Friday, 1 May 2009

A mixed dozen from the Rhone at Canterbury

Every year I am invited to show a selection of Rhone wines to the Canterbury Wine Tasting Society which meets at Christchurch College (it has probably changed its name in the years since I have been going along). Having just returned from the Rhone, it seemed a good opportunity to put some 2007s in front of this discerning crowd along with a selection of older wines.

Just a couple of white wines: to start with, Domaine des Anges' 2007 "L'Archange" Blanc from the recently renamed Ventoux appellation. This is Irish winemaker Ciaran Rooney's flagship pure Roussanne cuvee although, unless they have changed the rules, I should probably pretend it has some Marsanne mixed in (monovarietals are - or, at least, were - not permitted in the Ventoux). This is a wine still in the making although it is rather nice to drink now. I had my penultimate bottle of the inaugural vintage, 2004, quite recently: that has grown wonderfully fat with age and I can only dream of the direction this 2007, a better wine from a better vintage, is headed. Wonderfully aromatic with hints of citrus fruits - quite limey - and superb balance. The general consensus was that whilst the Beaucastel old-vine Roussanne may be a little better, at £11.25 this represents much better value.

Robert Charavin's white wine is one of the few made in Rasteau. His Domaine des Côteaux des Travers', Rasteau Cotes du Rhone Villages "Marine" 2007 is, as always, a blend of equal parts Roussanne, Marsanne, Grenache Blanc and Viognier and the first and last named varieties are, for me, the ones that really sing out. The Roussanne has aged in oak and has a lovely richness to it as well as the lime character noted in the DDA white above. The Viognier is well married to it, bringing apricot fruit to the party. The other varities do, of course, add to the flavour and textural profile but it would manage well without them it seems - perhaps. I think this is a glorious wine to drink on its own, well chilled of course, on a hot summer's afternoon whilst waiting for the barbecue to heat up. Not at all expensive for what it is at £11.50.

The first red was Domaine Grand Veneur's Cotes du Rhone Villages 2007 "Champauvins", one of the estate wines (they also have a decent range of negociant offerings; the estate wines are worth the extra pennies) which is Grenache-dominated from a vineyard adjacent to Beaucastel. The fruit is still a little fiery but the texture is magnificent for a wine from such lowly origins. The CDRs from some of the CDP producers really are the hidden values of the region. This will turn out more like a mini-Chateauneuf than anything from Cairanne, Rasteau or Seguret. £9.75 (£38/6 in bond).

The 2007s continued with Domaine des Côteaux des Travers'' CDRV Cairanne, maybe no Chateauneuf in the making but the perfume from this wine is truly intoxicating. The fruit is so packed in but there is structure too. Like the 2003s, these wines have so much fruit the tannins and other structural elements are almost hidden; unlike 2003, when they do emerge more obviously they will be in good balance. The relatively high alcohol level of this and other wines is not excessive when the wine is as harmonious as this. Another superb sub-£10 wine (£38/6 in bond).

Moving up a notch and over to Gigondas. Domaine Brusset's "Le Grand Montmirail" can be enjoyed already but will undoubtedly develop well over several years. The fruit has a maturity about it: already quite rich with black raspberries and cherries as well as some more savoury elements. The second year oak adds only a little to the flavour profile but fleshes the wine out well, perhaps contributing to its drinkability. £13.95 (£62/6 in bond)

The last of the en primeur wines tasted was from Domaine des Florets. Their prestige wine Gigondas "Saveur des Dentelles" is a steal even at £16.50 (£75/6 in bond). As with the Brusset wine, the oak helps to round out the wine but in this case the fruit has very great potential but is still a little youthful. Almost a rarity in this vintage where so many wines can be enjoyed immediately. That seems to be a plus point for this wine!

More notes from Canterbury to follow.

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