wild cherry earth and mineral notes. Expressive density yet elegant and light, balanced intensity and savoury finesse, more like a burgundy in style but unmistakeably syrah.

Historic Chapoutier cellars

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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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Rising cream (Rhone Valley, France – Day Four)

Cooperative wineries are something that is pretty unique to Europe, and is possibly a little hard to understand for producers from New-World producing countries. The notion of hundreds or thousands of different growers all providing their fruit to a collaborative facility that has the responsibility of vinifying and either selling or bottling the collective wine produced is a very historic one, and it has only been the last 50 years that has seen more individual producers establish their own wineries, either from their own vineyards or purchased fruit. It must be a little bit scary trusting someone else to handle a year of your life, and also a little sad to know that it will be blended into many other wines and somewhat lost in the multitude. At the same time it must be relieving to know that you are going to get some money for your fruit regardless, rather than being completely at the mercy of the vintage and the market. In the Rhone Valley there are negociant producers who purchase wine (and in some cases fruit) to mature, blend and bottle under their own label. This model is much more familiar in the new world, as the largest producers in every country would need to buy fruit from growers often in different regions, to feed the increasing demand globally for their branded wines. This of course is in addition to their hundreds or thousands of hectares of vineyards, which is often the same size as entire appelations in Europe which many have hundreds of separate vineyard owners. Like Guigal, my appointment on Day Four was a producer based in the Northern Rhone that owns vineyards in several appelations, but relies on wine purchased from the Southern Rhone to provide the bulk of their sales.
Saint Joseph vineyards

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Only a Northern Song (Rhone Valley, France – Day Five)

You can’t imagine how good it felt to return to Lyon, which is still by far my favourite city in France, having made it part of my trip in 2010. I actually spent July 14th (Bastille Day outside of France) in Lyon with a friend, and had enjoyed the fireworks display that launches from the Basilique on top of the hill above old town. Lyon is the third most populated city in France, but has the second largest metropolis. It has a long history dating back to the Roman era, and since this time has always been an important point between different parts of Europe. This made it a very strong trading point, which in my opinion is the reason that arguably the best food can be found in Lyon, ask any French person. You can also find the best and most diverse French wine here, partly because of the vibrant cuisine and bar scene, but also because Lyon is located right in the middle of four of the best regions in France; Rhone Valley to the south, Loire Valley to the north-west, Burgundy to the north, and Jura to the east. Lyon has been growing a lot recently, due to increase in business activity and also many students coming to the universities, many of them international. I’m not sure why it isn’t on more tourists route in France, but I highly recommend it for history, culture and cuisine. It was here that I spend five nights in, and took day trips down into the Northern Rhone Valley, the first day of which I visited Jean-Luc Colombo in Cornas.

Syrah has such a beautiful leaf

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Delas Freres – 24/05/2012

Saint Joseph Blanc 2011 (>95% marsanne)

Quite grapey, orchard fruit with some subtle spice notes on the nose. Balanced and fresh on the palate, good fruit but a little simple and lacking personality.

Crozes-Hermitage Blanc 2010 (<90% marsanne)

More concentrated colour and aromas, richer lees notes and orchard fruits with some floral slightly candied notes. More texture and depth on the palate, good extension and finesse with terroir personality.

Clos Bouchier Condrieu 2010 (100% viognier)

Closed very subtle aromas, a little bit young and not yet expressing. Very warm on the back of the palate, also a little too oaky and lacking viscosity and fruit to balance the wine.

Cotes-du-Rhone Rouge 2010 (mostly syrah)

Quite spicy dark cherries on the nose, but little else. Tight focused and bold on the palate, very fresh and approachable, not at all jammy or broad, great value for the price.

Domaines Des Grands Chemins Crozes Hermitage 2009

Very deep and concentrated with some stinky old world aromas. Very bold yet light like a crozes-hermitage should be, savoury and spicy red fruit characters.

Saint Joseph Rouge 2009

Deep violet aromas combining with subtle earth spice bold and forward aromatically. Bold juicy and broad on the palate, plenty on offer now but won’t develop well.

Cornas 2009

Slightly wild intense dark fruit but a little closed. Generous and gentle on the palate, bold yet tight and focused, lacking a little structure.

Cote Rotie 2009

Deep dark seductive combination of violets, dark fruit and black pepper. Tight, driven and focused, but the 2009 vintage is too easy in all respects, not classy enough.

Domaine des Tourettes Hermitage 2009

Really massive dark colour, intense aromas of cassis black olives earth and funk. Powerfully expressive, juicy dark fruit and very bold tannins. Possibly a product of the vintage, but it is a very intense wine that looks a tad new-world Robert Parker style.
Delas Freres red wines

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Jean-Luc Colombo – 25/05/2012

La Redonne Cotes-du-Rhone Blanc 2011

Classic peach pear spice with delicate floral notes. Ripe banana tropical, quite textural and rich, very broad and short on the palate, very warm and a little dull.

La Belle de Mai Saint Peray 2009 (80% roussanne, 20% marsanne)

Concentrated lifted floral and white peach aromas. Creamy fat and broad on the palate, vanilla texture, generous and full-flavoured, but still a tad too warm.

Les Lauves Saint Joseph 2010

Tight closed and shy fruit spice on the nose. Elegant yet expressive on the palate, volume and concentration, generosity yet balance and good depth.

Terres Brulees Cornas 2009

Quite a dark fruit-sweet njose. Juicy bold and full yet light and fresh, mature tannins and fruit, depth and restraint.

Terres Brulees Cornas 2008

Spicier and more peppery intensity, violets and crushed herb notes on the nose. Deeper concentration and fruit precision, looking more youthful than the 2009.

Les Fees Brunes Crozes-Hermitage 2009

Fairly simple and inelegant, clean fruit and approachability but very light without any structure or focus.

Les Ruchets Cornas 2009

Complex spice notes aromatically, herbal sweetness and ripe blackcurrant. Very youthful, showing good structure and balance, concentrated and powerfully expressive, yet somehow hesitant and unsure of itself, not being taken to the logical conclusion.
Jean-Luc Colombo Les Ruchets Cornas 2009

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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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Domaine Font de Michelle – 23/05/2012

Cotes-du-Rhone Rouge 2010 (grenache, syrah, cinsault)

Seductively sweet red currants, cassis and delicate floral aromas. Bold fresh and light on the palate, good acid freshness, raspberry and a little dried honey.

Cotes-du-Ventoux Rouge 2010

Very tight, quite closed and reductive, crushed green spice and menthol elements very subtle on the nose. Quite tannic and crunchy but pure and lean. Needs a little bit more time in the bottle.

Cotes-du-Rhone Village 2010 (1005 syrah)

Sweet and savoury meaty soy notes, black pepper cumin and raspberry aromas. Focus and drive on the palate, lively fruit, good intensity without heaviness, concentration with plenty of vibrancy.

Gigondas 2010 (95% grenache, 5% mouvedre)

Smoky earthy minerality, bright juicy and fresh blackcurrants. Gentle full sweet tannins, opulent and yet bold and intense, subtle savoury elements making this an ideal easy-drinking yet characterful wine.

CT9 Blanc 2011

Quite juby candied marzipan over a sweet banana nose. A tad fat and blunt on the palate, too tropical and a little dull, lacking texture and structure.

CT9 Rouge 2009

Quite stalky with nsome green menthol notes, subtle spice and dark fruit aromas. Full and generous balance on the palate, lively youthful and approachable, soft savoury complex tannins, mouth-coating but not tiring.

CT9 Vielles Vignes 2009

Spicier and meatier on the nose, classic from Le Crau, dried strawberry and black cherry with violet florals. Mature tannins, red liquorice, depth inregrity, generosity, length and intensity.

CT9 2010

Extremely complex and subtle on the nose, some red currants and raspberry but also savoury, salty and sweet at the same time. Tight, lean and focused with great structure and finesse on the palate, very young and showing amazing ageing potential.

CT9 Vielles Vignes 2010

Insane concentration and complexity aromatically, very expressive but subtle all at once. Very juicy, ripe and opulent tannins, bold and powerful yet not too dense or aggressive. A very serious wine, deserving at least 10 years of cellaring.

Domaine Font de Michelle

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